Taste

20 Common Grilling Mistakes You Won't Ever Make Again

Here’s a quick primer for whipping your grill game into shape, so you can truly thrive this summer.
07/11/2017 02:31pm ET | Updated July 11, 2017

For Bon Appetit, by Alex Delany.

Peden + Munk

A barbecue for your closest friends and family is not a good time to set your apron on fire. Or serve sloppy broken fish. Or grill beautiful pork chops for your in-laws, who you just remembered are vegetarian. You better bring your A game, for everyone’s sake. We asked the editors at Bon Appétit what exactly people mess up the most (and how to remedy the situation). Here’s a quick primer for whipping your grill game into shape, so you can truly thrive this summer.

Before Grilling

“Clean your grill. I mean come on. A dirty grill does not make beautiful food.” —Andrew Knowlton, deputy editor

“Always check your gas grill’s propane tank before having a party for 30 people. Telling everyone to hold on a sec and running out to the grab a refill will not make people happy.” —Brad Leone, test kitchen manager

“So many people put their food on the grill before the charcoal is ready. You don’t want flaming charcoal. You want it to be glowing. Be patient.” —Adam Rapoport, editor-in-chief

“People tend to start way too late. Always grill earlier and schedule enough time for prepping and heating up your coals.” —Rick Martinez, senior food editor

“Don’t underestimate how much charcoal you need. It’s better to have a bit too much than not enough.” —B.L.

“A lot of people don’t wait for their grate to heat up. Make sure your grate and coals are primed before throwing your food on.” —Chris Morocco, senior food editor

“You’ve gotta soak bamboo skewers if you use them. At least 20 minutes. You don’t want them catching on fire and disintegrating.” —B.L.

“You can get away with putting meat on a borderline dirty grill or great, but forget about fish. If you grill basked isn’t perfectly cleaned, you will mess up your fish. It’ll break and pick up ugly color.” —C.M

While Grilling

“Never underestimate the importance of the vent on the lid of the grill. Position the vent over your food to draw heat and smoke over food. You want as much of the food as possible to get contact with heat for even cooking.” —C.M.

“Don’t forget to hydrate. Always hydrate. That’s just generally a good practice.” —Carla Lalli-Music, food director

“Not having varying zones of heat is a big misstep. If you’re grilling more than one thing, you need different temperature zones on your grill, whether it’s moving coals to one side or turning down a burner.” —R.M.

“People tend to think flare ups are a good thing, or cool. They’re not. Searing with intense heat, sans-flames, is what gives you the texture and flavor you want. Flames just burn your food.” —A.R.

“Putting thin veggies directly on the grate. You can’t do that. Use a grill basket. Save the lives of rogue snap peas and asparagus.” —A.K.

“Don’t pile barbecue sauce on raw chicken, when it’s over high heat. It instantly turns to charred messy ash. You have to put most of your sauce on after the chicken’s fat has rendered.” —A.R.

“Don’t try to grill every single thing you’re making. Your grill can’t handle that. Too much on the grill means something will suffer. Do what you can in the kitchen to take some of the load off.” —C.L.M.

“Don’t mix vegetables and meat on the same kebab. They cook at different rates. Dedicate on skewer to one thing.” —A.R.

“People around the office may disagree, but not having a headlamp for grilling is a mistake. I always have mine for when I lose the light of day and still want to grill. Also very good for carrying things to the table in the dark. You don’t want to drop everything.” —C.L.M.

“Get your timing right. Know how long everything will take approximately. Hot dogs take way less time than burgers, and you don’t want to serve them twenty minutes apart.” —R.M.

“When you lift the lid of your grill, make sure to do it away from your face, since flames can shoot out. I’ve burned the hair off my face. That was definitely a mistake.” —C.L.M.

“Don’t forget to turn off the propane. That’s dangerous. And costly.” —Amanda Shapiro, editor, Healthyish

You can grill bacon. Yes, it’s a beautiful world.

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