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Steak grilled on a boat

Grilling Safety for Pontoon Boaters


Two of the most enjoyable summer activities are cooking on a barbecue grill and boating, and there's nothing like combining them for a great time with family or friends.


Pontoon boats offer up an excellent platform for grilling on the water: their wide stance offers great stability, and their spacious, open decks provides ample space to set up the grill and use it without interference or risk of fire damage -- as long as certain guidelines are followed.


Grills for Boats


Grills designed for use on boats are available in gas, charcoal and electric varieties. Each type has advantages and drawbacks.


Charcoal grills are for purists. Cooking with charcoal adds a special flavor to meats, and the grills themselves are relatively inexpensive. Buy one with a mount that attaches to the boat's handrail or rod holder and positions the grill over the water, so that that any hot ashes or embers will fall overboard instead of onto the deck.


Propane grills start up easily and heat up quickly, compared to charcoal, which can be difficult to light and takes 20 or 30 minutes before it's ready to cook on. Propane grills present no dangers from burning embers, and they produce no messy ash.


Like propane grills, electric grills start heating instantly, and there are no problems with embers or ashes. Another advantage of electric grills is that they cook without flames, so you can use them in marinas that prohibit the use of open flames.On the downside, they require a source of A/C power. Unless you have a generator onboard (unlikely), you're limited to cooking where shore power is available.


Tips for Safely Grilling on the Boat


Once you've chosen your grill, using it can be a safe, enjoyable experience, provided you follow these tips:


  • Use the grill only when the boat is tied up or anchored. Grilling while underway is dangerous for those using the grill and those around it. Given just the wrong wave set, you could also lose your meal overboard.
  • Keep the grill away from and downwind of flammables like biminis and other boat fabrics.
  • Check propane connections before lighting.
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended.
  • Put out or turn off the grill as soon as you finish cooking.
  • Make sure the grill is fully cooled and put it away before you begin moving.


Here are additional rules specific to the use of charcoal grills:


  • Position the grill so that no ashes or embers can fall on the boat.
  • Use only charcoal lighter fluid as an accelerant, and apply it only before you light the coals. Never use gasoline, and never apply lighter fluid after the fire has started.
  • Do not dump ashes or coals overboard when you're done cooking. The cover of the grill is designed to smother the fire and keep the ashes contained until you return to shore, where you can dispose of them safely after giving them plenty of time to ensure they are completely dead.


Grilled Ribeye on the Water

Now that you know how to do it safely, try this recipe from D'Artagnan for perfectly grilled ribeyes with herb butter on your next boating trip:




  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, parsley and tarragon)
  • 1 stick softened, unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • cooking oil
  • 4 bone-in ribeye steaks


Finely mince the garlic. Mix it and the herbs into the softened butter along with some salt and pepper.


Heat up the grill and oil the grates. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Grill for approximately six minutes on each side (for medium-rare).


Once the steaks are finished, let them rest for 10 minutes. Top with a nice dollop of the herb butter and serve.