Many use their gas grills year round but most begin the grilling season on the first warm day of spring. Never ignore safety procedures before firing up the grill on that first day of the new season. Also complete a safety check before each use with a more thorough check on each propane tank change. Grills connected to household natural gas lines should be routinely inspected by a professional just as gas furnaces and water heaters are.
Why is a Grill Safety Check Important?
Anything could have happened between the final burger grilled last season to the first hot dog of the new season. Parts may have broken by freeze or other weather related damage. A slow leak of gas from a pipe or hose can build up and cause a catastrophic explosion. A rule of thumb is to never consider any appliance as being intrinsically safe. Keep in mind that misuse, whether intentional or accidental, has consequences. Misuse includes using a device that has not been thoroughly checked to be ready for operation. The United States Fire Administrations reports that about 3,800 people are injured every year by grill fires.
Components rust and hoses deteriorate. Plastic parts break. The sun, rain and winter temperatures wreak havoc on grill parts. Fatigue happens over time by repeatedly heating an appliance to cooking temperature. Wildlife may have taken up residence in a grill during the off-season. Anything from insects to rodents will view the dark, weather protected open spaces of a grill as if it is a rent-free condominium. More than one grill owner has been surprised to find a large nest of bees or a snake living in a grill.
How to Inspect a Grill
The first approach to a grill that has been sitting idle for days, weeks or even months should be a cautious one. Do not just walk up and fling off the cover or open the grill surface hood. The judicious use of a broom handle for that first look while keeping a clear avenue of escape is wise, especially if wildlife has been a problem in the area in the past.
Once it is known that no snakes, bees, wasps, spiders, or scorpions (depending on the region) are present, then proceed with removing grilling surfaces for cleaning. It is not wise to just slap a steak on the grill after it is proven to be safe to operate without first completing a through cleaning. There is no shortcut here. A large bucket or washtub with dishwashing detergent, a wire brush and scrubbing pads along with plenty of elbow grease is still the best method to clean grilling surfaces.
Replace any grease laden lava rock in older grills. Newer grills no longer use lava rock briquettes. Check the owner’s manual to see if it is required. If it is not required, it is not needed for cooking. Any non-cooking surfaces needing painted must be painted using a specialty high temperature paint made for grills. Do not get paint on the cooking surfaces. A little leftover rust on steel cooking surface parts is harmless as long as it is not flaking.
Go over every inch of hose, flexing it to see if any micro cracks are forming. Brittle or cracked hoses must be replaced before use. Check pipes and fittings for corrosion. Soapy water and a brush makes it easy to check for leaks when the gas pressure is turned on. Swap out an old propane tank that does not have a safety fill valve. The new valve type is a triangular shaped. Old ones should be swapped out for the new type as soon as possible.
A little time spent inspecting the grill and cleaning it will make the grilling season safer and more enjoyable. Grilling is supposed to be fun and delicious. A dirty grill that does not work right hampers the taste and the enjoyment and can cause injury and property damage.