Are Propane Grills Safe?

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Last Updated on March 5, 2021
BBQ

Propane gas grills are fast becoming the outdoor appliance of choice for many self-declared grillers and barbecue enthusiasts alike. These alternative grills are seemingly more reliable than ordinary charcoal grills. Moreover, they come with sleek, high-end features that make them far much easier to operate. 

One of the reasons why many homeowners prefer propane grills to charcoal grills is that they cook much faster compared to the latter. Besides, they are easier to light since most of them come with auto-ignition switches, and they are easier to refill as well. 

So, if you want to enjoy a tasty dish of grilled veggies and pork chops, you can always rely on a propane grill to deliver the perfect meal in a minute. 

However, as much as propane grills are fast, versatile and easy to use, they still pose a major threat to your safety. If used inappropriately, your propane grill can explode and cause serious burn injuries or even lead to death.

According to the NFPA, grilling accidents directly account for up to 10,000 house fires every year. Gas-powered grills, including propane grills, cause 90% of these fire incidents.

These alarming statistics lead us to the big question – are propane grills safe?

In this article, we investigate whether propane grills are safe, and we further discuss how to use these popular outdoor appliances safely, for a memorable barbecue experience.

How Propane Grills Work?

If you already have a charcoal grill at home or perhaps, you’ve used one before, then understanding how a propane grill works won’t be a problem at all. Propane grills work just the same way as any other typical grill, but instead of using charcoal or wood, they use liquid propane gas as the main source of fuel.

The simplest propane grill consists of a cooking grate, a burner, a gas regulator, a gas tank and an igniter. Some more advanced grills come with additional parts such as warming grills, grease trays, side burners, heat plates and temperature gauges. Despite the slight differences, all these parts work together to ensure the grill functions optimally.

When you ignite your grill, liquid propane moves from the gas tank through the valves swiftly into the burner. Depending on the design, your grill may have one long burner or several burners spread out across the cooking area. The burner has holes that distribute propane across the grill to ensure even heating.

The good thing about propane grills is that you can control the strength of the flame seamlessly with the turn of a knob. Propane grills come equipped with regulator knobs that allow you to adjust the flow of gas from the tank to the burner. This makes it very easy to increase or decrease the amount of heat the grill produces.

Some propane grills also feature a flame sensor that ignites the grill automatically once the gas reaches the burner, and shuts it off in case there’s no supply of gas. This goes a long way to prevent any accidents and fires caused by leakages.

Unlike charcoal grills, propane grills also come with heat plates located beneath the cooking grate. These plates help minimize flare-ups, and channel excess grease into the drip tray, subsequently extending the life of the burners and your grill.

With all these features at your disposal, you can easily tell that propane grills are extremely safe, and there is no chance of compromising your safety so long as you use it appropriately. However, you should also follow all instructions precisely as indicated in the manual to avoid putting yourself and your guests at risk of potential harm.

Is it Safe to Use a Propane Grill Indoors?

Barbeque

Here’s a secret. The beauty of buying a propane grill is that you can safely use this appliances indoors. This makes it possible to transfer your outdoor grilling experience indoors in case of bad weather or if you live in an apartment with no yard for your BBQ party. Besides, propane grills do not release carbon dioxide, so there is no risk of suffocation from inhaling concentrated toxins.

However, you must be wary of indoor grilling since propane grills require adequate ventilation to function optimally. Lack of adequate airflow might cause gas to build up at the bottom, thus increasing the risk of explosion. In addition, you must ensure your indoor space does not have any flammable materials nearby to avoid the risk of causing a fire. If you can get the best insulated grill jacket that you can buy for your indoor grill so that you can provide a buffer space for your nearby furniture.

More worryingly, propane grills tend to release excessive heat and this might not go well if you are using the appliance indoors. The excess heat can be uncomfortable and unbearable and above all, it could cause a fire if you are not careful when using the grill indoors.

Since propane is an invisible gas, any leaks could go unnoticed, and this might increase the risk of gas buildup, explosion or a fire, hence it is always a good idea to stick to cooking outside unless you have no other option.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Propane Tank Valve Open?

stake and asparagus

Just like a gas stove, a propane grill comes with a separate refillable tank that stores the liquefied propane gas. This tank has a valve that you can open and close each time you want to use your grill. 

However, since the grill already has control knobs that open and close the burner, many people do not see the point of closing this valve. As much as this is more convenient for everyday grillers, leaving the propane tank valve open could pose a great risk to you and your household.

If your grill does not have a safety lock for your knobs and someone knocks them to the on position by accident, then you are in for a tragedy. A large amount of gas could build up undetected and any open flame or spark could light the grill and cause an explosion.

To avoid compromising your safety, we strongly suggest you turn off the propane tank valve in between uses. This will go a long way to ensure you are safe from any possible dangers.

Possible Reasons Your Propane Grill Could Explode

Propane grills are manufactured with your safety in mind, as all modern grilling appliances should. However, anything and everything could go wrong even with the safest outdoor appliances you could think of. After all, accidents do occur and your propane grill is not an exception to these mishaps. 

