The restaurant industry has always been one of the most competitive areas. New restaurants open regularly and get others to explore creative options to keep their customers happy. This is often done by expanding the menus and exploring alternative cooking methods. In recent years, meat smoking has increased in popularity and the once regional staples can now be found in various restaurants across the country. Without a doubt, a meat smoker may be responsible for some of your favorite soft, flavorful recipes. It's an incredible asset and money, but it can also be dangerous if not properly maintained. A fire for a cooking equipment can cause insurmountable damage to your staff and operations. Proper cleaning of meat smokers is essential for fire prevention and for maintaining proper health standards.
Although meat smoking allows for a variety of flavors, it presents its own unique dangers not found with ordinary cooking appliances. Understanding the type of meat smoking and equipment used will allow for proper preparation, reducing potential fire damage.
How to prevent meat smoking in your commercial kitchen
4 Common risks of smoking meat
- Improper installation
- Ash, hot carbon and wood chips
- Carbon monoxide
Creosote in your commercial kitchen
No matter what type of wood is used during the smoking process, creosote is always a danger. Creosote is a by-product of wood burning and is the main cause of exhaust fires due to its high level of flammability. Creosote can build up on cooking equipment or in the exhaust hood and, if not treated properly, it increases the risk of burns. The role of fat as a fuel in commercial kitchen fires is also well known. The combination of creosote and fat is easier to ignite than creosote alone and it burns hotter than creosote alone. These fires start quickly and spread very quickly. Proper inspection, cleaning and maintenance minimize the risk of meat smoking.
Proper installation of meat smokers
Before considering adding smoked meat to your menu, it is important that the oven is properly installed and in accordance with NFPA 96 NFPA 96 is a fire protection standard from the National Fire Protection Association that provides fire safety requirements designed to reduce the potential fire risks of commercial cooking. NFPA 96, Chapter 14, Fast Fuel Cooking Operations, provides safety requirements for solid fuel feeds, such as meat smoking.
Some of the basic requirements include :
- Exhaust ventilation
- Location of the appliance
- Air movement
- Fire-fighting equipment
- Procedures for inspection
- Cleaning and maintenance of the appliance
- ] Minimum safety requirements for fuel storage and handling
- Ash removal
It It is important to note that other requirements may also apply to specific appliances and installations. The manufacturer's installation instructions and operating instructions are supplied with new appliances or can be obtained from the manufacturer if you purchase a used appliance. These instructions must be followed for safe use of the appliance and to prevent meat-smoking oven fires. You must choose a contractor who services and installs commercial cooking equipment according to NFPA 96. They will know the standard and will ensure that the installation meets the requirements .
The exhaust system for meat smokers is treated in the same way as for all other commercial kitchen utensils. The entire exhaust system, including ventilation pipes, must be inspected for grease build-up by a properly trained, qualified and certified person every month. A properly trained, qualified and certified person is often interpreted as a professional exhaust system cleaning contractor who has the knowledge and ability to comply with the NFPA 96 standard.
Ash, Hot Coals & Woodchip Removal
An often overlooked danger associated with meat smoking occurs after all food has been cooked. Ash, hot coals and any remaining wood must be removed after each smoke cycle.
When handling ash, hot coals or wood chips:
- Employees should be instructed to wear heat-resistant gloves when handling wood chip boxes, ash containers, and ash removal tools.
- Place ash, wood and charcoal in non-combustible corrosion-resistant pans and spray with water. A non-combustible corrosion-resistant saucepan should be stored just outside the smoker for this purpose.
- When wood and ash have been sprayed, it should be placed in a heavy metal container with a tight fitting metal lid (minimum 16 gauge, maximum capacity 20 liters). This container must be used for this sole purpose, it must be easy to handle by all employees who have been assigned the task and must easily pass through a hallway to the outside of the building. The container must always be covered when it is moved through the premises. When a hole occurs in a container from corrosion or damage, the container should be repaired or replaced immediately.
- The ash should be transported to a separate heavy metal container (or dustbin) outside the premises which is only used for the purpose of storing hot ash. Never empty ash or coal from the smoker into a regular bin. Embers from ash and coal can ignite materials that can lead to fire. If your business only has one trash can, all of the above steps should take place, plus soaking the ash in water for at least 24 hours before placing the cold ash in the trash.
The invisible threat: carbon monoxide
Not all dangers of smoking meat cause a building to catch fire. Another potential danger is not as visible but can be just as dangerous – carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is produced when fuels, such as wood, coal and natural gas, are burned.
CO can wreak havoc on your body. When you inhale CO, it enters the bloodstream where it replaces and blocks oxygen. If you inhale enough of it, CO can replace virtually all the oxygen in your blood and suffocate you. If you are exposed to high enough levels, it can cause you to go away almost immediately, and if you are exposed while passing out, it can kill you before you ever wake up or experience symptoms. Risks for meat smokers
As meat smoking is becoming more common, it is important to take appropriate precautions and address any risks. Reference to the instructions for use and correct installation of the cooking equipment will help reduce the risk of fire. The exhaust system and the ducts covering the solid fuel feeder require MONTHLY INSPECTION – and cleaning if the inspection shows that cleaning is necessary. The amount of creosote can be reduced with daily, weekly and monthly cleanings (if needed). All ash must be placed in a metal container with a metal lid, sprayed with water and stored outdoors.
The community risk management team can help your company identify and eliminate important risk areas. Contact your local community insurance agent to learn more about how the community can protect your business.