A great barbecue is usually not just having a super delicious meal. It’s also about enjoying the whole experience with your family and friends. But what was a fun moment can turn into a dangerous inferno if you don’t know how to put out a grease fire on a grill properly.
Of course, the hacks I’m about to share are all straightforward for anyone to do. Then again, you’ll find many people are still repeating the DON’Ts that are not only not a solution but also accelerates the fire.
When the grease fire has accelerated, spreading to the flammable areas of your home is very easy. And before you know it, you’re now fighting the dangerous inferno.
A while back, National Fire Protection Association reported over 10,000 home fires occur from grills and barbecues per year. The report further mentions that the leading structures involved in fires include balconies, which can happen when using an electric grill for apartments.
What Exactly is A Grease Fire on a Grill?
The answer to any problem is usually to identify and understand the cause. In the case of a grill fire, grease is just one of the causes.
As you may know, cooking oils and greases are flammable when heated at high temperatures. The “high temperatures” varies from one oil to another since each usually has its unique flash point.
Ps. Combustible liquids flame up when they are burnt and they give off a flammable vapor. The lowest temperature at which this ignitable vapor form is exactly what we refer to flash point.
So, when you use a charcoal grill and the grease dripping into the flame starts smoking, it won’t be long before bursting into a fire.
And with that said, let’s now go through some of the variables that could end up creating a grease fire on a grill.
What Can Cause a Grease Fire on a Grill?
As I’ve just mentioned, grease fire on a grill occurs from “grease” and oils. The drippings from the meat you’re cooking are the most common source of these greases. And the fattier your stock, the higher the chances of your appliance catching fire.
Well, technically, the fire of this manner starts as flare-ups. But even the best no flare-up gas grills are still at risk since there are other variables at play. They include:
- Dirty cooking grates, with excess grease debris and burnt food on the surface. If you have a grill like Weber or Char-Broil and Broil King, oily build-up on the flame tamers could also cause the fire.
- A neglected grease catch-pan can also lead to a disastrous grease fire when it accumulates too much fat and oils.
- Over-oiled food can also lead to a grease fire very easily. It can happen as either flare-ups (when the excess oil starts dripping into the flame) or the oily food catches fire itself.
- When youseason a Blackstone grill with low flash point oil can also end up with a burst of flames. The same could also happen with oil of 650°F but your grill happens to heat the flat top plate beyond this temperature.
How to Put Out a Grease Fire on A Grill
There are at least four different ways you can put out a grease fire on a grill. How effective each will vary with how big a fire is present.
Part 1: Put Out a Grease Fire on a Gas Grill
Grease fires are today less common on gas grills from the addition of flame tamers that cover the burner tubes. A grill like Weber Genesis II E-315 or E-335 even has the flame tamers (known as flavorizer bars here) with an angled top. Thus, the drippings are directed to the catch pan below the cooking box instead of sticking on the surface.
Regardless, to put out a grease fire on a gas grill, begin with turning off the burners from the control knobs. The idea’s to cut the flow of gas and prevent it from feeding the fire, which would otherwise make the problem worse.
If you can’t reach the control dials safely, cut the supply from the gas tank regulator valve. But remember to switch off the burner knobs once you’ve put out the fire.
After the gas supply to the burners is off, you can now put out the grease fire on your grill by either:
- Cover the Fire with a Lid
Every fire usually needs oxygen to start and continue burning. If you cut off the oxygen supply, your grease fire should extinguish. And an easy way to do that in a gas grill is by closing the top lid completely (if available).
Unfortunately, grills like Blackstone 22 or 28 usually come without a top lid (optional to add one). Thus, you’ll have to improvise with a metal pan lid or baking sheet that can fit properly and create an airtight seal.
When you’re improvising, don’t put the metal lid or baking sheet over the fire. Instead, slide it over until it covers the whole top of the grill completely.
Note: glass and ceramic pan lids usually shatter when exposed to the extreme heat of open flames. So, avoid either as much as possible.
