7 Common Grilling Mistakes to Avoid for Your First BBQ

Did you know that 3 out of 4 Americans own a grill or smoker? 

There’s no denying our love affair with grilling. Whether it’s winter or summer, rain or shine, you can count on the Americans to be out cooking on the grill!

But a lot of people aren’t cooking to their full potential. There are plenty of ways that a grill can be used improperly or not at its best, and it’s likely you’re doing at least one of them.

Find out how to improve your outdoor cooking with our common grilling mistakes.

1. Using Lighter Fluid 

Using lighter fluid has been a go-to method for lighting BBQs for years now. It’s cheap, perfect for fitting with your BBQ grill budget, and easy to use. But even with those benefits, it definitely isn’t the best method for lighting your grill. 

Lighter fluid can add a nasty chemical flavor to your food that’s pretty noticeable when compared with food that’s been cooked without it. So, ditch the bottle and opt for lighting coals in a chimney starter instead.

Use either charcoal briquettes or hardwood lump coal. Use fuel beneath the chimney, such as newspaper, to light the coals and heat them up.

2. Not Letting the Charcoal Heat Up Properly

Using charcoal in a chimney gives the best flavor, but it isn’t always easy to get right. One of the keys to perfect grilling is making sure your charcoals are always hot enough. If they’re not, they won’t cook the food properly or might even die out as you’re cooking.

Wait until the top layer of your coals is almost completely covered in ash. This is a sure sign that your coals are hot enough to cook your food. If they’re not heating up properly, make sure you haven’t overstuffed your chimney with newspaper.

3. Not Letting the Grill Heat Up Properly

You need to make sure you preheat all types of grills before cooking. If you don’t do this, the chance of your meat sticking to your grill is very high! 

Start by pouring your hot coals beneath the grill. Leave it for some time to preheat, making sure that it’s hot enough to instantly start cooking your food. This will also give you a much better char which is a must for BBQ food. 

4. Using the Same Setup For All Food

Just as you’d change the temperature on your oven for different meals, you need to change the setup on your grill. The fire set up – which is how much charcoal you’re using and where it’s placed — lets you change the heat of your grill and take better control of your food. 

A single-level fire is where the coals are spread evenly across the base of your grill. It’s ideal for fast cooking smaller foods. Sausages, vegetables, and fish fillets will all cook well on this setup.

A half-grill fire is when coals are spread over just half of the grill. If you want to cook your food more gently, this is the ideal option. It also sears your food, making it ideal for pork chops and chicken on the bone. 

Concentrated fire is ideal for fast cooking. Pour your hot coals into a suitable pan with small holes in the bottom and place the pan in the center of your grill. It’ll create a more targeted, concentrated heat that’s ideal for quick cooking with a heavy char, perfect for burgers and steaks. 

The way you set up your grill is going to have a big impact on how your food tastes. Make sure you place your coals properly for the perfect finish. 

5. Not Oiling the Grill Grate

Anyone who grills will know the problem with food sticking to the grate. Whilst making sure it’s hot is a good start to stop sticking, it doesn’t always do the trick. This is why you need to oil the grate before you cook.

To do this, use tongs to prevent burning. Dip a thick layer of paper towels in cooking oil and hold it in the tongs. Wipe the oiled towel over the grate before placing your food on it. 

With this little trick, you’ll never have to worry about food sticking to your grate again. 

6. Guessing When the Food is Ready 

Don’t let parties with friends become ruined by undercooked meat. Instead, use a food thermometer to properly judge when your food is cooked through. 

It can be easy to think meat is done from the outside only to find it pink within. A thermometer is a foolproof way to stop this from happening. Make sure you know how hot different meats should be when cooked and check them before serving them up.

If you’re using a thermometer with meat, always be sure to clean it between uses. This will help keep you grilling safely.

proper grill maintenance, parties with friends

7. Not Cleaning Your Grill

Proper grill maintenance is essential. Dirty grill grates can affect the flavor of your food, increase the chances of it sticking, and make cooking a lot harder.

After you’ve grilled, use a grill brush to remove any dirt and grime on your grate. Then, clean it with soapy water and rinse before letting it air dry. Store it safely to avoid any dust or dirt tarnishing your grill.

Avoid Common Grilling Mistakes

There are tons of common grilling mistakes out there, but these are definitely the top culprits! Avoid them to make sure you’re always the grill king or queen in your neighborhood. 

For more useful tips, be sure to check out more of our grilling articles that are packed full of advice.