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Australians love a barbecue! No matter whether it’s a snag from Bunnings or a home-cooked steak, Australians continue to be well-known for their outdoor cooking.
According to Roy Morgan, almost two thirds of Australian households own a barbecue, with rural households (on larger properties) being more likely to have a barbecue over their city-dwelling counterparts.
Alongside beers, beaches and backyard get-togethers, barbecues are central to every Australian’s identity.
However, any type of barbecue has the potential to be dangerous, so keeping safe around your outdoor barbecue requires you to take care and plan ahead.
When it comes to barbecues it’s extremely important to take all the necessary precautions to ensure the highest level of fire safety.
You should also be aware of and comply with any restrictions that may be in place including total fire bans. Although it’s unusual to have a fire ban in urban and residential areas they are regularly in place in rural places of Australia. Either way, the rules on fire bans need to be adhered to.
For more information, check the RFS (Rural Fire Service) for your state.
While using your barbecue outside is one of the most effective fire safety measures there are also some other safety tips you should consider before you cook.
BBQ safety tips:
- LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas or Liquid Petroleum Gas) is the fuel used in most Australian barbecues. It is also flammable, heavier than air and may remain in areas where you’re cooking for some time.
- You may want to consider having a fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies and fire safety.
- Use alcohol responsibly around barbecues.
- Clear the surrounding area of combustibles before lighting a barbecue.
- Allow hot ashes or coals to cool for 48 hours before removing them.
- Consider installing a safety device that shuts off the gas from the cylinder should a leak occur.
How to prepare your barbecue
When preparing to cook on your barbecue you should always complete a number of safety checks before you start. This is to ultimately avoid any potential fires, injury, or damage to property and ensure that everyone is safe around the barbecue.
Safety checks for barbecues:
- Before buying or using a barbecue you’ll need to ensure that the barbecue, hose, and regulator are labelled as safety certified for use in Australia.
- Make sure your barbecue is steady on a level surface clear of flammable materials, away from plants and trees.
- Make sure to keep your barbecue in a well-ventilated area away from any open windows or doors to avoid carbon monoxide from entering your home.
- Understand how to check whether your LPG cylinder is in date and whether it’s certified to use. You should also know how to dispose of it correctly if it is no longer in use.
- Check that the regulator and the hose are connected tightly to the cylinder and the barbecue to ensure that there are no gas leaks. You can check by spraying the connection joint with soapy water. If bubbles appear, then there is a leak.
- Make sure the drip tray and grills are clean of grease oil (to help prevent a fire), the burners are not blocked, and the control knobs are not seized.
- When you’ve finished using the barbecue make sure to turn the gas off first at the cylinder and then at the barbecue. This allows gas in the pipe to burn off rather than trapping it between the cylinder and barbecue.
You can cover the bottom of a coal barbecue with coal no deeper than 5cm. It’s also important that you use only recognised firelighters or starter fuel on cold coals.
And if you have a gas barbecue make sure it is serviced and maintained by a licensed gas fitter at least every two years. They should test the pressure of your gas cylinders, the condition of hoses and connections, check the cylinder for rust or damage and ensure whether any connections need tightening before use.
Barbecue safety tips
Keeping you and your family safe while cooking on your outdoor barbecue requires you to take care and plan ahead. Once your barbecue is operating safely and efficiently, here are some safety tips for a summer barbecue.
- Keep your (charcoal or gas) barbecue at least 3 metres away from your house. This also includes attachments to your house like the carport, garage, or porch.
- Clean your barbecue regularly. If you allow grease and fat to build upon your barbecue then they can provide more fuel for a fire.
- Keep a spray bottle and fire extinguisher close by. A spray bottle can be used for minor flare-ups and a fire extinguisher should be used immediately to put out any imminent fires.
- Don’t turn on the gas while the barbecue lid is closed. This can cause gas to build up inside your barbecue and create fire when set alight.
- Don’t leave a barbecue unattended. It’s important that you plan ahead so that you can focus on safely cooking with the barbecue.
- Don’t use a barbecue indoors. Even with smaller barbecues, it’s still not safe to use a barbecue indoors. Your barbecue should be in a well-ventilated area away from any open windows or doors.
- Don’t use any kind of aerosol around an open-flame grill. These can include insect sprays, sunscreen sprays, deodorant sprays, oils, air fresheners and cleaning products.
Bushfire risks from outdoor gas appliances
Outdoor gas appliances, like gas barbecues, have the potential to start bushfires. It is important that you do not use gas appliances when there is a lot of dry fuel nearby (grass, twigs, paper, decorations) because it could start a fire.
How to clean your barbecue
After cooking, clean away all excess food by scraping off the residue with a BBQ scraper. You should also leave the burners on for an additional five minutes until excess grease is burnt off.
Next, you should turn off the gas cylinders first before turning off the barbecue to allow any excess gas to be burnt away and the barbecue to cool down.
You should then remove all the barbecue grates and grills to clean the surface with hot soapy water. Use a grill brush or stone to scrub away any excess food before rinsing with hot water.
Once the barbecue has completely dried you can spray a light coat of oil on any iron hotplates or grills to prevent rusting.
Finally, ensure that the barbecue is cool to touch before placing a cover on it and store your barbecue in a shaded, dry area.
With our list of barbecue safety tips, you’ll now be able to plan how you’re going to safely enjoy those summer barbecues outside.
How far should your barbecue be from the house?
Your barbecue (gas or charcoal) should be at least 3 metres away from your home, garage, deck railing and other structures when in use.
Are barbecue’s dangerous?
Barbecuing produces carbon monoxide (CO) which can be harmful and deadly. Make sure to keep your barbecue in a well-ventilated area away from any open windows or doors to avoid carbon monoxide from entering your home.
Can you leave your barbecue outside?
If you must keep your barbecue outside try to keep it sheltered from strong winds and keep it covered as much as possible. When you store your barbecue make sure that both the barbecue and the cover are completely dry to avoid any rust forming when not in use.
How do I keep my barbecue from rusting?
The easiest way to make sure that your barbecue doesn’t rust is to clean the food and grease particles away after every cook! Remember to put a light coat of oil on your cooking grids after cleaning to prevent them from rusting.