What Are the Most Common Grilling Mistakes?

There’s nothing better than the arrival of grilling season. The weather is warming up, the sun is shining, and everything tastes better when it’s hot off the grill! But if you’re not an experienced grill master, cooking with fire can result in disastrous dinners.

Cooking on the grill can be daunting, and it’s common to make a few mistakes while you’re figuring out the best way to grill everything from steak to summer vegetables. And, whether you think you’re a pro or not, just about everyone makes the very same mistakes. If you want to make sure you’re grilling perfectly, we’re rounding up the most common mistakes you’re likely to make – and offering tips to avoid them.

Grilling on a Dirty Grill

Grills are hard to clean. There’s charcoal, smoke residue, and all kinds of charred food stuck on the grates. Because it’s so time consuming and difficult, most people just choose to never clean their grill – or they halfheartedly try.

A dirty grill is one of the top grilling mistakes, according to Men’s Journal. No matter what you’re cooking, a dirty grill will cause foods to stick to the grates. That means all the crispiness and flavor coating your meat will rip off when you try to pull it off the grill. Worse, dirty leftovers can catch on fire and burn your food, completely ruining your dinner plans.

Make sure you’ve brushed and cleaned your grill grates before you cook again. Clean grates make for smooth, stick-free food and ensures you won’t send your next meal up in flames.

Using Too Much Lighter Fluid

In order to get your grill started, you need fire. And most people assume that whatever starts a fire fastest is the best way to get cooking. It’s common for grill newcomers (and even some experienced home cooks) to douse their coals in lighter fluid to light a fire faster. Many coal brands even advertise their products as “match-light” or “easy start”, which only encourages grillers to try lighting their grills with lighter fluid and a match.

Using a ton of lighter fluid backfires fast, though. When your coals light, they’ll explode in a stream of fire – and then they’ll burn out quickly. If you do happen to get the coals to stay lit in this way, your food will end up tasting a little like gasoline after the fire chars one side of your meat.

Instead of squirting on more lighter fluid and desperately trying to get your coals to smoulder, use a chimney starter. With a combination of old newspaper, coals, and a match, you’ll start a slow burn that creates the perfect steady heat you need for grilling. Spend an extra minute or two on this method, and you’ll have better luck achieving the perfect BBQ.

Slapping Cold Meat on the Grill – or Warm Meat on a Cold Grill

So, your grill is lit and you’re ready to cook! Many people will grab their meat and toss it right on the grill grates as soon as the fire gets going. Unfortunately, this bad habit leads to serious meat mistakes. Putting meat on cool grill grates causes the meat to seize up, which makes it tougher. It also makes the meat stick to the grates as the two heat up together, leaving you with shredded, ripped meat when it’s time to serve what you’ve cooked.

You need to preheat your grill like you preheat your oven. Once it’s lit, close the lid for about 10 minutes. Serious Eats says 10 minutes is the perfect amount of time to let the heat of the fire transfer onto the grill grates, preventing a sticky situation from forming.

Jeff Mauro, Food Network chef, recommends one more tip: don’t throw cold meat straight out of the fridge onto the grill. This has the same effect as cooking on cold grill grates. Instead, take your meat out of the fridge for about 10 minutes, letting it come to room temperature. Then add it to the grill.

Continuously Checking the Meat

It’s tempting to keep a close eye on your food once it’s hit the grill, especially if you aren’t sure when it’ll be ready. Often, this means grilling newcomers lift the grill lid constantly, or poke, prod, and flip the meat repeatedly in an effort to achieve perfect “doneness.” But all that movement is actually ruining your food.

You need to fight the urge to touch, move, and play with food once it’s hit the grill. Every time you open the grill lid, the grill loses heat. Additionally, it lets in oxygen that stokes the fire, causing your food to sear rather than cook through thoroughly. Constant opening of the grill lid leads to charred, inedible food. The same goes for flipping and prodding your food. The more you touch and move your meat, you’re going to lose a lot of fat and cause uneven cooking.

All you have to do once your food is on the grill is back away. Turn your attention to something else and set a timer to flip your meat and open the grill just once while cooking, and you’ll have perfectly grilled foods.

Prevent Grilling Disasters: Avoid These Mistakes

No matter your grilling experience or history, you can better your skills by knowing – and avoiding – the above common mistakes. Grilling is easy once you’ve mastered the basics, and these tips will ensure you look like a pro. Enjoy grilling season and make it even easier to prepare perfect food of any kind. You’ll be ready to impress others with your grilling know-how!

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