There’s no denying that grilling and cookouts are a big part of warm-weather cooking and eating; there are few summertime foods as satisfying as a juicy, charbroiled burger or a perfectly grilled chicken kebab. Even fruits and vegetables taste better with a few grill marks on them.

But grilling can be a hassle if you don’t know the basics. And even if you grill often, you may be making some of the most common (and avoidable) grilling mistakes.

It’s also important to acknowledge that grilling can be dangerous. Thousands of grilling-related fires and injuries are reported every year. Fires and injuries are easily avoidable; keep yourself (and your family and friends) safe by following these safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association.

1. Mistake: Cooking on a Dirty Grill



A seasoned grill is one thing; a dirty one is a whole different thing. Your grill doesn’t need a deep clean every time you cook on it, but do use a grill brush or a ball of aluminum foil to remove bits of food and char from the grates before or after cooking — every time.

2. Mistake: Using the Wrong Tools



You don’t need many tools to grill, but do make sure you’re using the right one each time. In general, opt for long-handled tools (to prevent burns) and stick to a pair of tongs and a spatula as much as possible. A long-handled fork can be great for grilled vegetables, but don’t use it for meat; puncturing the meat will cause you to lose some of its juices.

3. Mistake: Letting Food Stick to the Grates



Before you start grilling, lightly oil the grill grates with a neutral cooking oil like canola. This will help ensure that food doesn’t stick to the grill as it cooks. Cleaning your grill regularly (as mentioned earlier) will help as well.

4. Mistake: Using Only Direct Heat



You need two different types of heat when you’re grilling: direct and indirect. You create direct heat by grilling directly over the fire, indirect heat by grilling near the fire. An easy way to set up two different cooking zones is to spread the glowing charcoal briquettes into two distinct piles at opposite ends of the grill; the ends of the grill will provide direct heat that’s perfect for cooking small pieces of food (like shrimp or chicken skewers) quickly and the center of the grill will provide indirect heat that’s good for cooking larger items (like a rack of ribs) that need more time on the grill.

See more grilling mistakes to avoid.

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