Blind Barbecuing

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How Do Blind People Grill Without Searing Themselves?

Summer-time is here and you can smell the burgers and dogs grilling throughout the neighborhood. But wait a minute, are my eyes playing tricks on me or is that the neighbor who is blind barbecuing?

Well, what I’m going to tell you now is my own experience as a blind guy who enjoys grilling.

Now I’m nowhere near the kind of master chefs that are seen on TV like Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, or even the blind chef Christine Ha, but I can still cook a mean steak!

Image showing a plate full of barbecue spare ribs, chicken and veggies with two glasses of beer on the side.

What’s more “summer-time” than a backyard BBQ & Cold Beers?

So, let’s get started. First we need a grill and some tools.

While the grill is still off and cool to the touch, open the lid and feel around the cooking surface and the controls so you’re not trying to familiarize yourself with it while it’s hot. This will tell you exactly how much space you have to cook the food and how to operate the heat controls; especially if it’s a new grill. Trust me, you won’t be thrilled if you forget this step and get your hands grilled.

You’ll want to figure out where you’re going to place the raw meat after bringing it outside. Most grills have flat surfaces on either side for platters or whatever. If yours doesn’t, move a small table (or other flat surface) near the grill so you have a place to work.


Now it’s tool-time. I have a special spatula that has a “tong-like-thingy” on it like the one pictured below. When you slide the blade under the food you can squeeze the tool handles and it holds the food when turning. I suggest any blind grill-masters have a tool like this; it’s a lot easier to use than a regular spatula. Having regular tongs is also good for foods like hotdogs since the little devils like to roll around so much.

Image showing a grilling tong/spatula tool

This half-tong, half-spatula grilling tool is a blind persons best-friend when barbecuing.

Fire It Up

Time to fire this bad-boy up! Each grill is different so that’s why you should be familiar with your grill before lighting it.

Twist the propane tank valve in the direction of the “Open” arrow. Generally, propane tank valves are turned on when they are twisted counterclockwise. Until the day comes when they add braille to the valves; it also helps to listen for the hissing noise the gas makes to ensure you’re turning the valve in the right direction. Continue to twist until the valve stops moving.

Once you hear the gas hissing; quickly press the ignition button to get the fire started. Please be sure you don’t let the gas run for too long before lighting. You could have a serious problem if you don’t ignite the grill immediately.

To know if the grill is hot enough, I either simply wait a few minutes or gently touch the top of the lid for a split-second. This allows me to know the grill is hot enough without burning myself.

Now open the grill and stand back so the trapped heat can escape before you start cooking.

Here’s how I arrange the food on the grill. I always try to keep rows from left to right and if possible, from back to front. I also keep count of the amount of each kind of food is on the grill so when I’m flipping things I know exactly how many of each thing is on the cooking surface. This way I don’t miss any and nothing gets overcooked.

Placing the food on the grill grate is easy. Because the food is cold, you can touch it and guide it onto the grate.

Image showing raw hamburger patties on a grill

Place the cold meat on the cooking surface using your spatula and guide them into place with your hand. (Please be careful at all times when grilling)


Okay, now comes the tricky part. Both the grill and the food are piping hot and you need to start flipping the meat. The way I handle this is to first review in my mind where I placed the food. Starting from the back-left corner, I locate the food with the spatula. Then I slide my other hand down the spatula slowly to make sure I am on the center of the food. It’s a good idea to keep a bowl of water close-by to dip your fingers tips in before you grab the spatula and start hovering your hands around the grill. The water drips and sizzles on the hot grate and gives you a good idea of how much space there is between your hand and the cooking surface, allowing you to draw your hand away quickly if it get too close. Sometimes I also gently press on the food while sliding the spatula under it to keep things from moving too much. Now we’re ready to flip away.

Timing & Your Sense of Smell are Important

Smell and time are also things you will have to get good at over time. You may overcook or undercook stuff at first but don’t let that discourage you; it’ll get easier the more you grill.

If you’re using a glaze or some kind of sauce that needs to be brushed-on during cooking, I find its best to move the food off the hot grill and dip or brush the sauce on and then put it back on the grill. This way you won’t be putting your hands too close to the heat.

Start Small and Work Your Way Up

I also think it’s wise to only cook a couple things at a time until you’re really comfortable grilling. When we’re having company and the grill is going to be full, I get a sighted person to do the grilling. Many things can go wrong on a packed grill like flame flare-ups. Flare-ups are really hard to deal with if you are blind. I have worked the full grill a few times in the past but I really hated it and don’t recommend it to anyone who is blind. Of course unless you enjoy getting burned or you’re one of those weirdos who like pain ;).

To make grilling easier, places like Independent Living Aids & Maxi-Aids are great online stores that sell specialty cooking tools for people who are blind.

If you have your own grilling tips you’d like to share with other folks who are blind, please leave them in the comment section below.

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This post was written by Braille Works

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