In this week’s addition of Effed It Up we hear from my friend Dave who reminds us that grilling is no fun if you almost burn the house down.
Do you remember that time I created a flashover/backdraft explosion with my grill?
As you may recall, we were catching up with several friends on my terrace, and I forgot about the nice thick slab of salmon I was grilling. Someone—most likely my wife—observed a curious amount of smoke coming from the grill, so I went to investigate. I whipped open the cover and KAFOOM! I immediately and instinctively slammed the grill cover back down and backed up/fell over. Smoke again started coming from the edges of the cover, and we could see the grease trap (that I had never emptied) was fueling the fire in the grill chamber above. I got my spatula, reopened the grill, and heroically rescued the salmon from the flames. YOU got some powder from the kitchen and heroically rescued the rest of us by putting out the fire. The salmon tasted great. So…I have several questions.
• Was closing the grill cover the right thing to do initially?
• What did you use to put out the fire again? I know (now) baking soda is recommended, but is that the only thing that works?
• After the smoke cleared, the inside of the grill was in rough shape, with a thick layer of grease on everything…any tips for cleaning that?
• The fireball singed my beard and forearm, but it also finished the salmon nicely…how can I recreate that dish sans threat to life and property?
• Have you ever rescued a cat from a tree?
—Dave, Salmon Savior
How could I ever forget? Thank goodness we walked away with (most of) our hair intact. I was going to try and fake my way through an answer on this one and then I thought it would be better to ask a REAL firefighter for some tips and tricks for home grilling safety and firefighting.
I spoke with fire captain and bagpipe enthusiast Eamonn Radburn of the Bogota Fire Department in New Jersey and photo editor Julia Duquette Porter’s brother, firefighter Jay Duquette of Maui County fire department on Molokai, Hawaii. These brave men had this to say:
Jay: The reason for the KAFOOM was the introduction of oxygen to a high heat environment that was experiencing incomplete combustion. When your friend opened the cover all of the O2 that flooded into the grill at one time created the conditions necessary to complete the combustion process, hence the large fireball. On to the specifics:
Was closing the grill cover the right thing to do initially?
Jay: Closing the grill was the best thing to do because it limited the O2 that was able to reach the fire, so kudos for that. Next you poured “powder” on the burning area thus smothering the fire and further limiting the combustion process. We live by the rule that fire cannot live without fuel, heat or oxygen (believe it or not firemen call this the fire tetrahedron). This is the basis for putting out every type of fire.
Eamonn: Covering the grill prevents any more oxygen from feeding the fire. Next, turn the grill off and, if you can do it safely, kill the propane. This most likely won’t extinguish the flame but it should diminish it enough to remove the offending grease trap.
What did you use to put out the fire again? I know (now) baking soda is recommended, but is that the only thing that works?
Jay: Yes, baking soda works best as it doesn’t cause molten grease to splatter everywhere, making a bad situation worse as water would have. I see someone payed attention on that visit to the fire house in the 3rd grade.
Eamonn: Baking soda is your best bet because it releases carbon dioxide to smother the fire. Never ever throw water on a grease fire. This can cause the grease to splash and the fire to spread. The grease will sit on top of the fire (like vinegar in oil) and can cause additional flare-ups.
Your other option is a home fire extinguisher, easily found at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s.
After the smoke cleared the inside of the grill was in rough shape, with a thick layer of grease on everything…any tips for cleaning that?
The answer? More baking soda! Let the grill cool completely then sprinkle with baking soda and Get. After. It. This requires a special brand of elbow grease.
The fireball singed my beard and forearm, but it also finished the salmon nicely…how can I recreate that dish sans threat to life and property?
Jay: Sorry about the beard but sometimes being a hero means you have to make sacrifices.
Author’s Note: True, Jay. But, Dave, if it’s smokey flavor your after you may want to try a grill-top smoker-box like this one. Gives you the freedom to play around with different aromatics like smoke chips or herbs without the risk.
Finally: Have you ever rescued a cat from a tree?
Jay: No kitties from trees that I can think of, but one can always hope. I did have to pull a crazy man who was cooking pesticides on his kitchen flat top out of his apartment once, so that’s basically the same thing.
Eamonn: Yes! I actually rescued a cat from a tree and an iguana from a gutter.
So keep these things in mind, Dave, and remember: Safety first!
from Bon Appétit http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/burned-down-the-house