Cliché overload coming in 3…2… We all start somewhere. We all make mistakes. It will be better next time. These statements don’t get to cliché status without there being some truth to them. The one that I really want to focus on right now is “experience is the best teacher”. Here are the top 5 mistakes people make when grilling in my opinion.
- Lack of Preparation
Fire can be unpredictable. I think that is what makes grilling such an art. Sometimes you only have a small window of time where your food can go from good to terrible if you’re not vigilant. That means your food should be your focus. A lack of prep can wreck your food so having your ingredients prepared means they are ready to go when you need them. I’ve dried out plenty of burgers by running into the house looking for cheese.
- Not properly zoning your charcoal
I must admit that I made this mistake when I started and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us did. I covered the entire fire tray with charcoal, dowsed it with lighter fluid and lit it. 30 or so minutes later in the middle of my cook I noticed the fire was extremely hot and I had nowhere to move my burning food to. *facepalm* After watching a few Bobby Flay Grilling shows I learned about zoning and my results improved dramatically. Zoning is just a fancy word for leaving a cool spot on your grill. Only place charcoal on ¾ of your fire basin leaving a spot where you can move your food to the cool zone if you start getting crazy flare ups.
- Using Aluminum Foil on the grates
Growing up I have seen this a few times and I was always puzzled using foil on the grill. As I have learned more about using foil, I have understood how much you can rob your taste buds of the euphoria you get from tasting grilled food. I’m not going to get all scientific but I’m pretty sure that something magical happens when fire reacts with food. By placing foil on your grill grates you are putting a barrier between the fire and your food and robbing the fire of much needed air flow. There are screen like protectors that you can buy that will protect you from dirty public grills. Foil is great for wrapping ypur food on the grill or creating steam packets to steam shrimp, veggies, etc. Just not on the grates.
- Not using enough charcoal
I get it. You may have a small household, or you might be alone and want to cook a single steak, a couple of burgers or dogs. You may tend to use a few briquettes to make a small fire. In theory that sounds good, you want to save your coals for a bigger cook, yada yada yada. You may be doing yourself a disservice and not providing your grill with enough heat to do its duty. Your grates need time to heat up to give you those marks. Especially if you have cast iron grates like I do on my rig. Check it out here if you haven’t already.
Inadequate heat can cause your food to steam and you come out with grey meat. Not a complete fail, it still may taste good, but we eat with our eyes first.
- Bothering your food
This was one that I struggled with when I started grilling as a teen. You grow up seeing your dads or uncles flipping the burgers 17 times and think that is how it’s done. After all, you do look cool flipping burgers at the cookout. Little did I know that is NOT what you should be doing. Like I alluded to in number 4, you must let the grill do its job. Put your food down, close the lid, let it work. Aim to flip your food one time. This may take some practice, but you’ll get it.