Outdoor cooking with portable grills

Safety Tip


Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors. Read all of NFPA's  grillling safety tips and download our free safety tip sheet.

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Spring, summer and fall are the best times of year for overnight camping or day trips, picnics in the park and on the beach, and tailgating

No matter what outdoor event you organize this year, food will surely play a major role in the festivities, and when you’re away from home, portable grills will most likely be at the center of all the activities. Fortunately, by following some simple safety tips and guidelines you, your family and friends can reduce the risk of injuries.

Consider the following as you head out to the nearest campground, park or beach:
  • Certain areas have restrictions regarding campfires and grills. Check if your area has any fire restrictions in place. Choose only those areas where fires are permitted.
  • Check the fire danger rating in your area to determine if weather, or other factors make it dangerous to light a fire.
To start charcoal for cooking
  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to ignite the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel:
    • If you use a charcoal chimney, use a long match to avoid burning your fingers when lighting the paper
  • If you choose to use lighter fluid, use only fluid intended for charcoal grills
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid to coals or kindling that has already been ignited
  • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid except charcoal starter or lighter fluid to start a charcoal fire
While cooking
  • Place the grill well away from overhanging branches according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic
  • Keep children and pets, and anything that can burn like food wrappers, an oven mitt or towel, at least 3-feet away from open flames and the grill
  • Use long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames
    • Have an adult present at all times when a campfire or grill is burning. Keep the fire small and never leave a fire unattended!

To dispose of charcoal after cooking
  • Before going to sleep or leaving the area, douse the fire with water and make sure the area is cool to the touch.
  • Five percent of outside or unclassified grill fires occurred in a lawn, field or open area 
  • Empty the coals into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid that is used only to collect coals
    • Place the container outside and away from anything that can burn
    • Never empty coals directly into a trash can
    • Store the charcoal starter fluid out of reach of children and away from heat source