Grilling Tips: How to Combat a Grill Flare-Up

Worried about a grill flare-up?  Follow these steps to reduce your risk and save your food!

A grill flare-up is one of the universal truths in grilling – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got one cook under your belt or a thousand, everyone has had a flare-up ruin or threaten their food before.  Even if you enjoy that authentic “flame-grilled” taste, excessive flare-ups can be both annoying and expensive depending on what you are cooking.

With this is mind, we are going to look at 5 grilling tips aimed at helping prevent grill flare-ups.


What Is a Grill Flare-Up?

A flare-up is an outburst of fire caused by something dripping onto or into the flames of a grill.  It can be caused by anything from excess fat and marinade to a dirty grill grate and can easily scorch and char whatever you’re cooking.


How to Prevent It

Start with a Clean Grill

Yes, I know I sound like a broken record to some of you due to my insistence that you clean your grill, but in this case it’s not just about taste – it’s about saving your cook.  An unclean grill grate can drip everything from food remnants to grease down onto your fire and trigger a flare-up that can char whatever you’re cooking.  If you forgot to clean your girl after using it last, make sure everything cooks off (using a brush while hot will help) before you start your next cook.


clean grill flare-up

Trim the Fat

Fat can be a huge source of flavor when it comes to grilling, but it can also be a huge risk.  When fat gets hot it tends to melt and drip down onto the fire or coals below, thereby causing a flare-up.  You can reduce the risk of this happening by thoroughly trimming the fat from your meat before grilling, but do so in moderation as you don’t want to remove too much flavor!
trim the fat grill flare up

Use a Drip Pan

Drip pans slide under your grill grate and helps prevent anything that drips from hitting the flames and causing a flare-up.  Whether your grill comes with a pan or you have to add your own, it’s important to clean it after every use to ensure it doesn’t affect the flavor and performance of future cooks.


drip pan grill flare up


Don’t Use Too Much Oil or Marinade

Both oil and sugar-based marinades are notorious for causing flare-ups but the solution is not to eliminate them entirely.  Instead, all you have to do is use less and use it strategically.  For example, if you always oil the grates before grilling, just wait a few minutes to let any of the excess oil drip down before throwing anything on the grill.  In addition, if you are constantly basting your food with marinade and seeing flare-ups, either use less or wait until the end.  


grill flare up marinade


What to Do about a Flare-up

If you happen to experience a flare-up then there are a few easy steps you can take to minimize the damage.


Close the Lid

It’s no secret that fire feeds on oxygen so if you are grilling with your lid up (which I assume must be the case if you are witnessing the flare-ups), then simply close the grill lid for a bit and cut the fire’s fuel.


close the lid grill flare up


Move the Food

If what you’re cooking is super fatty or dripping in marinade, then flare-ups might just be something you have to deal with.  The best solution here is to move your food around constantly and attempt to stay ahead of the fire.  This gets harder to do as your grill fills up, but even just flipping your meat can give your meal a temporary reprieve from the flames.


Cooling Down

Like death and taxes, flare-ups while grilling are a part of life.  They don’t have to happen often in order to be annoying, but taking the aforementioned steps is a great way to ensure they occur as infrequently as possible.


Know any steps that I missed?  Let me know in the comments!


Quincy handles most of the marketing at CAPPEC and will work for coffee or IPAs. Currently residing in Asia, you can follow him at @YouKnowQuincy to see what he's up to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *