3 Tips for (Safely) Grilling With Kids

Grilling is a traditional pastime for dads, but your kids may want to help you too, just like they help mom in the kitchen. Grilling is a little different than cooking in the kitchen, though. While the kids can pitch in on preparation, you need to set some ground rules to keep them safe.

Grilling Safety Basics

First, any grill – whether gas or charcoal – should be kept outdoors and away from the house and deck railings. The National Fire Protection Association also advises that you position it away from the eaves of your roof and any overhanging trees.

When grilling up your food, stay in the cooking area the whole time and make sure your children are a safe distance away from the grill to prevent burns, just as you would with the stove or oven in the kitchen.

Food Safety for Grilling

The last you thing you want when grilling is to make anyone sick, especially your kids. Children are more susceptible to foodborne illness than adults, so make sure your grill is clean and meats are cooked to the proper temperature. Be sure to use separate plates for raw and cooked meats to prevent contaminating cooked meat with the raw juices.

It's the least fun part of grilling, but after you finish cooking and eating, clean your grill as directed by the manufacturer. Bacteria can grow on any leftover bits of food clinging to the metal, which may make your next grilled meal unpleasant. Use hot, soapy water to wash your spatula, tongs, basting brush and any other tools you used while cooking, or run them through the dishwasher.

Check your meats with a food thermometer to make sure they're cooked to the proper temperature:

  • Hot dogs and sausage: 160° F
  • Hamburgers: 160° F
  • Steak and pork: 145° F
  • Chicken: 165° F
  • Fish: 145° F

What Your Kids Can Do

While your kids shouldn't be flipping burgers or basting the chicken legs, they can help you with some of the pre-grilling prep work. If you make your own marinades or barbecue sauce, young children can get the ingredients out of the cupboard and refrigerator. Older children can measure and mix the ingredients or pour marinades over the meat.

Let your kids gather the hamburger and hot dog rolls, condiments and other fixings you might need. They can also set the table, so it's ready to go when your masterpieces are grilled to perfection — after all, your world-famous barbecue chicken legs will need some extra napkins!

Most importantly, be sure your kids wash their hands before and after handling food, and before they eat.