5 rookie grilling mistakes and how to avoid them

No one wants to take a bite of a freshly grilled burger and taste not meat, but soot and lighter fluid.

And who likes chowing down on overcooked patties after sweating over a hot grill. Don’t worry! We can help. Before you start lighting those coals for the first cookout of the season, make sure you brush up on a few common grilling mistakes to avoid, so your first grill-out is a successful one.

Even if you're a confident cook in the confines of your kitchen, stepping outside to cook on the open flame of a grill can be frustrating. There are so many factors to consider: marinades, seasoning and controlling the temperature are among the most important-- and frustrating-- aspects of grilling.

Yet when you bite into that perfectly cooked steak, enjoy tender caramelized ribs or enjoy smoky fall-apart pork butt, all the hassle of cooking on the grill fades into a distant memory.

Luckily, most grilling mistakes are easily avoidable with a minor tweak here and there. For instance, if you don’t like the chemical taste on your otherwise perfectly cooked steak, ditch the lighter fluid for a chimney starter.

For more expert grilling tips, like the best way to start your coals and how to check for doneness, read on for our simple solutions to five grilling mistakes you can easily avoid this grilling season.

1. Not prepping ingredients ahead of time

chopping vegetables


Doing the prep work before you start cooking means you'll have more time to focus on what’s happening on the grill so your food turns out just the way you want it every time. Before you get started grilling, chop any vegetables, prep the meat and arrange your mise en place, meaning “everything in place."

Click here to see our Grilling and Barbecue Essentials.

2. Forgetting to clean the grates

bbq grates


If you hate it when your food sticks to the grill, be sure to clean your grill before or after each use. Use the metal brush when the grill is hot to scrub away any caked-on food.

3. Using lighter fluid

lighting bbq


It may be the easy way to light up your charcoal grill, but match-light coals and/or dousing your coals in lighter fluid will just leave you with a gasoline-scented steak. Instead, invest in a chimney starter. Stuff the bottom with old newspaper, and fill the top with charcoal briquettes. Just light the newspaper and let the chimney do its thing.

4. Spreading the coals too soon

bbq coals


Spreading the coals too soon will cause your food to cook unevenly. Wait until the coals are coated in gray ash, so you can be sure that all the coals have all ignited.

See  8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Grill.

5. Not pre-heating the grill



Once your coals are spread and the fire feels hot to your hand, there is still one more step to ensure your food doesn’t stick to the grate and you can still develop those dark sear marks: preheating the grill. Just place the lid on the grill for about 10 minutes before you start cooking to make sure your grill grates are very hot.

Read about more rookie grilling mistakes and how to avoid them.