Grill Safely This Summer Season

DCA and DHSS Experts Advise Following Precautions to Ensure Safe Cookouts


TRENTON, N.J. – Before firing up the grill this holiday weekend, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lori Grifa and Department of Health and Senior Services Acting Commissioner Mary O’Dowd recommend that residents review tips for safe grilling and food handling to avoid illness and injury this summer.

"Grilling is a fun outdoor activity that can be safely enjoyed if people take the necessary precautions for preparing, using and storing the grill," Commissioner Grifa said. "It's especially important to properly check your gas grill for leaks before using it for the first time this season. Fires and explosions are most likely to occur when a grill hasn't been used lately or when the propane gas container has been changed."

Nationwide, an estimated 3,800 gas or charcoal grill-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments in 2010, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

And when preparing and serving foods this summer, keep your family and guests safe by cooking food thoroughly and holding foods at proper temperatures.

"An estimated 76 million Americans get sick each year from foodborne illness caused when food is not prepared or cooked properly," Commissioner O’Dowd said. "There are simple steps you can take, such as using a food thermometer to confirm that meat is cooked to a safe temperature."

Most households use propane grills for outdoor cooking. When preparing to use the grill for the first time this season, never use matches or lighters to check for leaks. Instead, apply a thick soapy water or leak-detection solution around the connection between the propane cylinder and grill hose. Bubbles will form if propane is escaping. If a grill has a gas leak, call the local fire department.

Both gas and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas. Avoid grilling on porches, in garages, or on an apartment terrace. Coals should be allowed to cool completely before a grill is brought indoors or into a camper to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Here are some additional tips for safe summer cookouts:

  • Thoroughly clean all cutting boards and surfaces that come in contact with raw food;

  • Keep the top open when lighting a grill;

  • Use or store propane cylinders outdoors in an upright (vertical) position and away from high temperatures;

  • Extinguish all smoking materials and other open flames immediately if gas is smelled;

  • Ask the propane vendor to check for any rust, physical damage or metal corrosion on the cylinder;

  • Transport cylinders in well-ventilated areas of vehicles and drive directly to the destination where it will be used;

  • Avoid smoking while handling a propane cylinder;

  • Make sure cylinders have an overfill prevention device (OPD), which shuts off the flow of propane before capacity is reached (OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel);

  • When preparing foods, use two cutting boards – one for raw meat, chicken and fish, and one for vegetables or other foods that will not be cooked;

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in warm soapy water before and after preparing foods;

  • Check to ensure food is done by inserting a food thermometer at an angle into the thickest part of the meat, chicken or fish to check the internal temperature;

  • Cook hamburgers to at least 155°F, chicken and stuffed meats to at least 165°F, and steaks, pork, fish and whole beef or pork roasts to at least 145°F;

  • Keep cold foods in the refrigerator until serving time;

  • Keep hot food hot by using tabletop equipment such as chafing dishes and sternos;

  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately; and

  • Discard food that has been left at improper temperatures for four hours.  

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For more information on food safety, please visit the Food and Drug Safety Program’s website: