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Five top barbecue safety tips

Clarion

Planning a barbecue? Whether you’re cooking with coals, gas or a disposable grill, discover some simple ways to ensure your barbecue is safe.  

There’s nothing quite like having friends and family round for a barbecue, whether it’s just a few bangers and burgers, or a whole spread. But before the fun starts, remember the fire risks associated with barbecuing.  

These simple safety tips will make sure you and your friends can really enjoy your barbecue.  

1. Choose the perfect spot  

When setting up, make sure you choose a safe place for your barbecue. That means a flat surface outdoors with plenty of space and ventilation – never inside or on a balcony.

Make sure it’s well away from the kids, pets and any garden games that could knock it over. And be careful to keep your barbecue away from things that could catch fire like trees, fences, sheds or rubbish. 

Never barbecue on a balcony

There’s no safe way to have a barbecue on a balcony.  A balcony fire risks serious injury for you, your family and other residents.

Last summer in the UK, there were a number of high-profile balcony fires where the fire spread into flats and the cladding on the outside of the buildings.

We deal with around 50 significant fires in properties each year. Last year, 20% of these were caused by barbecues on balconies, or by cigarettes carelessly discarded from balconies.

As a result, we don’t allow residents to have barbecues on balconies, open access balconies, or roof terraces

2. Set up safely 

The sun’s shining, the burger buns are prepped and you’re ready to light up… 

But before you do, make sure you have a bucket of water, sand, or a garden hose nearby in case of emergency. That way, on the off-chance you need to react quickly to a fire, you’ll have everything you need at hand.  

You should also check your barbecue is in good condition, particularly if you haven’t used it for a while: look for loose or damaged parts. 

3. Light your barbecue the right way 

Whether you’re using a charcoal, gas or a disposable barbecue, the most important thing is to follow the fuel instructions.  

Charcoal barbecues 

You only need enough charcoal to cover the base of the barbecue (around 5cm deep). Only use recognised fire lighters or starter fuel, and only on cold coals. 

Remember, never use petrol, meths, paraffin or accelerants – these can ‘explode’ in your face and cause some of the most serious fire-related injuries.   

Gas barbecues  

If you’re changing a gas canister, double-check the tap is fully off before changing it and do it outside where it’s well ventilated. Make sure all joints are tightened, safe and secure.  

If you suspect there’s a gas leak, turn off the tap and brush soapy water around all the joints, watching for bubbles.  

And after you’re finished, turn off the gas supply first, then the barbecue’s supply. 

Disposable barbecues  

When lighting your disposable barbecue, make sure you place it on something flat, secure and fireproof – bricks or a concrete patio are ideal.  

Never be tempted to put them on wooden decking, furniture or anything flammable as they can get extremely hot and cause a fire. And don’t pick them up once they’re lit. 

4. Cooking with care  

Once your barbecue is up and running, it can be tempting to step away for a second. But it’s important to stay close to the grill and keep focused on it – barbecues can easily get out of control and fire can spread quickly.  

If you need to nip inside for any reason – to grab some more kebabs or ketchup – ask someone to keep an eye on the barbecue for you. Never leave children unsupervised near a barbecue. 

When you’re cooking, always use long-handled tools and be careful of steam when opening foil parcels. 

5. Don’t just bin it – tidy it up safely 

After your barbecue is finished and it’s time to wind down for the day, make sure you tidy away carefully. Remember that the metal parts of a barbecue get very hot – so don't try to move it until it’s cooled down. 

Whether you’re using gas, charcoal or a disposable, wait for both the grill and cooking implements to return to a normal temperature before you attempt to clear anything away. For a gas barbecue, switch off the gas supply first, then the barbecue.  

If you’re emptying out ashes, never pour them into your bin. They might look like they’ve cooled down, but they could still set fire to your bin. Pour the coals out on to open garden soil instead.  

Use sand or water to put out a disposable grill, always protecting your hands. Once extinguished, leave it to cool down completely before disposing of it safely in the bin. Disposable barbecues aren’t currently recyclable, so don’t put them in your recycling bin.