Grilling Safety: 8 Hidden Dangers of Barbecuing

“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it's a start.” - Anthony Bourdain


As warm weather returns, summer grilling season is heating up. Backyard barbecues offer a wonderful opportunity to gather outdoors with family members or friends, sharing some grilled chicken or steak, maybe a side of potato salad or corn on the cob. Before you fire up your grill, it is important to learn about the potential health risks, especially these eight hidden dangers no one seems to be talking about.

Did you know that 7,000 Americans suffer barbecue-related injuries every year? It isn’t just the fire or heat that pose a threat. Protect yourself by knowing these risks. After all, awareness is the key to summer grilling safety.

  1. Wire Bristled BBQ Brushes

Before and after grilling, you might normally use a wire bristled grill brush to scrape off any residue left on the grates. It’s a good idea, right? Maybe not. Those tiny metal bristles can detach and stick to the grill, later transferring into your food. Though small, the bristles can cause big problems if they become lodged in your throat or intestinal tract.

It’s something I never considered until a few weeks ago when a friend of a friend experienced just that. It took three surgeries to finally remove the piece of metal. The doctors said this is surprisingly common, and there should be a warning on the metal grill scrubs. To avoid a trip to the emergency room, consider swapping out your grill brush for a bristle-free grill brush or scraper.

  1. Aluminum Foil

The high heat of a grill can cause invisible particles of aluminum to escape the foil and enter your food. While your body can handle small traces of aluminum, repeat exposure can lead to toxicity, which studies link to dementia, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s (Bassioni, 2016). Skip the aluminum foil and use a cooking oil or spray as a safer alternative to protect against sticking at high temperatures.

  1. Mechanical Tenderizing

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Grilling will normally kill off bacteria on the surface on your meats. However, mechanical tenderizing uses needles to puncture meat numerous times. If bacteria, like E coli, is present on the surface, it will be pushed deeper inside. If you use meat that has been mechanically tenderized, be sure to heat it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

  1. Room Temperature Thawing

Speaking of bacteria, never thaw perishable foods at room temperature. A warm kitchen provides the perfect environment for bacteria to reproduce.  As the bacteria multiply, so do the odds of food poisoning. Instead, use one of the meat thawing methods listed below. 

  • Refrigerator: 25 hours per 5 pounds. Use thawed meats within 2 days.
  • Cold water: Fully submerge food in a leak-proof bag. Change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Microwave: Use the defrost button. Use meats immediately after thawing.
  1. Delayed Starter

Emergency room doctors also warn of the dangers of a delayed starter. If the electric starter on your grill doesn’t seem to be working, turn off the gas and allow it to dissipate before trying again or striking a match. Otherwise, you could ignite the gas, causing serious or even fatal burns.

  1. Charcoal Toxins

The battle between gas and charcoal is never-ending, but they both have pros and cons when it comes to safety. Some charcoal is made using toxic chemicals that leach into the food. If you are a charcoal fanatic, be sure to choose one that is 100% all natural.

  1. Propane Storage

Summer Grilling Safety: 8 Hidden Dangers of Barbecuing

While propane is considered cleaner, the tank must be removed and carefully stored during the off season. In the right conditions, even a tiny leak can cause the tank to explode. Keep the tank outdoors and away from dryer or furnace vents.

  1. Carbon Monoxide

Whichever grilling method you use, be sure the area is well-ventilated to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never grill inside a room or tent.

Follow all of these summer grilling safety tips to avoid hidden dangers during your next backyard BBQ. A little mindfulness can go a long way toward protecting your health.

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What To Remember:
Grilling is a fun activity, but there are hidden dangers everyone should know about.

Each summer, over 7,000 Americans are rushed to the emergency room with grilling-related injuries.

One of the biggest dangers is also the smallest—the tiny metal bristles that can fall off your grill brush and end up puncturing your throat, intestine, or bowel.

A little mindfulness can go a long way toward protecting your health this grilling season.
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Omega Safety Training (2020). Summer Barbecue Grilling Safety Tips. Omega Safety Training:
McCaffery, Jen. (June, 2019). The Grilling Mistake That Can Send You to the Emergency Room. Reader’s Digest:
Notis, Ari. (May, 2018) Charcoal or Gas? This Is the Healthier Way to Grill. Best Life Online:'d%20be%20right,exposing%20yourself%20to%20three%20carcinogens.

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