Weather is warming up and grilling is in full swing—including in restaurants! Although cooks and chefs in restaurants use the grill year-round, there is something about warmer weather that makes grilled foods more popular than ever. In fact, July is National Grilling Month!
Before firing up the grill in celebration, you’ll want to make sure you understand how to safely operate and work near a grill. We’ll go over our top grill safety tips for restaurants in our guide below. Let’s dive in!
1. Control the Fire
Controlling the fire is the most important grilling safety tip we can offer. Unlike ovens and electric stovetops, grilling happens over an open flame, making it more unstable than other cooking methods. Make sure you never leave the fire unattended, as just turning around for a minute gives the fire a chance to burn out of control.
Also, don’t forget to follow basic fire safety practices, including ensuring there are fire extinguishers placed at convenient locations and that employees are trained in using the extinguishers. It’s important to note that not all fire extinguishers are the same and you’ll want to make sure you have the right version for your kitchen.
2. Light the Grill
Charcoal grills are far more dangerous than gas grills. Why? Because with charcoal grills you need to manually light the charcoal to start the fire. Lighter fluid can lead to out of control flames that can cause destruction throughout the restaurant.
So if you can, find a better way to light your coals. Lighter fluid turns into a heavy gas at a pretty low temperature, so while the liquid lighter fluid burns, the evaporated lighter fluid gas explodes—leading to potential injuries.
To prevent dangerous situations, make sure the staff understands the safest ways to light charcoal grills; you should also consider investing in a gas or electric grill as opposed to charcoal.
3. Find the Right Location
When you go to set up your grill or smoker, you’ll want to put a lot of thought into the location you choose. Thousands of fires are started every year in homes, garages, and patios due to improper grill placement—and restaurants are no exception to the dangers.
There is a mandated minimum distance around the grill that must be kept clear at all times. You can learn more about this required distance in our Food Handler Certification Course.
It’s important that you take a good look around the area of the grill as well—especially if you’re outside or in view of the public. If your grill is accessible by your customers, you will want to make sure that people don’t walk too close to it, and that children can’t reach up and touch it. Taking these precautions will prevent hazardous situations down the road.
4. Focus on Food Safety
Grilling typically involves a variety of meats, fish, and veggies that each have their own set of handling rules. Before you even turn on the grill, sort your packages of raw meat and poultry into individual bags and keep them separate. Meat, poultry, and seafood should all be kept refrigerated until you’re actually ready to grill. Be careful to avoid leaving the meat on the counter (especially right next to the hot grill) to prevent food poisoning.
Since you’ll be handling raw meat, make sure to wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and fish. Don’t forget about washing your work surfaces, utensils and grill (see the section below) before and after cooking.
Similar to keeping your raw meats separated from each other, keep your sauces and marinades separate as well. You should throw away marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat as they can spread germs to cooked foods.
Once the food is done cooking, you should use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove the food from the grill. You won’t want to use the same flatware you used to place the raw meat on the grill.
Raw meat can carry germs and foodborne illnesses, so make sure the meat is cooked hot enough to kill that bacteria. You should follow these temperature best practices:
- Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to at least 145 degrees (and have a stand-time of three minutes at this temperature)
- Fish should be heated to at least 145 degrees
- Hamburgers and other ground beef should be heated to 160 degrees
- Chicken, turkey, and pre-cooked meats should be cooked to at least 165 degrees
After grilling, keep the food stored at 140 degrees or warmer until the food is served.
5. Clean the Grill
Your grill is no exception to the cleaning and high-standards you need to follow for restaurants to legally stay in operation. If you’re wondering how to clean a grill, start by hand-washing the grill grates. While wearing work gloves, disconnect the gas, and remove the grates and metal plates underneath them for washing. Set the grates and plates in soapy water for soaking. You can then move onto scrubbing the underside of the hood.
To clean the underside of the hood, you’ll want to scrub using a clean grill brush. You should be looking to clean off the carbon residue from grease and smoke. Once you’re done with the hood, move to clean the inside walls of the grill. To do this, you will want to use a clean sponge or towel with soapy water or a grill-safe cleaner.
Now, you can remove the grill grates and plates from the soaking water and brush them with your clean grill brush to remove any remaining buildup. Once the grates and plates are fairly dry, place them back in their appropriate spots and reconnect the gas.
For charcoal grills, you will want to follow the same steps as above, but add one more step at the end to empty your ash catcher.
You’re Safe to Celebrate National Grilling Month
Now that you know how to stay safe while using the grill at your restaurant, have fun celebrating National Grilling Month! If you want to learn more, you can find detailed restaurant grill and general safety tips in our Food Handler Training Course. Earn your food handler certificate and complete our course today!