The Most Common Grilling Mistakes to Avoid This Summer

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steak from common grilling mistakes

Photo by Maggio7 licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Grilling season is almost here, so there’s no better time to talk about some common grilling mistakes (don’t be ashamed – they happen to the best of us!) and how to avoid them. From how to keep charcoal lit to when to flip a steak, we’re covering it all right here.

Not Understanding How Your BBQ Works

Here are some important thoughts to consider about grilling:

  • Should you grill with the lid on or off?
  • How to know when charcoal is ready to cook?
  • Charcoal grill vent: open or closed?

If you’re unsure of the answers, then you’re not 100% sure of how to operate your BBQ. That’s okay – not looking at your instructions before you start barbecuing for the masses is a common mistake. This is always the first thing you should do after you get your machine set up, so you know how the BBQ will work best to cook your food.

Now, to answer the above questions:

  • Grilling with the lid on or off – Leave the lid open when you’re searing steaks and need to keep a close eye on it. Once you move it to indirect heat, you can close the lid and let the smoke do its thing. Quick-cooking foods can usually be cooked (fish, veggies, hot dogs) with the lid open the whole time.
  • When are charcoals ready for cooking – Charcoal needs to be at an even temperature to be ready for grilling. Move your charcoals around with a poker tool. They’re ready when most have turned white and the charcoal isn’t producing smoke.
  • Charcoal vent open or closed – The hotter you want your charcoals to be, the more you should open the vents. Keep them open when searing your steaks and leave them only partially opened when it’s time to lower the temperature.

Failing to Keep the Charcoal Lit

Knowing how to keep a charcoal grill hot is important if you don’t want your meat to turn into a crispy hockey puck. The key to good grilling is getting a nice sear and allowing the internal meat to get to temperature as efficiently as possible without drying out. A BBQ only burning half its charcoal won’t do the trick.

Once you see your charcoal turning gray on its edges, move it around with a poker. You’ll need to do this every few minutes, or as you see the fire start to dim.

Cooking on a Dirty Grill

Yes, you’re supposed to season your grates before you start cooking, but they should never, ever be dirty. Not only can leftover food on the grill make your new food taste funny, but it’s also a serious health hazard to cook over bacteria that’s been sitting there since last weekend.

Clean your grill after every use. It only takes a few minutes to brush down the grates while the grill’s still hot and it’ll make for a much simpler cleanup when your cookout is over.

Not Letting Your Grill Heat Up

Knowing how long to heat up a charcoal grill or gas grill before you put anything on it is one of the most important keys to grilling success. High heat is what gives steaks and burgers an awesome sear and gets the ball rolling.

Charcoal grills usually need about 20 minutes to get to the right temperature. Gas grills typically take a little less time, generally between 10 to 15 minutes.

Constantly Flipping Your Steaks

It can be tempting to keep flipping your steak to make sure it’s cooking evenly, but this is the exact opposite of what you should do. So, when should you flip a steak?

You actually should only flip a steak once through the cooking process. Wait until the first side is fully seared (you can lift it slightly to check it out) before flipping to the other side. Depending on the cut of steaks you have, it can take anywhere from two to five minutes on each side to get that crispy brown crust.

Being Too Eager to Eat

You know how you need to rest after you’ve had a big, delicious, grilled meal? Well, your steaks need some resting time too (and so do other meats, like pork and chicken) after you cook them.

“Resting” lets the juices run back through the meat while collagen in the meat thickens them, allowing your meat to be more tender and juicier than it would if you cut it immediately after cooking. Take your steaks off the racks when they’re about 10-degrees less than your optimal temperature and let them rest for five to ten minutes.

Conclusion: Help! How Do You Grill the Right Way?

At Steak University, we’re all about helping you learn the best ways to cook steak and your other favorite meats! We hope this guide helps you navigate the nuances of barbecuing so that you can have the best grilling parties on the block. Be sure to shop our steak selection and get quality steaks shipped to your door, just in time for your next bash.