If you have grilled before, you have almost certainly experienced your fair share of flare-ups. Not only are flare-ups dangerous, they can also ruin your food. Before we get into causes of flare-ups and how to prevent them, what is a flare-up? A flare-up is actually pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It is a burst of flames that shoots up from the bottom of the grill. The fire quite literally flares up. Obviously, fire shooting up is going to be dangerous and could potentially ruin your food by burning it. It is important to know that flare-ups are common so don’t worry to much if it happens every once in a while.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why your grill might experience a flare-up every once in a while and some things you can do to prevent them. The most common reason for flare-ups on a grill is fatty cuts of meat, oily marinade, dirty grill grates, and bad grilling weather. However, most of the issues can be avoided so you can do your best to prevent flare-ups in the future.
What Causes Flare-Ups?
Grilling Fatty Meats
If you have ever grilled fatty meats before, you know much they can flare up. The fat from the meat will melt off while grilling and cause a flare-up when it hits the burners. Burgers are probably the best example. If you grill a couple of burgers that are 85% lean, you are almost definitely going to have some flare-ups. Another example of a fatty cut of meat that can cause flare-ups is a ribeye. The fat cap in the middle will melt right onto the flames and cause a flare-up.
For the same reason as fatty meats, marinades can cause flare-ups while grilling. If you use just a little bit of marinade or wipe off the excess before putting in on the grill, your grill probably won’t flare up. If it does it will probably just be a minor flare-up. However, if you use an oily marinade or the meat is heavily marinated, there is a good chance it will drip off and land on the burners. If this happens your grill will flare up and engulf your meat in flames.
Dirty Grill Grates
Dirty grill grates are a common issue when it comes to grill flare-ups. Often times after grilling, there will be food and grease left behind on the grates. The left over grease and debris can easily fall off or catch on fire the next time you go to grill. Combine that with the fat and grease that is already dripping onto the grill from what you are actually cooking, and you are bound to have a flare-up.
If you have ever grilled in the wind, you have probably experienced more than a few flare-ups. Strong gusts of wind will easily cause your grill to flare up. If you are going to grill in the wind, try to keep the lid closed as much as possible to minimize them.
How to Prevent Them
You obviously want to prevent flare-ups whenever possible. Small flare-ups aren’t a huge problem but if you get big flare-ups it could easily burn and dry out your food. Flare-ups can also be dangerous as well, so it is best to avoid them if possible. Here are some tips for avoiding flare-ups next time you grill.
Clean Your Grill After Each Use
Cleaning your grill is an easy way to prevent flare-ups. I would absolutely clean it after each use to get any left over debris and grease off. This is incredibly easy to do. All you have to do is burn it all off after you are done grilling and then scrape the grates with a grill brush. To burn it off, turn the grill on high and close the lid for 10 minutes. This will allow you to easily knock off any left over debris with a grill brush.
In addition to cleaning the grill after each use, I would also do a deep clean at least once a year. This will allow you to brush the burners because those can get blocked sometimes. For tips on how to clean any type of grill, check out How to Maintain a Grill – The Ultimate Guide. I highly recommend regular cleaning to prevent flare-ups because dirty grill grates will almost always cause flare-ups and it is super easy to clean them.
Don’t Over Crowd the Grill
Try to space out your meat when grilling. Over crowding one area can cause flare-ups from all the fat and grease dripping onto one concentrated area. Instead, try to make sure there is ample space between everything. If you overcrowd the grill the flare-ups will also burn more of your food. Instead of a flare up burning just one burger, it could burn a couple of burgers at once.
Stay Away From Fattier Cuts of Meat
If fatty cuts of meats are an issue for you when grilling, it might be better for you to stick to making this indoors. Instead, opt to grill leaner cuts of meats that are less likely to cause flare-ups. You could also trim the excess fat on the meat yourself before throwing it on the grill.
If you do still want to grill fatty cuts of meat, just be sure to pay close attention so they don’t burn. If a flare-up does happen, move it quickly so it does not get ruined.
Sometimes you might not be able to prevent a flare-up. They just happen, but you can make sure you are prepared for them. Make sure you have a section of your grill that you can quickly move your meat to should a flare- up happen. It is important to move it right away because the flame will quickly burn whatever you are cooking. You can also just completely remove your food from the grill until the flare-up is done if you don’t have enough space.
Hopefully this article will be helpful in minimizing flare-ups in the future. For more grilling tips, be sure to check out our grilling section!