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Sep 5, 2010 02:37 PM

Dinner went up in flames....

...literally. Beef ribs on the grill...and they caught fire. Dinner is ruined. :( Has this ever happened to anyone else?

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  1. I don't grill much so little opportunity for it to happen to me, but I've seen it happen when others are grilling.

    Spectacular, but disappointing, I know. It's one reason I've always insisted that grills be kept well away from the actual house - I wasn't there when it happened, but a friend set his siding on fire this way.

    1. One question: Were you grilling the ribs with sauce on them? That could explain it.

      Sorry it happened to you.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        Yes, I had brushed some sauce on them. But I didn't think excessively.

        1. re: E_M

          Unless a barbecue sauce is marked "Sugar Free," all rich red tomatoey barbecue sauces are loaded with sugar, and sugar is very flammable. Traditionally, the barbecue sauce is painted (or mopped) on during the last few minutes of grilling, and then watched like a hawk!

          Frankly, grilling is not the best way to cook beef ribs in my opinion. The bones heat up quickly, the meat is thin over the ribs and thicker between which results in a sad mix of extremely dried out and fairly satisfactory meat. For best results, beef ribs (and pork ribs) are best smoked and even then, the barbecue sauce (which is different than a rub) is applied late in the cooking game.

          I'm going to set a lot of purists to screaming here, but my favorite method for cooking beef ribs is to boil them in slabs in a huge pot with some quartered onions and handful of unpeeled cloves of garlic. When the meat has pulled well away from the bone and it's nearly butter tender, remove the ribs carefully (they will fall off the bone easily so use bottom support under them, such as a skimmer or slotted spoon, as well as tongs to get them out of the cooking liquid). Cut into individual ribs, line them up on their sides (spoon-fashion) in a roasting pan but don't crowd them. Drench them with barbecue sauce. LOTS of barbecue sauce. I make my own from scratch, but in a pinch I have been known to use Bull's-eye Original Barbecue Sauce. Slide the pan full of sauced ribs into a VERY HOT oven and allow the sauce to brown just a bit. Remove from oven and serve. I like mine with plain white rice with the sauce from the pan as "gravy."

          An alternative is to cook as above, then cut into individual ribs and grill them over very hot indirect coals while continually turning and brushing lightly with layers of sauce and letting it build. Indirect coals because you do not want the flammable barbecue sauce falling on live coals or you'll have the same problem you just did! If you have a gas grill, you're probably better off using your oven. Slather with barbecue sauce and turn often. But you have to be very careful with this if you don't want another bon fire. Good luck!

      2. I suppose the grill went up in flame and not just the ribs. Probably excessive amount of fat dripped into the flame and started the fire. Or the sauce did (as Caroline suggested). I have seen this happened, but not personally.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Yes, this was the consensus, that some fat dripped.

          The flames were quite impressive.

          What do I do next time? Brush less sauce on them? Brush sauce on them and finish them in the broiler? Never try this again since I started at 12:30 in the afternoon and by 5:30 my dinner was a charred mess?

          1. re: E_M

            What do I do next time? Cook using indirect heat, and use a drip pan.

            1. re: E_M


              I want to describe what possibly happened. It was a two-steps event. 1) Something dripped into the flame which makes the flame to jump up and touch the meat, and then 2) something on the meat was easily ignitable and caught on fire.

              Melted fat/oil dripping into the flame can fuel the flame and make it jumps up and touches the meat. Fat and oil on the meat can catch on fire, but usually not easily. On the other hand, sugar-rich sauce can readily catch on fire.

              So there are at least three methods to minimize the food catches on fire. First, it is to use a drip pan as Alan suggested. This eliminates the oil/fat dripping down to the flame. However, many people love direct flame. Second, you can raise the distance/height between the grill surface and the fire. This makes it more difficult for the flame to jump up to the meat. Third, and I think most important, is to put the sugar-rich sauce at the end. When you are grilling there is a stage where the fat starts melting and dripping to the flame and causes a lot visual and audio effects. :D

              I don’t want to apply sugar sauce before or at this stage. At some time later, you will notice the dripping slows down and this is the time to apply your sauce. It isn’t just about how much sauce you applied, but when you applied it. In fact, most sugar-rich sauces are called “finishing sauces” and they are meant to be applied at the end. Even they don't catch on fire, they turn excessively black and that is not the point for these sauces. Here is a quote:

              ‘Number three: "You should not put on barbecue sauce too early, only in the last few minutes of cooking," he advised, noting that this is particularly critical with a sauce that contains sugar. "It'll burn right up."’


              I don't mean you cannot apply any sauce in the beginning. You can certainly apply the basting and mopping sauces early as they don't have sugar in them.

          2. Sometimes when I'm grilling a steak, I'm actually hoping for flames to start shooting up from the grill ... so much the better to create a niced charred crust while leaving the middle nice and rare.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit

              ipse, i know that char you get on the steak from a flare-up is tasty, but it's also a concentrated dose of carcinogenic compounds so i wouldn't suggest aiming for it too often ;)

            2. Sorry about your dinner E_M, I have done this once... the first time I made french fries I had no idea what I was doing, so I filled a pot with oil almost all the way up, cranked up the burner to max, and dumped in a load of wet raw cut potatoes. The oil overflowed and set the burner on fire, melting a plastic spatula into the stovetop. I decided to keep going after extinguishing the flames, and was rewarded with perfectly cooked, dark golden fries! Maybe the hasty removal of the flaming pot, followed by more frying after the fire was out, unwittingly approximated the famous double-fry process?

              1 Reply