- Throw Some Baking Soda
If covering the fire won’t be possible, you can smother it using a non-combustible cook staple. Baking soda is a perfect example as it usually requires a lot of heat to burn. In fact, when the product is heated above 176°F (or 80°C), it usually breaks down to sodium carbonate, water, and carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide in the baking soda should take the most credit in putting out the grease fire on your grill. But the other two compounds are also not flammable.
A small amount of baking soda would be enough to put out a small grease fire. But in case it’s a big ball of fire on your grill, you might need to try an alternative solution.
Note: Baking soda and baking powder are two words that we often use interchangeably. But baking powder is usually flammable or combustible. Don’t try to put out a grease fire on your grill with it. You might end up making things worse than they are.
- Throw a Bit of Salt
Salt is another excellent hack on how to put out a grease fire on a grill without a lid. It works similarly to the baking soda above, only that it uses its non-flammability properties.
Well, of course, all compounds decompose when burnt at specific temperatures. But for salt (sodium chloride), it breaks down when heated at least 1470°F (or 800°C). Hence, the reason it makes a nice, quick fix when you have a grease fire.
However, this method will work on small grill fires, unless you usually shop your kitchen salt in sacks- possible in the catering business.
Note: You can use either kosher salt or sea salt here. But the former might work better from its lack of iodine and additives.
- Use a Fire Extinguisher
If you have a large ball of a grease fire on your grill, a fire extinguisher will now be the best way to put it out. Then again, different cans of fire extinguishers work on different types of fire.
For instance, a Class A fire extinguisher is usually water-based. As we shall see shortly, though, water usually makes a grease fire worse instead of dousing it. Thus, the perfect category of extinguisher, in this case, would be either Class-B or Class-K.
A Class B extinguisher puts out a fire while using dry chemicals in powder or foam form. And it could be successful in putting out a grease fire on a grill.
Nonetheless, the Class K (web chemical) extinguisher is the best at smothering grease fires. It works by creating a soapy foam over the fire, cutting off air and vapors while minimizing the splash issue.
FYI: The rating of each extinguisher is based on the various types of fires:
- Class K fires are the kind that occurs from commercial cooking practices with animal oils, vegetable oils, or fats.
- Class B fires are those that involve flammable liquids, including grease oil, paint, and solvents.
- Class A fires are the ordinary kinds that happen from combustibles such as paper, wood, cloth, plastic, et cetera.
Part 2: How to put out the charcoal grill
Unfortunately, a charcoal grill is more prone to grease fires than a gas grill. It’s common from the issue of flare-ups that are nearly unavoidable when cooking on direct heat.
Nonetheless, you can still put out the grease fire on your charcoal grill as easily as with gas grills. As a matter of fact, the solution involves the four methods above. But the appliance usually doesn’t have control knobs or a regulator to prevent the fire from accelerating.
The only way to stop the fire will be to close all the air dampers/ vents completely to cut off the oxygen supply. Your fire still won’t extinguish immediately, thereby will need to decide on which solution to go with pretty fast.
The available solutions include:
- Covering the fire with a lid
- Throw Some Baking Soda
- Throw a Bit of Salt
- Fire Extinguisher
The DON’Ts: How Not to Put Out a Grease Fire on a Grill
In the solutions above, you’ll notice nothing about putting out the grease fire on your grill with water. And the real truth is that you should NEVER even try it as your fire will just worsen. Why?
As a big fanatic of chemistry, you should remember oil floats on water. When you try to put out a grease fire with water, a similar scenario happens. But this time, the water causes the oil to splash, which is why you’ll notice the fire get bigger.
Call the Fire Department
In conclusion, that’s how to put out a grease fire on a grill all by yourself. They’re all simple hacks and all possible if you’ve got the right tools at hand.
A fire extinguisher is usually the best at smothering fires. You should always have your kitchen can (fire extinguisher) next to the grill whenever grilling/ barbecuing.
Even so, fire extinguishers that use multi-purpose dry chemical, foam, or purple k agent tend to leave a residue that will need to be cleaned before lighting the grill again. Thus, I’d recommend the hack as the last resort.
In case the grease fire on your grill is already too big or you’re uncertain about controlling the small one, call 911 right away. The fire department will guide you on what to do or dispatch firemen to your home.