Barbecue Brush Safety: Dangers of Using the Wrong Grill Brush

When grilling season is in full swing, there’s no better time to get your grill primed and ready to show off your grilling and cooking skills. This is the perfect opportunity to relax by the pool while munching on chops or kebabs as you sip your favourite drink. But before you even fire up that grill, did you know that your barbecue wire brush can be a cause for concern?

Metal wire bristles from your grill brush can easily become dislodged or other materials get stuck on the grill, or worse, end up in your food. But nobody wants to end up with ingested wire bristles that must be removed surgically from the hospital. Don’t worry, though: In this post, we’ll discuss a few barbecue brush safety tips and ways to avoid danger.

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The Problem with Wire Grill Brushes

A grill wire brush is a must-have practical tool you use to clean your grill grates before and after using your grill. This simple grilling tool sees the most wear of any barbecue accessory due to the grime and grease on the grill grates, the heat, and elements if left outside.

Add in the roughness of scraping your grill, and the brush metal bristles will likely warp, crack, and shed all over your BBQ. Simply put, a worn-out grill brush won’t serve its purpose.

Following a number of risk assessment reports of injuries caused by loose bristles, Health Canada developed a new standard to make BBQ grill brushes sold in the country safer. The new safety standard requires a warning label and testing of barbecue grill brushes to minimize the risk of wire bristles ending up in food and becoming ingested accidentally.

Research on the problem is slim, so it’s challenging to determine how common it is. According to a 2016 study published in the journal Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, injuries from grill brushes have been reported most often to the mouth and throat. However, in some rare cases, people have sustained injuries in the stomach and intestines after swallowing a bristle embedded in food.

Don’t let these findings prevent you from cleaning your grill correctly. Here are a few barbecue brush safety tips to get those steel grill grates free of food remnants without worrying about loose bristles ending up in your dinner.

Preventing Grill Brush Injuries

The first step in preventing grill brush injuries is the regular replacement of grill brushes. While this option doesn’t solve the problem, it is a crucial first step. You also want to learn how to clean your grill the right way.

Most people fire up their grill, let the coals get hot or turn up the heat, brush the grates to remove remnants of the previous cooking adventures, then throw on what’s on the menu for the day.

Without proper cleaning technique, your grill gates will likely remain coated with oils. That makes them sticky, increasing the chances that loose bristles will adhere to the grate and end up in your food.

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Consider Alternative Cleaning Tools

Depending on the type of BBQ grill you have, you might want to try cleaning your grill grates with a tool such as a pumice stone, grill floss, or something else like a non-wire brush product with a scraper. Another alternative is a cleaning stone. These stones may wear out quickly, but they’re pretty effective at cleaning grills. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations.

Take Extra Precautions

If you use a wire grill brush, take extra precautions. Check your grill for signs of any bristles before the cookout. The same applies to your grill brush and its bristles for signs of warping or worn-out bristles. If you have an electric grill brush, replace the brushes after about 100 uses or every other grilling season.

Deep Cleaning Tips

When the time comes to deep clean your grill grates, get the right stuff to make sure you’re doing it right. For instance, you can invest in liquid grill cleaners to loosen debris and use abrasive pads to get rid of stubborn residue.

Take Care of Your Brush

Don’t forget to maintain your brush at least once or twice a month, depending on how often you use your grill. Store the brush in a dry place away from rain, extreme heat, and snow.

Know When to Replace Your BBQ Brush

If you have a wire brush, inspect it every so often. If you notice any loose, damaged, or missing bristles, it’s time to let the brush go. Look for an alternative or replace the brush with a new one. If that’s not possible right away, you’re better off using aluminum foil on the fly.

Crumple up aluminum foil and use it to brush loose food particles. Don’t forget to let the grates cool down to a warm temperature before using this technique.

What to Look for in a Grill Brush

Investing in a good grill brush will go a long way toward reducing the likelihood that bristles will end up in your food. While there are no hard and fast rules, a good grill brush is made with food-grade stainless steel or brass bristles. Look for barbecue brushes with metal or hard, food-grade plastic to hold the bristles firmly in place.

Find a brush with evenly cut, thick-wired bristles set in the head firmly that spring back into place after use. That said, you want to avoid any brushes with a warning about use on hot grills. Most of these will degrade under heat as they use adhesive to hold the bristles in place.

Bottom Line on BBQ Grill Brush Safety

Making sure you clean your grill properly, using a quality grill cleaning tool, and replacing the grill scraper regularly will extend the lifespan of your grill, grill grates, and grill cleaning equipment. Now that you know a few barbeque brush safety tips, you can enjoy another season of barbecues, burgers, and backyard cookouts without any worries.

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