grill safety

Lakelands Ace Hardware employees Lexie Hammett, left, and Kim Byers fill an electric grill with wood chips. 

When it comes to finding the right grill, safety matters as much as flavor.

That staple of summertime activity was responsible for nearly 9,000 deaths from 2009 and 2013, according to a report last year by the National Fire Protection Association – and 83 percent of the grills involved were fueled by gas.

Kim Byers, a sales associate at Lakelands Ace Hardware, said electric grills provide the safest option without sacrificing taste.

“This one doesn’t have the likelihood to catch on fires like those do, so you would just be sure to turn this off once you’re finished with it,” she said.

The plug-in variety features an attached auger that runs on wood chips, giving food a naturally smoky flavor but containing the flame underneath a metallic surface that can run as hot as 475 degrees.

“The fire is actually contained into a cylinder that wood chips feed into, and that’s where your fire comes from,” Byers said.

According to the NFPA report, just 2 percent of grills fires between 2009 and 2013 came from electric models.

“You don’t have to have the gas filled on this, so it prevents gas leaks and all that from happening, and the electricity can be turned off at any time,” Byers said.

Lacie Hammett, who also works at Lakelands Ace Hardware, said the self-contained electric grills carry less threat of an explosion or uncontrolled fire as well.

Greenwood County Fire Coordinator Steve Holmes said electric grills, when properly used, are the safest ones on the market.

“As long as you plug it directly into an outlet or use an appropriate sized extension cord designed for outdoor use,” he said.

Electric grills, however, can be much more expensive than a charcoal model. The State Fire Marshal’s Office advises never to use charcoal grills indoors. Electric charcoal starters can also be purchased to alleviate the use of lighter fluid or other fire-based products.

The third type of grill, those powered by propane, have safety checklists of their own.

“Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose,” the State Fire Marshal’s Office advises. “A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill.”

Byers, who owns an electric grill, say they provide the ideal balance of taste with safety – and consumers take note.

“People with grandchildren especially ask us about safety, including how hot the exterior surface gets,” Byers said. “I actually use this grill on a porch that is not closed in. As long as it’s in a good, ventilated open area, you’re good.”

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.