The goal of any grilling or smoking session is to cook delicious food and have fun doing it. So, the last thing you want is to end up with an overly charred piece of meat you have to throw out. Especially knowing it can be avoided. Grill flare-ups can happen quickly, often in seconds, if dripping fat or grease starts to get too hot.
Most of the time, a grill flare-up will happen when you are cooking on a charcoal or wood-fueled grill since they don’t usually have drip guards like many gas grills do. But, flare-ups are still possible on a gas grill.
In this article, we’ll break down how to prevent grill flare-ups and how to put them out if you do encounter one that becomes an issue. Let’s take a look:
Grill flare-ups are quick bursts of high-intensity flames that are often the result of fat and oil dripping onto hot coals or wood and igniting. A flare-up and a grease fire are not the same things. Quick, short flare-ups that happen from small drips can be common and are not usually a problem or something you have to worry about extinguishing. These often happen when placing fatty meat onto the grill, like chicken or steak, or when flipping the meat.
If you have a small flare-up happen, the best thing to do is to move the food to another part of the grill and it will typically die down quickly. It is when a small flare-up grows and gets out of control that it can change into a grease fire and quickly turn into a problem. This usually happens when there is a buildup of grease and carbon in your grill.
There are several things you can do to prevent grill flare-ups from getting out of control.
Kevin Kolman - Weber Grills
Proactive habits that help prevent grill flare-ups will save you burnt food and heartache, and in the worst cases, a destroyed grill. Most of these habits come down to preventative maintenance and proper preparation.
Here are some ways to prevent large grill flare-ups:
Source: Two Zone Grill Setup from Weber Grills
As you can see, it’s important to work these habits into your normal grilling routine. But, what happens if, somehow, you do end up with a serious flare-up and you find yourself with a grease fire on your hands? Just as important as prevention is knowing what to do in the chance this happens.
If you do end up with a grease fire, it is important to act quickly. First, remove your food from the grill to save what you can. One important thing to remember is that oxygen fuels fires. So, the first method to try and put out the fire is to close your grill lid and vents to suffocate the fire. (If you are cooking on a gas grill, turn off the burners right away as well.)
If the flames have started to die down, carefully look through one of the grill vents to see if it is safe to open the grill lid. If you still see flames and/or white billowing smoke, do not just throw the lid back open. You risk creating a flash fire when all that oxygen rushes back into the grill. When the flames have subsided or gone out, slowly open the lid partially to “burp” the grill before opening the lid all the way.
Another method to put out a grease fire, especially if it is getting more and more out of control, is to pour baking soda, a box of salt, or even sand on it to smother it. This won’t be the most ideal method due to the additional mess you’ll need to clean up after, but it works. (Make sure to check out our article on how to properly clean your grill)
You DO NOT want to spray water on a grease fire. This can actually make it worse. Doing this can spread the grease around further since the water will not extinguish burning grease or fat and it will also cause ash to go everywhere.
If the fire continues to burn uncontrollably for 30 seconds and it coming out of the vents, this is the time for a fire extinguisher. Of course, if the fire is continuing to spread quickly, is too hot for you to get near it, or if the flames are reaching the gas hose or tank on a gas grill, get out of the area and call 911 immediately.
Knowing exactly what causes grill flare-ups, how to avoid them, and what to do if one gets out of control will help ensure your outdoor cooking goes smoothly. Prevention and preparation are key. Keeping your grill clean will prevent 90% of grill fires.
When you don’t have to worry about a flare-up, you can focus on cooking like the top competition cookers do.
You can get more of the inside scoop like we’ve covered in this article, as well as competition BBQ secrets, straight from the pros in the online grilling classes and barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will walk you through step-by-step to help you elevate your outdoor cooking game like never before.
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