Solid Fuel Cooking: Protecting Your Restaurant

Solid fuel cooking has been an up-and-coming trend for many new restaurants because it’s a tasty way to prepare food – especially pizza and BBQ. These cooking appliances are fueled by a solid fuel such as mesquite, charcoal and hardwood; and while this cooking method yields different, interesting flavors, it also carries with it increased safety risks. With the right amount of understanding and preparation, restaurant owners can safely use most solid fuel appliances.

What Is Solid Fuel Cooking?

Solid fuel cooking refers to various forms of solid material that can be burned and used to cook and heat food. Examples of solid fuels include wood, charcoal, coal, wood pellets. While this cooking method provides a unique charred and smoky flavoring to food, it also presents an elevated element of risk.

Key Elements of Solid Fuel Cooking (NFPA 96-14)

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develops codes and standards aimed at eliminating injury and loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA 96 provides safety requirements intended to reduce the potential fire hazard of commercial cooking operations. Download NFPA 96-14.


Kitchen ventilation systems help remove grease particles from the air to create a safe and clean kitchen environment. In a commercial kitchen, ventilation is also used to control exposure to airborne contaminants, like fumes and vapors, in order to provide a healthy and safe working environment.

  • All makeup air systems must have an exhaust system.
  • Inspect the combustion chamber weekly for residue that might restrict the vent, start a fire or cause corrosion.
  • Conduct monthly inspections and cleaning if contaminated.
  • Solid fuel appliance’s exhaust system needs to be separate from all other appliances.
  • Provide a replacement or make-up air system to make sure fresh air is continuously used.

Fire Protection

Solid fuel cooking increases the risk of fire because it produces heat, smoke, grease, and creosote. To mitigate risk, proper fire protection and precautions are necessary.

  • Firebox size regulations: smaller fireboxes equal to or less than five cubic feet need a 22A-listed water spray or 1.6 gallon K-Class fire extinguisher within 20 feet.
    • Larger fireboxes greater than five cubic feet need a fixed, water-supplied hose with an adjustable nozzle capable of producing a medium spray or mist.
  • Do NOT store
    • more than one day’s supply of solid fuel in the same room as the appliance.
    • fuel above or within three feet of any heat-producing device.
    • fuel in the path of ash removal.
  • All fuel storage areas must have a NFPA 13-approved sprinkler system or water hose capable of reaching the entire room.

Wood Storage

Wood storage should not create additional safety hazards.

  • Firewood should be stored in a well-ventilated wood shed that is protected from dampness and rain.
  • Do NOT store combustible materials in workrooms, attics, basements, beneath buildings or in yards.
  • Car garages are not suitable for storing firewood.


An oven fueled by burning wood requires ignition to get the day started. To ensure total safety when igniting the wood, it’s important that kitchens adhere to these procedures.

  • Do NOT use flammable liquids to ignite any solid fuel cooking appliance.
  • All solid fuel appliances must be ignited with matches, an approved built-in gas flame, or other approved ignition source.
  • Do NOT store matches, lighters, or other portable ignition sources near the appliance.
  • After ignition, long-handled tongs can be used to adjust the fuel’s position.

Ash Disposal

Once the day is done and you’re closing up shop, it’s important to dispose of the ash properly, since warm ashes have the potential to start a fire.

  • Put ashes in a metal can with lid and remove daily. 
  • Use tools, not hands, to remove ash from the chamber.
  • All ash must be sprayed with water before removal.

Keep the above safety recommendations, codes, and regulations in mind when training your employees to avoid hazards at your business.

Watch Our Comprehensive Solid Fuel Cooking Safety Webinar

Read more about reducing the risks associated with solid fuel cooking by reading, “Protecting Your Restaurant: Minimizing Solid Fuel Cooking Risks” or check out our white paper on solid fuel cooking.

Looking for more information to keep your business safe from costly fire risks? Browse our Fire Prevention blog series. Contact your local Society Insurance agent to learn more about how Society can protect your business.


As a mutual insurance company, we operate and exist for the benefit of our policyholders. For more than 100 years, Society has been helping businesses overcome the unexpected with comprehensive coverage packages and outstanding claims handling, underwriting and risk management.

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