Summer is here and it’s officially grilling season (unofficially? We grill year-round!). The sun is out, your grill is gleaming, the steaks are browning, the beer is flowing, then out of the blue, FIRE. Yes, the dreaded flare-up. It appears out the blue, a little drip of fat, some drops of oil, and wham, it’s flaming. Read on for some tips and tricks on avoiding flare-ups, and what to do when one occurs.
WHAT IS A FLARE UP?
A flareup happens when oil or fat drips over the coals of your grill. The reaction is quick – a big flame, which goes up and engulfs the food on the grill. It’s messy, it can ruin your food, and sometimes it’s downright dangerous, but it’s actually easily manageable. It happens especially with highly marbled beef, like the higher scores of Wagyu, but also with fatty Iberico pork and sausages in general.
HOW DO YOU AVOID FLARE-UPS?
So how do you avoid flareups? A few steps can minimize the risk and ensure your food doesn’t go up in flames.
First, make sure you burn your coals until they’re covered with grey ash before you actually start any grilling. Then, minimize the risk of flareups by trimming the fat away on the meat (not all, really only the big pieces). Basically you don’t want any more than you need. You can also use grill pans for really marbled steaks.
Next step? Don’t add too much food at once to the grill. This allows space to move the meat away if small flareups start to occur.
Which leads us to the basic grilling technique - the two-zone fire. Always have a zone with little to no coals, which you can use to moderate the grilling time. Add or remove more coals to the hot zone to control the heat.
Avoid wind. Wind is oxygen which fuels fire, and a sudden gust of wind can make the fire burn bigger and hotter than you originally intended, causing an unexpected flareup. If you’re grilling during a windy day, make use of the cover of your grill, if it has one.
HOW DO YOU CONTROL A FLARE-UP?
If a flare-up does occur, follow these simple but essential steps to control and put it out.
First, if it's safe, move the food that’s dripping and causing the flare-up immediately to the area of the grill with no coals. No fire = no flare-up.
If you’re not using the two-zone fire, make sure you have something to put out the fire. Some swear by the Alton Brown advice of keeping a squirt bottle with water, but there are some that argue that it just makes it worse.
Last but not least, practice fire safety and have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case!
Need more inspiration? We’ve rounded up all our favorite smoked salmon recipes below to keep you deliciously fed all spring long.