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5 safety tips for the perfect summer BBQ

Posted May 27

The best summer barbecues occur when the sun is shining, friends are gathered and tasty meat is grilling. With a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can make this your safest — and most delicious — summer yet. (Deseret Photo)

THE GRILL — Nothing says summer like a barbecue.

The most memorable events of the season often occur when the sun is shining, friends are gathered and meat is grilling. With a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can make this your best and safest summer yet.

Here are five tips to make sure everyone at your cookout remembers the marinades — not the mishaps.

1. Protect against the sun

Summer safety starts before you head outside. A barbecue usually means several hours spent in the sun, which can lead to painful sunburns and potential long-term damage to your skin. Fortunately, with a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy the summer sun and make safety a priority at the same time.

Don a hat and a pair of sunglasses to protect your face from the sun. Apply sunscreen while you’re still inside and remember that children will need help to ensure they are fully covered. Make sure you bring the sun protection with you, too. A single coat of sunscreen won’t last all day, so understand how your sunscreen works and keep it handy for reapplication. The grill might be sizzling, but you don’t have to.

2. Stay hydrated

Now that you’re ready to go outside, make sure you drink plenty of water. Hydration is vital to your health and it’s all too easy to become dehydrated in the summer heat. You should always be mindful of how much you are drinking, but it’s especially important when you’re out in the hot sun.

Carry a water bottle with you so you always have water on hand, and encourage children to drink enough throughout the day. It’s easy to get caught up in socializing or playing, so schedule regular water breaks for your family to make sure nobody is having so much fun that they forget to drink.

3. Practice food safety

Summer barbecues offer great grub, but they also present unique challenges for food safety, including transportation, keeping perishables cold and ensuring meats are thoroughly cooked. Even if you have 20 hungry people eyeing the grill, it’s important to remember basic food safety and sanitation rules. After all, you don’t want everyone to love your bratwurst right up until they get violently ill.

Pack and transport perishable foods in plenty of ice to keep them out of the temperature “danger zone.” When grilling, ignore your neighbor who insists you can poke a burger to test doneness—always use a meat thermometer to ensure you cook all meats to a safe temperature. Avoid cross contamination, and never put cooked meat or any other prepared food on a plate that held raw meat. And skip the egg salad that’s been sitting in the sun for hours. Cold foods that get too warm are just as dangerous as hot foods that cool down too much.

4. Remember grill safety

Save the fireworks for the Fourth of July: make fire safety a priority. Grill fires are unfortunately common. Thousands of people injure themselves while using grills every summer, and people even lose their homes to grills gone wild. Many of these fires are preventable with proper maintenance, so clean your grill regularly and inspect it for damage or leaks before you turn it on.

Once the flames are going, keep a safe distance between your grill and anything flammable (like your house, for example), and always keep children away from the immediate area. Most importantly, be prepared to react quickly if flames get out of hand. Have a fire extinguisher within reach, and make sure you know how to use it before you light the grill. Everyone will enjoy their food more if your house is still standing.

5. Watch the water

There’s nothing better than cooling off at a cookout with a dunk in the water. Whether you’re attending a poolside party or just filling an inflatable kiddie pool for the little ones, be mindful of water safety. Accidents can happen in just a few inches of water.

Teach children basic pool safety, and never leave them unattended around water for any amount of time. You might also use the summer season to enroll children in swimming lessons. For your own peace of mind, take a first aid class. Knowing you’re ready to respond to an emergency can help you relax and enjoy your dip even more.

A bit of preparation and extra caution can make every summer barbecue a safe, enjoyable experience. Whether you’re hosting a cookout or just attending one, use these tips to keep everyone healthy, happy and well-fed all summer long.

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