There’s nothing better than firing up the grill and creating those smells that will delight the whole neighborhood. I’ve been grilling and smoking meat as a hobby for a long time but was recently wondering about my setup. I did some research and it turns out, that I am setting up way too close to the back of my house for comfort.
Although gas grill manufacturers suggest a clearance of 3 feet from buildings, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advises a clearance of 10 feet. Gas or charcoal grills should be located a minimum of 10 feet from a house or other structures.
I also found out a few other interesting things in regards to placement and the grilling process. The rest of the article will tell you exactly what I learned.
Grill Placement Tips
So, you are going to place your grill 10′ from the house. There’s more to think about than distance alone.
Here 4 other important things to consider:
- Choose a Flat Surface- No one wants the hot dogs rolling off the grill. Make sure your grill has a level base.
- Deck, patio, or gravel? If possible, place your grill on a patio or gravel. Less concern with burning embers or briquets landing on a flammable surface.
- Consider Your Neighbors- My dad always said, “Smoke follows beauty.” It may be convenient to have the grill next to the patio door, but you don’t want to smoke out your guests.
- Airflow Considerations- The breeze is your friend if you are grilling with charcoal. Your briquets need the breeze to light easily. Align the vents of your grill to take advantage of the breeze. Please do not place your grill where it will be sheltered from the breeze.
Grill Placement & Operation
Safety is the first consideration when locating a grill, be it charcoal or gas.
The things which go without saying are:
- Place the grill no closer than 10′ from any structure
- Never operate your grill indoors
- Never use your grill in the garage
- Never operate your grill under an awning, branches, or anything else which could catch fire
- Have a fire extinguisher and spray bottle on hand
Gas Grill Safety
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on safely lighting and operating your grill. The heat from a gas grill can damage paint and siding. For more information on gas grill safety, refer to the CPSC gas grill fact sheet.
Although you may store your gas grill in a shed, the garage, or indoors off-season, the propane or natural gas tank should be disconnected and stored outdoors.
Charcoal Grill Safety
The safety precautions for a gas grill apply to a charcoal grill as well. Additionally, smoke and carbon monoxide are concerns. Excellent ventilation is required as burning charcoal emits carbon monoxide. The smoke from a charcoal grill needs ventilation as well. Repeated use too close to structures could leave smoke damage. The CPSC warnings for grilling with charcoal can be found here.
Proper Lighting of Charcoal
There are three primary ways to light your charcoal briquets.
- Standard briquets piled high, doused in charcoal starter fluid
- Easy light briquets piled high (easy light briquets are pre-soaked with starter)
- Standard briquets in a charcoal chimney, like the one that I use. (Click to see on Amazon)
No matter which lighting method you choose, ensure the vents of the grill are open. Remove the grill’s lid, set aside, or hang if it has a hook.
Remember, your charcoal is not ready to be placed for cooking until the charcoal passes through the open flame phase, and the briquets are mostly covered in ash. The process generally takes 15-20 minutes.
A Weird Smell is Not Necessarily Cause for Alarm
A strong chemical smell occurs when starter fluid is used. The easy light briquets may also generate a chemical smell. Regardless of the lighting method, a significant amount of smoke is generated as the charcoal lights.
Now that the grill is fired up, there are still a few safety concerns and some tricks to ensure your guests label you “Grillmaster.”
Keep it safe:
- Clean your grate. After your grate heats, scrub it with a wire brush. Residue from previous cooks can flame and cause your current effort to stick. Also, try not to grill on a surface covered with excessive rust.
- Use long-handled tools designed for use with grilling. Do not take kitchen utensils, which would expose your hands to the extreme heat. No need to singe the hair off your knuckles.
- Do not leave a hot grill unattended. An errant soccer ball or horseplay could knock a hot grill over. No successful grill out ends with a fire hazard, a risk to bystanders, and a call for pizza delivery.
How to Grill or Barbecue like a pro:
Grilling is done over direct heat. Spread your charcoal to provide heat over the entire grill surface. Grilling is preferred for sausages, burgers, steaks, chops. Proteins that cook quickly and require flipping at least once while cooking. The high heat provides the characteristic grill marks which impress the diner.
Barbecue with indirect heat roasts, whole birds, etc. Items that take an extended cooking time. Indirect heat allows the meat to cook thoroughly without over-charring the exterior. No one wants raw chicken inside and burnt skin outside. Prepare your indirect heat by arranging your coals to one half of the grill (or along each side of the grill leaving the center clear). For gas, grilling establishes your indirect heat by only firing burners on one side of the unit.
Here are a few additional tips:
- Follow food safety procedures- Keep foods that would spoil in the heat refrigerated or in a cooler until you are ready for them. Use one plate or platter to transfer raw products, another for the finished product. Use an easy read digital thermometer to ensure your proteins are cooked thoroughly but not overdone.
- Be prepared- Minimize trips running back and forth to the kitchen. Stage extra plates, sauces, etc. on a picnic table or cart nearby. Grilling goes fast. Be ready and pay attention.
- Rest- Not you. The meat. Yes, it’s hot off the grill, but give your burger or steak a few minutes to rest. That time allows the juices to settle.
- Be proud of your “work”- Remember, a pro never apologizes for what they serve. Let your diners extol your efforts. Do not denigrate your efforts as this just allows your diners the opportunity to find fault.
Cleaning Up Correctly
The good news is there are no pans to clean-up. But, there are a few final steps. Often these can be accomplished while your meat rests.
- For gas grills, turn all burners to high. Once the grill is extremely hot, scrub with a wire brush. Turn the burners off. Close the lid. Close the valve on the fuel tank.
- For charcoal grills. Scrub the grate with a wire brush. Close the vents. If your grill is well designed, closing the vents will suffocate the charcoal. The used charcoal can be combined with fresh charcoal the next time you grill. They usually start faster than the new briquets.
Outdoor cooking is one of the most fun and rewarding things in life. Well, at least it is for me. I hope this article has helped you find the perfect place to set up your grill.
Remember, start by placing your it 10′ from the home. Everything else follows. … Happy grilling!
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