The smell of cooked hamburger permeates the air inside UL’s gas combustion lab, intoxicating the senses with the meat’s perfect blend of umami and fat. But how does it taste? “Not good,” says Ken Kingsbury, senior engineering technician “but the salmon, it’s not too bad,” he adds.

No, it’s not casual Friday or the annual picnic but merely another day of performance testing for the labs latest shipment of grills, including gas, charcoal, wood and corn pellet.

The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) has set safety, performance and durability standards for outdoor cooking appliances. Included in the standard are requirements that grill materials must be able to withstand the heat generated by the unit and the grill is free from sharp edges. Additionally, ANSI requires that manufacturers provide printed instructions on the assembly, use and maintenance of the unit.

“We push the units through the extremes of normal use to see how each performs in worst case scenarios,” explains Kingsbury. Each one must pass several tests to meet the industry’s high safety standards, with additional tests requested by manufacturers, such as calculating the cooking time of burgers.

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What do the tests look like?

  • Wall and floor temperature test—performed on various components as each part has a maximum temperature it can reach. For example, checking the handle to help ensure the grill’s internal heat does not transfer to the handle.
  • Pressure test—measures gas pressure on the LP tank
  • Verification test—determines if the unit is burning the correct amount of gas (BTU/hour), igniting without any issues and burning cleanly, without excess carbon monoxide.
  • Wind test—confirms the burner flame and igniter flame are protected from the wind.
  • Rain test—verifies that the gas components and electrical components work after a simulated rain shower.
  • Combustion test—checks the manufacturer’s stated minimum clearance from combustible material. The unit is placed against a corner wall, lit and tested to confirm that the surrounding material does not exceed the minimum allowable temperature limits.
  • Corrosive test—verifies that the grill’s metal is protected from outside elements that could impact the unit’s structural integrity and/or cause corrosive damage.

According to Kingsbury, it can take as long as a week to complete the entire round of tests on a unit. “UL not only performs testing on the whole unit but individual components can also be tested, certified and used to help improve the safety, performance and durability of a unit,” adds Kingsbury.

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