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How Do You Use a BBQ Grill Indoors?

It was raining last week and my young son asked if we could just take the BBQ grill indoors to finish off the burgers. The answer of course was no.

You should never use an outdoor BBQ grill indoors, even if it’s pouring with rain, windy or the weather is really bad. Using your BBQ grill inside is very dangerous due to the open flames and lethal fumes created by both propane and charcoal grills.

Let’s consider in greater detail the dangers of using a BBQ grill inside your home, and why it would be so harmful…

Can You Grill Inside Your House?

Nope. Not ever. Not even once. Even if it’s bucketing down and you are the appointed grillmaster, the risk of grilling indoors simply isn’t worth it. 

There are two serious problems with grilling inside your house: open flames and lethal fumes.

Is Grilling Inside a Fire Risk?

Let’s take the first problem – open flames. Sure, you have flames on your gas cooktop. You have open flames on your favorite scented candles. The difference between flames on your gas cooktop and flames on the grill are the size of the flames, and your ability to control them.

You can’t predict what the flames on a grill are going to do. All meats have fat, from juicy ribeye steaks to lean chicken breasts. When fat heats up, it melts. The fat droplets drop into the fire and it feeds the flames. The size of the flare up depends on the size of the droplet. 

The flame from your gas cooktop is always under your control. At the touch of a button, you can turn it off. Not so open flames on a grill, which are unpredictable and can grow alarmingly tall in an instant. Most grills have lids, but the lids are not insulated enough to stop a growing fire.

Do Propane & Charcoal Grills Give Off Carbon Monoxide?

Next, let’s talk about lethal fumes. An open flame needs oxygen to burn. A fire burning in your home will not only use up oxygen but fuels like wood, charcoal and propane give off the gas carbon monoxide. A propane or charcoal grill burning inside your home will deplete your oxygen levels and give off deadly carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide gas is one of the products of incomplete fossil fuel burning. Fuels burn incompletely for several reasons. They burn incompletely when the flame doesn’t get enough oxygen, or they don’t have enough time to burn or if the flame cools too quickly. 

Consider a burning wood fire. When wood first starts to burn, the flames burn hot and bright. They are consuming oxygen. Soon though, the area in the vicinity of the fire becomes oxygen depleted. 

Once the oxygen becomes depleted, the fuel stops burning completely. Because the wood didn’t fully burn – or it has burned incompletely – it starts to give off carbon monoxide gas.

Wood, charcoal, propane and gasoline fires never burn completely. They burn dirty. Experts say they always – always – give off carbon monoxide. 

Fine. So what with a gas cooktop? Gas is a fossil fuel, does it produce carbon monoxide? The answer is yes, it does. But as long as your gas cooktop was professionally installed and is maintained routinely, the amount of carbon monoxide it gives off is very small. 

Gas burning cooktops are designed to burn with plenty of oxygen so the gas burns cleanly and completely. Experts say the recommended maximum allowable amount of carbon monoxide for humans is 400 parts per million. Gas cooktops, when properly installed and maintained, produce from 0 to 50 parts per million of carbon monoxide. 

Charcoal, wood and propane fires can produce up to 7,000 parts per million – a lethal amount. That’s why every propane, charcoal or wood grill for sale contains a warning about ventilation. The warnings are required by law.

Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. You can’t see or smell or taste carbon monoxide. While gramps may have told you that carbon monoxide is heavier than air, and that it will sink to the floor, that’s not true.

In fact, carbon monoxide is a little lighter than air, so it can move anywhere – or everywhere – in your home. Carbon monoxide can drift along with air currents in your home, through vents and up stairwells.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the result of a buildup of carbon monoxide in your blood. When you burn combustible fuels without adequate ventilation, the oxygen level is lowered and the carbon monoxide level is increased.

Inside our bodies, the red blood cells mistakenly use carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. However, our tissues, organs and brains all need oxygen to stay healthy. If you are pregnant, your unborn child needs oxygen too.

The first symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is a dull headache, followed by weakness, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, confusion, unconsciousness and then death.

Children, adults with chronic diseases and the elderly are particularly at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Carbon monoxide poisoning is more common than you might think. 50,000 people are hospitalized every year with it and over 400 people will die from it.

Here’s an FAQ about carbon monoxide poisoning.

Can I use a grill indoors?

Can You Use a Propane Grill Indoors?

Nope, not even in a garage. Not inside a house, a tent, a car, or a travel trailer.

Propane grills are actually slightly more dangerous than charcoal grills inside – because propane tanks can leak. Propane tanks are reusable. They might be used in the hundreds (thousands?) of times and are not always handled gently.  

A small gas valve leak is not a big deal outside. Propane gas isn’t poisonous, but it is highly flammable – not something you want inside your home with your friends, pets and family.

Can You Use a Charcoal Grill Indoors?

Fugetaboutit. Don’t do it. Sure, charcoal isn’t as flammable as propane, for example, but how about that container of lighter fluid? Flammable!

Experts even say to leave those freshly used coals outside. Don’t roll your charcoal grill into the garage too soon, because the warm coals are still giving off carbon monoxide, thanks to incomplete combustion.

Experts give the same advice for wood fires in a fireplace. Don’t let a wood fire smolder in the fireplace, because the wood will be giving off carbon monoxide. Be sure to drown out or smother fireplace fires before leaving them. 

Can You Use a Mini Grill Indoors?

Nope. Mini grills are designed to be used outside, where there is plenty of ventilation.

Can I Use a BBQ Grill in The Garage? (Even With the Door Open?)

No. Nope. Never. There are still two whopping risks in the garage: uncontrolled open flames and toxic fumes.

A garage is chock full of flammable stuff. Gasoline cans. Oil. Rags. Lawnmowers full of gasoline, even cars full of gasoline. A source of uncontrollable open flames is the last thing you want in your garage.

Then, there’s the toxic fumes. Experts say to never use a BBQ grill inside the garage, inside a tent, inside a trailer or inside a vehicle. Don’t use a grill inside anything, it’s too risky.

Even with the garage door open, it’s just not enough ventilation to protect you from the toxic fumes.

Here’s the Tampa Bay Times article on moving BBQ grills into the garage.

Summary: How Do I Grill Indoors Without a BBQ?

Luckily, there are actual indoor grills. Indoor grills are powered with electricity. 

George Forman began the indoor grill trend back in 1994. Today, there is a wide range of versatile indoor grills. Most have non-stick, hatched plates for grilling meats, fish, and vegetables. 

In addition, many indoor grills come with non-stick griddle plates for making pancakes or paninis that clean up in the dishwasher. Some indoor grills are smokeless.

If you don’t have the space for an electric grill, you can use a cast iron pan with grill ribs. 

Or, if you aren’t into cast iron, here’s a video of another grill pan you can use on your gas cooktop. We haven’t tried it yet, but we’d like to!

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >