“What’s the most common mistake people make at grilling?”
I’ve asked this question to 25 barbecue experts. I’ve received many different opinions, and I’m happy to share them with you: keep these tips in mind the next time you go grilling!
10 BBQ Mistakes To Avoid – The Infographics
I’ve summarized all the opinions in this infographics. Scroll down to read the complete recommendations.
Embed This Image on Your Website (copy this code):
“What’s The Most Common Mistake People Make At Grilling?”
–Meathead, Barbecue Whisperer and Hedonism Evangelist of AmazingRibs.com
–Author of the best seller “Meathead, The Science Of Great Barbecue &
We grill too hot! High heat causes protein to shrink and get its undies in a bunch and squeeze out juice. Always set up the grill with two zones, one with direct radiant infrared heat, and the other with no direct heat. Push all the coals to one side or turn half the burners off. Cook on the indirect side where gentle smoky convection heat can be kept to about 225F and you will get tender juicy meat. At that temp enzymes have time to tenderize and proteins don’t shrink. THEN sear the meat just before removing it over the direct heat, lid open, and flip every minute or two to keep energy from building up on the surface. You will get a great dark sear on the surface and not have any overcooked meat just below it. Called “reverse sear” this technique gives extremely tender and juicy meat, and no more burned chicken skin!
Too many of us don’t use a good digital thermometer. It is the ONLY way to be sure you don’t overcook expensive steak and undercook risky poultry. A good one costs only $30 and nothing will improve your cooking faster.
The most common mistake beginners make is guessing if their meat is done. And that usually ends up with tough (undercooked) food or they end up waaayyyy overcooking their meats. The way to overcome this is simple – buy a meat thermometer and cook to internal temps instead of times. You can find cheap meat thermometers for $5 that will do the trick. Or when you get serious about grilling and smoking, you can make the investment and get an instant read thermometer.
Biggest mistake is not controlling the fire, but letting it control you. Second biggest mistake is overcrowding the grill grate. Third biggest mistake is grilling without a safety zone. You should always leave 1/4 of your grill fire free where you can move the food if you get flareups.
I would have to say the biggest mistake that I think beginners make is not being patient with the process. Outdoor cooking has far more variables than indoor cooking and requires being able to adjust to cooking conditions, equipment, fuel, and weather. There is more an art to grilling and it requires a little more patience, practice, and flexibility.
The most common mistake that beginning grillers make? Heat management. When I first started grilling, I assumed that hotter is better. I’d build up a big pile of coals, then spread them evenly over the coal great. I’d end up with a grill that was hot all over making it very difficult to control the rate at which foods cooked. Burgers would drip fat that would flare up and give them a sooty flavor. Sausages would burn on the outside before they were cooked through. Chicken would end up with blackened skin by the time the center was cooked. It wasn’t until I learned how to make a two-zone fire–that is, an even layer of coals under one half of the grill and nothing under the other half–that I was able to really control my outdoor cooking. With a two-zone fire you can adjust heat by shifting the food from one side to the other. You spot a flare-up under your pork chop? Just slide it over to the cool side until the flame dies down. You want sausage or chicken that is cooked perfectly through to the center? Cook over indirect heat on the cool side with the lid down, then shift it over to the hot side just to brown the exterior. It gives you so much more control.
Cooking is a unique balance of art and science, especially when you’re firing things up it outdoors. Despite what you might have been told be dear old Dad or your college roommates, grilling is less about poking and prodding and more about patience and planning. A lack of upfront planning and a hasty approach, and your burgers could turn out like tough and bitter hockey pucks, while your chicken is dangerously rare and unappetizing.
Fortunately, these errors are easy to avoid.
Here are the five top barbecue mistakes you might be making—and how to prevent them in the future.
1. Your grill is dirty.
2. You don’t preheat the grill.
3. Not Using the Lid Properly.
Use the lid when you want to trap heat or cut off the grill’s oxygen supply. There’s a reason for every feature on your grill, and that includes the lid. Sometimes it’s meant to fit over your food, keep it safe, trap the heat and help it cook. Other times, it should be anywhere but on top of the grill. The key is knowing when to use it—and when to skip it.
The lid performs a very important function: trapping hot air and smoke. So when cooking thick cuts of meat, such as roasts or bone-in chicken, you’ll want to use it to conserve heat and make sure your food cooks through.
However tempting and fun, make sure not to open it too often. It’s fine to flip burgers or check on your food occasionally, but every sneak peek influences the way your food cooks. If you’re grilling on a gas grill, your curiosity will cost you heat. If you’re using charcoal, the sudden rush of oxygen will make the coals burn hotter, which could burn your food.
When dealing with quick-cooking foods like burgers, shrimp, and sliced veggies, you can leave the lid off and cook directly over the flames. You’ll get a good sear, but the food won’t cook through as fast because the ambient air will be much cooler. In other words, you won’t lose that pink, juicy center in your steak or burger, and your asparagus won’t turn to mush.
Pro tip: If you find yourself battling flare-ups, shut that lid. Cutting off the grill’s oxygen supply can knock down the flames.
4. Back Off on the Intense Heat.
5. You add sauce too early.
BBQ sauce is not marinade and is meant to be used at the very end of your grilling adventure. But you might ask, “How could sweet, smoky and flavor-filled barbecue sauce possibly ruin my grilled food?” You’d be despairingly surprised. Those same sugars that can give your meat that flavorful, caramelized glaze will also burn when exposed to heat for too long. The key is timing! There’s absolutely no benefit to adding precious BBQ sauce early in the process. Unlike a brine or marinade, it doesn’t soak into the meat, and it’ll just give you a blackened, acrid crust when overcooked. Avoid this tragedy by waiting until the final 5-10 minutes of cooking and then applying the sauce in layers with a brush. You can even give it a quick sear by turning the sauce side down directly on the hot grates being careful not to burn the sauce. There is a fine line between caramelizing the sauce and charring.
That’s a great question..
The absolute number one mistake I see among new outdoor cooks whether it be grilling or smoking low and slow, is trying to cook by time rather than temperature.
In outdoor cooking, there are many variables, including, but not limited to:
-type of fuel
-temperature of the meat when it gets placed on the grate
For this reason, every cooking session is different and will require a different amount of time depending on these variables.
Temperature is a much better guide to when meat is finished cooking.
Use a digital probe meat thermometer such as the Maverick ET-733 or a high quality instant read thermometer such as the Thermapen, to monitor the temperature at its thickest point. When it reaches its done temperature, remove it from the heat immediately.
The other part of this equation is knowing what the done temperature is for different types of meat. Done temperature is the safe temperature of the meat in some cases as is the case with pork loin which is safely done and perfectly tender at 145°F.
Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is safely done at 145°F but it won’t get tender until about 205°F.
Knowing these various done temperatures is essential.
To avoid confusion, average cook times can be used for estimation as long as it is understood that the food may get done sooner or it could take much longer and proper padding can be built into the estimation to allow for variability.
Either undercooking or overcooking the meat. Always cook by internal temperature using a meat thermometer to ensure correct doneness.
The most common mistake I see with beginning grillers is a lack of preparation. People think grilling is simply tossing some meat on the grill, flipping it, and serving. A lot of work goes into making a really good grilled meal, and it takes a couple of times and some bad results before that sinks in for many people.
The most common grilling problem I see all ’round is people smashing their meat. Argh. There go all the juices and the bulk of the flavor if you hit with a burger masher.
The most frequent mistakes beginners make is pressing down on steaks and burgers while on the grill. The best way to avoid it is not to press down on the meat because it releases all of the great fat and causes flare ups.
I would say the most common mistake beginners make is going for the most complicated recipe or a different cut of meat they’ve never tried before. Start simple with something you are already confident in cooking inside and transition that to the grill. Small successes in the beginning will teach confidence and build skills.
I have to say mastering the art of two zone or multiple zone grilling. Weather you are cooking on a gas grill or with charcoal, it is nearly always advisable to consider having grilling services that provide both direct and indirect heat.
This is true if you are cooking something like kabobs. Often, the meat will get to color and close to doneness before some of your vegetables are finished.
What I find is that it is good to get the color you want for your meat and then move the kebabs over to the indirect side of the grill. Doing this allows the convection heat within the grill to finish off your meat and cook the vegetables without charring them too badly.
If I had to pick one it would be most beginners don’t accurately know when their food is done and either way over cook it when grilling or undercook when smoking. The best way for new grillers / smokers to learn is by using an accurate digital thermometer such as the Thermoworks Thermapen or Thermopop. Using a thermometer allows beginners to learn when something like a burger or steak is at a nice medium or rare and to also be able to test large cuts such as pork shoulders in multiple areas to ensure all parts register 195 degrees to ensure tenderness throughout.
We would say the most common error for a beginner griller is cooking the food to the correct doneness. Either overcooked or undercooked can be a problem. There are a number of reasons this occurs, but the number one way to solve the issue is to use a meat thermometer to know when to remove food from the grill at the correct internal temperature. Fortunately, the Saber cooking system is very forgiving, so it compensates for overcooked food by the fact that it retains so much of the moisture because of the infrared technology. There’s nothing worse than having an overcooked, dried out chicken breast or pork chop that was grilled too long to ensure it was done! The other side of getting the doneness correct can become a safety issue in that you don’t want to serve undercooked or raw chicken or pork which can be much worse (and not to mention dangerous) than dried out food. The meat thermometer is a great tool and the Saber EZ Temp Digital Thermometer, model number A00AA3814, is a great instant read thermometer that allows you to take the food off at the perfect time, every time.
That is a very good question and one that I field quite a bit here at our shop, I wouldn’t call it a mistake so much as I would call it a misconception in that: Regardless of cooking experience any new smoker or grill takes time to learn, a pit master and or novice to grilling needs to have an open mind when using a new smoker/grill as they all have distinct cooking characteristics and “sweet spots”.
A lot of us have been spoiled or even over exposed with all this great BBQ info leading people to believe that they can cook like their favorite TV personality right away IF only they have the same smoker/grill. Do not be deceived, dues have to be paid and a few steaks have to be burned.
There are three things that everyone needs more of in life: Time. Love. Money.
These are three things that every griller tends to short change early on.
– Give more time to let things cook low and slow. Slow roasting need time.
– Give more time to rest the meat before serving.
– Spend more money on quality ingredients. Higher quality meat, even burgers, taste better.
– Finally, add some love in mix. Love the moment with friends and family. Don’t grill alone!
One of the most common mistakes beginners make is not having enough heat. The premise of this cooking method of steak relies on a proper bed of extremely hot coals. If you make the fire too small or you start braaing/grilling/barbecuing before all the wood is burnt out, there will not be enough heat to properly sear the meat.
I’d say the number one mistake is cutting into meat to determine doneness. I’d add using lighter fluid and cooking over too hot of a fire.
Dustin Sanders and Joe Stump agree the 2 most common mistake beginners make when grilling a steak is they put “too much crap” on their steak. A good steak needs to be seasoned simply, 3-4 ingredients, with salt and pepper included and being the foundation. The other big mistake is not knowing the temperature of the meat you are cooking and cutting into the meat to check doneness. Before grilling, know the desired doneness you want and purchase a good instant read thermometer to check the temperature.
The most common mistake that beginning grillers make is two-fold. First, it’s about fire management. They don’t preheat the grill—you would never bake a cake or roast a turkey without preheating the oven, you need to take your indoor cooking knowledge, outdoors. And, beginners try to cook food over too high of a heat. Know the difference between direct and indirect heat and how to use it.
Second, you need to follow my mantra “oil the food, not the cooking grates!” This will prevent stickage, keep your food juicy and promote caramelization—those great grill marks!
I have found that many beginners have issues with sustaining temperature in a charcoal grill, by forgetting to open their dampers! Alternately, care and maintenance of your grill is paramount, and many people are unaware of how to properly care for and clean their grills. Typically, it is also common to cook at too high a temperature, leaving to outside cooked, but the inside raw. I hope this is helpful to you.
Beginner grillers often don’t realize that they can extend the life and health of their grill by performing simple routine maintenance. Giving your BBQ grill a little TLC before you put it away for the winter or when you take it out in the spring can help prevent issues like uneven heating or flashback fires caused by clogged tubes or poorly aligned connections, and can keep your grill running in top condition for many years. You also don’t need to replace your BBQ grill if something stops functioning – you can purchase exact-fit replacement parts and repair your grill just like any other appliance!
A couple of issues spring readily to mind. First, many beginners follow a recipe’s stated cooking times far too closely.
Each piece of food will cook differently, depending on grade, starting temperature, ambient temperature, how many times the lid gets opened, etc.
Recipes are great guidelines, but the griller still needs to get the internal temperature to a safe and palate-pleasing internal temperature. Second, most beginners fail to spend enough time prepping the food. Anxious to get the food on the grill, they neglect important details like pulling the nasty tendon from the chicken thigh or peeling the impermeable membrane from a rack of ribs.
I think a common mistake beginners make at grilling is they over-season the food they are cooking. Grilling food produces a naturally great flavor due to chemical reactions and evaporation that occurs at the surface of the food being cooked. I get a lot of questions and emails from new grillers asking me for a secret seasoning recipe. Most are surprised when I recommend to use a mixture of kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, and coarse garlic powder. I’ve won many competitions using a combination of only those three ingredients. My recommendation for beginners is to keep the seasoning simple and enjoy the natural flavor of grilled food.
One of the most common mistakes I see is they do not dry off the surface of the meat. A wet surface will attract unwanted smoke, color and it will not properly caramelize. Always dry the surface of your meat and apply a thin coat of cooking oil/olive oil before seasoning and cooking. This will make the crust/bark of your grilled meats to taste and look much better.
Beginners usually cook over blazing hot white Coles that doesn’t work if you’re cooking chicken or if you’re cooking something low and slow. Remedy move your coals to one side and put your meat on the other unless you’re cooking red meat and you want it medium rare or so then over hot coals or a place you want to be. Beginners also should remember to put their ribs on one side and they’re coals on the other as well. Ribs may take only about 4 to 5 hours they should be cooked slowly and not over direct heat. Beginners think they should put their pork butts and big cuts of meat right over hot coals again this is a low and slow item and should be cooked off to the side away from the Heat. Big mistake beginners make sugar Burns now I love the flavor of a little Char on my meat but I hate the flavor a burnt sugars it’s bitter and can ruin the flavor profiles of whatever you’re cooking. So the best method is to finish up whatever you’re cooking get a little charge if that’s what you like and then put your sauce on afterwards and leave them just long enough to set without burning there is sugar in everything so remember just a few minutes to set the sauce and then remove it before the sugars burn.
Most beginner grillers think they need to cook everything on high heat and end up burning everything to a crisp or end up with charred meat on the outside while raw on the inside. The most important thing to learn in grilling is to create a direct and indirect zone. This is essentially cooking over the flame or not over the flame (ie, the burner is off or the side without coals). This way, when the meat is cooking to quickly, you can put it on the indirect side and it will still continue to cook/roast but without being directly over the flame. This is how, for example, you can master grilling the perfect steak using the “reverse sear” method. But for grilling of all meat unless it is something like a skirt steak which requires a very short amount of time, I recommend creating a direct and indirect zones for grilling perfection. That, plus using an internal read thermometer to know when you have reached the correct internal temperature to pull the meat off, will set you up for grilling success!