With that said, here are a few reasons why a propane grill could explode.

  • Poor Ventilation
    As mentioned earlier, propane grills require adequate ventilation to function optimally. Without sufficient airflow around the grill, gas will build up and increase the possibility of an explosion at the slightest exposure to sparks or highly static materials.
  • Leaving the tank valve on
    Leaving your tank valve open and the burner knobs in the on position could be a recipe for disaster. Gas build-up may occur over time especially in confined places, and any slight exposure to a flame source could cause an explosion.
  • Exposure to Extreme Heat
    Although grills can withstand extreme heat, exposing the propane tank to extremely high temperatures could lead to an explosion. As you probably know, propane is a type of liquefied gas and this means exposing it to high heat will force it to “boil”. This will create unnecessary pressure in the tank and lead to an explosion.
  • Grease Flare-Ups
    Grease flare-ups may not necessarily cause an explosion, but they might become a fire hazard if left unattended. Flare-ups can be extremely scary and they can send everyone into panic. To prevent this from happening, always allow the grill to heat up first to burn off grease residue from the previous BBQ session. Also, avoid grilling extremely fatty foods
  • Improper Installation
    Propane grills come unassembled, meaning you have to set up the unit all by yourself or ask the seller to assemble it for you. If you decide to do it yourself, make sure you follow all instructions as outlined in the user manual. Improper installation can lead to leakages and increase the chances of an explosion.

The Dos and Don’ts: How to Use a Propane Grill Safely

Cooking using a propane grill can be safe and fulfilling but only if you adhere to basic safety guidelines. It’s worth noting that these safety measures apply across all outdoor grilling appliances. For this reason, it would be important if you comply regardless of whether you are using a propane or charcoal grill. Here are the dos and don’ts of using a propane gas grill.

The Dos

  • Always refer to the user manual
    It is important to refer to the instructions booklet from the manufacturer before using your grill for the first time. This will help you get a grip on what to expect and learn how to use the grill safely and appropriately.
  • Make sure the burner knobs are off
    Before igniting the grill, make sure the burner controls are in the off position. This will prevent any fire incidents or small explosions in case of gas build-up. Additionally, test the grill for leaks and make sure the cylinder is in an upright position before using the appliance.
  • Keep children and pets away while grilling
    Children and pets can be naughty and nosy during BBQ parties. However, for their own safety, you should try as much as possible to keep them away from the grill while you are cooking.
  • Cover the grill and the burners when not in use
    When not in use, cover the burners with protective fitting caps and the grill with the integrated lid to keep out dust, dirt and moisture. Make sure the grill is completely dry before covering it.
  • Clean and maintain your propane grill regularly
    Cleaning and maintaining your grill will not only extend its life, but also ensure it works safely and optimally. You should check and test for any loose fittings, broken components, clogged pipes and valves, and leakages.

The Don’ts

  • Avoid using the grill indoors
    Even though it’s safe, we strongly urge you to avoid using your propane grill indoors. Firstly, many grills are designed for outdoor use, and your insurer may not be willing to compensate for any claims for fires caused indoors. Moreover, your indoor space may not have proper ventilation for propane grilling.
  • After refilling the cylinder do not leave it in the car
    After refilling your propane cylinder, you should take it home as soon as possible. While at it, make sure your vehicle is well ventilated to avoid gas build-up. Do not leave the cylinder in the car, and make sure you fix it right away after arriving home.
  • Do not use matches to check for leaks
    Many grillers make the mistake of checking for leaks using matches or lighters. Doing so is extremely dangerous as it could cause an explosion in case of any leakages. Instead, ask your propane supplier to check for leaks and dents. The NFPA also provides guidelines on how to test for leaks at home, on their website.
  • Do not expose the cylinder to high temperatures
    Propane cylinders are designed to withstand extreme heat. However, if you expose your cylinder to high temperatures for too long, then the liquid propane will start boiling and form excess pressure that could lead to an explosion.
  • Do not smoke or wear flammable materials near the grill
    It is only logical that you shouldn’t smoke when near any gas-powered appliance. Propane gas is not only invisible but also highly flammable. Any exposure to a flame source could ignite the grill accidentally leading to fires. Moreover, make sure you avoid wearing flammable clothes when cooking using a propane grill.

Final Thoughts: Are Propane Grills Safe?

Converting from an ordinary charcoal grill to a propane grill is certainly a big step for anyone who wants to take his or her barbecuing experience to the next level. These modern and stylish grills are faster, cleaner and very easy to use compared to your everyday charcoal grill. 

Propane grills take away the hassle of having to search for the best wood pellets or briquettes. Moreover, you do not need to clean up, as there is no ash to contend with after the party. The best part is that propane grills do not emit harmful chemicals or gases that could cause serious conditions such as cancer. 

Whether you are just getting into grilling or you have your misgivings, the safety of propane grills is never in doubt. If they were that unsafe, no one would buy them and they won’t be as popular as they are now. When used properly, propane grills are very safe and they can serve you for years without any cause of alarm.