12 Common Grilling Mistakes

A pleasant, relaxing summer barbecue can be quickly tarnished by charred chicken and scorched veggies.  Grilling can be a fairly simple endeavor, but a few seemingly unimportant mistakes can bring about considerable problems.  Here’s a look at some of the most common grilling mistakes and their remedies.

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1. Failing to Preheat the Grill

A preheated grill is capable of searing food on contact to create a nicely caramelized surface.  A proper sear helps meats retain juices and tenderness, but it also prevents them from sticking to the grill grate.  Carefully monitor the grill’s heat and only add food after the grate reaches the desired temperature.

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2. Forgetting to Prep

Before grilling, it’s important to let meats rest at room temperature for at least 10 to 15 minutes, as cold meats tend to cook unevenly.  You should also oil your hot grill with and oiling brush or use tongs to rub an oil-soaked paper towel over the grate.  Proper oiling seasons the grate and reduces sticking.

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3. Not Having the Proper Tools

Be sure that you have all of the tools you’ll need before beginning to grill.  The most basic grill necessities include: a grill brush, spatula, basting brush, tongs and an instant-read thermometer.

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4. Using Lighter Fluid

Lighter fluid can result in unpleasant odors and chemical off-flavors.  To facilitate the process of building a charcoal fire, opt for a chimney starter.  If you’re using self-starting charcoal (which has been exposed to lighter fluid during processing), be sure to let it burn for a minimum of 30 minutes before throwing foods on the grill so chemical accelerants have a chance to burn off.

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5. A Dirty Grill

It is important to always clean your grill, before and after each use.  After preheating, use a grill brush to clean off charred debris and scrape again immediately after use.

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6. Skipping the Thermometer

One of the most obvious (though often overlooked) mistakes is improper cooking.  To avoid those raw-in-the-center or overly charred results, be sure to always carefully monitor your grill.  Skip the guesswork, and the need to cut into meats, causing a loss of moisture and uneven cooking, by always using an instant-read thermometer.

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7. Premature Saucing

Wait to apply sauces until the last few minutes of cooking, or the sugars in the sauce will burn before the meat is fully cooked.  Apply sauce in small amounts, creating layers of flavor and avoiding heavy dripping.

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8. Disregarding Flare-Ups

Flare-ups occur when fat drips onto the heat source and catches fire, resulting in off-flavors and extreme temperatures that can scorch foods.  To reduce flare-ups, select leaner meats and trim excess fat where possible.  Create a “safety zone” by significantly reducing the heat in one area of the grill.  Transfer foods when flare-ups occur to avoid scorching and burning.

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9. Using Only Direct Heat

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that direct heat is the only way to grill.  Whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, it’s important to manage temperatures so that both direct and indirect heat is available.  Use direct heat for smaller meat portions, like chicken breasts or thighs, which are less than a few inches thick.  Indirect heat cooks food slowly and evenly by exposing them to the heat of the grill without direct exposure to the flame.  Indirect heat also cooks foods more evenly, and less likely to result in burning, making it more suitable for thicker chicken breasts and whole chickens, which require longer grilling times.

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10. Misusing the Lid

When searing or using direct heat in general, never cover the grill.  A covered grill causes a buildup of acrid smoke, producing a displeasing taste.  When grilling over indirect heat, close the lid; the food must be enclosed to trap heat and encourage proper convection and radiation.

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11. Improper Turning or Flipping

Using tongs or a metal spatula for turning, as forks create holes in the surface of meat, through which juices escape.  Avoid flipping your meats too early or too often, which can lead to uneven cooking and cause food to stick to the grate.  Most food items should only be turned once or twice, and the longer you wait for the food, the less likely it will stick.  Most simply, keep an eye on the meat and let the grill do its job.

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12. Rushing Food to the Table

As tempting as it can be to dig right into that mouthwatering chicken burger or butterflied whole chicken fresh off the grill, it is crucial to let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before cutting or serving.  Resting foods after cooking gives juices time to settle back into muscle fibers.  Larger items (namely whole chickens) will continue to remove them from the grill a few degrees below the desired final temperature.

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Source: Smart Chicken Magazine

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