Grilling Safety: How to Safely Dispose of Coals and Grilling Byproduct
It’s important that you dispose of the coals and grilling byproduct for a whole host of reasons. If you don’t clean things properly, the buildup will make food dangerous to cook. While fire can burn off many kinds of germs, there are still contaminants that can get on your grill over time that simply aren’t good for you. Grilling with fire and smoke is a great way to get close to your food! Don’t let contaminants ruin that bond.
Having a great ash can practically guarantee that you can shake that ash out of your grill space safely, but we’re here to help you explore more tips and tricks for cleaning your grill!
Disposing of Byproduct
Ash and Coals
Firstly, your ash solution is going to be based on the type of grill you have. More importantly though, ashes from the charcoal should be allowed to cool completely. Once cooled, the ashes can be wrapped in aluminum foil and tossed in the landfill, or you can get a giant bucket and collect your ash over time to avoid any back-and-forth.
If you’re cooking something that is going to take a really long time, like a quality kick ash beef brisket, then you’ll need to rotate coals, and keeping things clean while doing so is no small feat. Make sure you clean the grill after use every single time. Though it seems like an easy fix, taking a stiff wire to your grates is a sure-fire way to produce unnecessary wear-and-tear. I recommend a juniper scraper to clean off any food or debris that sticks. Not only will it condition and clean your metal, it will eventually form perfectly to your grill grate over time.
After the grill cools down all the way, then you can use a cloth to spot clean the lid of the grill. If you want an additional solution, use a sterile food cleaning solution that won’t contaminate any future dinner plans you might make for yourself.
Ashes from Briquette Charcoal
Most of you who have ever stood over a grill know that charcoal eventually becomes ashes. If you know anything about ashes and dirt, you may think that you can simply mix them around and toss them into your garden, but this isn’t something we’d advise. Commercial charcoal often contains chemicals that are going to be harmful for the plants in your garden. Because of the chemicals that get used in commercial charcoal, the ashes simply must be thrown away. If you mix charcoal ashes into dirt near your house, you might be killing any of the plants that were going to grow there. While carbon is in charcoal, commercially made charcoal is usually made with a wood char, which is a sticky, binding agent that allows the briquettes to remain bonded after they are made. Usually, there are some natural sources in the binder, like potatoes and a little bit of corn, but those natural ingredients aren’t enough to help your petunias any.
But many commercial charcoal manufacturers are made with some borax which helps the briquettes come clean from their molds. Generally, you aren’t going to want to use charcoal as a source of fertilizer. The toxins that can be in the briquette ashes can actually ruin the compost and the plants that will grow in it — especially if you’ve bought briquettes that have lighter fluid on them, keep them away from plants. The lighter fluid can fail to burn completely or can leave behind toxins that can get into soil and plants. This can also be dangerous to pets!
Natural Wood Charcoal
If the idea of gathering up ashes and tossing them away is a pain, then you should try natural wood charcoal. Wood charcoal has much kinder ingredients, and you can mix it with water and add it to the different plants.
Wood ashes have a bunch of magnesium, calcium, and potassium that can help out plants. So if you increase the pH in the soil, you can help certain plants grow better over time.
You’d have to use an alternative fuel solution for your grill to use the ashes as fertilizer; and if you do use a more natural or wood solution, then you can feel free to scatter the ashes in your garden, but this is definitely the more unconventional route and should be practiced with caution.
If you’re throwing a larger party with people running around, fire safety is going to be a big deal with the grill. Part of backyard barbecue essentials is having a plan for fire safety. Here are some ways that you can keep your grill safe, even with people running around and rambunctious pets:
- Keep the grill away from your house. It’s important to keep things away from your house to limit the damage that could happen if there are any issues with the grill.
- Clean your grill often. If the grill gets clogged with material, the fire starts to burn less clean and you can catch more things on fire.
- Have water and a fire extinguisher. Something really important for fire safety is to imagine the worst-case scenario. While location is key for grill safety, having the extinguisher and a spray bottle to handle any small flames or any problems is key.
- Don’t leave the grill alone. It can be easy to set the lid and walk away, but the grill should always be within your consciousness line of sight to prevent any disasters.
- Light the coals effectively. Many problems with fires can happen while they are starting, and not well after they are raging. Stay a safe distance from the coals and fire with a long grill torch (plus, they are fun to use).
- Watch the deck. Grilling on grass is safer than grilling on a deck. Keep your grill at least a few feet away from decking, which can be a fire hazard. If you’re building a spot for your grill, consider creating a spot with cement or sand for even safer grilling.
Depending on what you’re grilling, you’re going to have to make sure that you’ve cooked the food all the way through to really enjoy what is going on. If you don’t cook your meat all the way, it can be dangerous to consume. Something like chicken needs to be cooked up to 165 degrees to maintain safety.
Check out our 7 tips for cooking success to dial in your technique.
- In the summer, foodborne illnesses are more dangerous, because the higher heats allow germs to grow more. Keep meat isolated and well-refrigerated until you’re ready to grill.
- Hit the recommended safe temperatures for food.
Don’t defrost things at room temperature. If you’ve ruined perfectly good meat by freezing it, then make sure you don’t ruin it further by setting it on the counter. Put it in the fridge for a while to defrost safely.
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