Have you noticed that most grillers are men? No doubt, there are plenty of women who can handle the spatula and other utensils at the grill with exceptional talent and finesse, as well. But when it comes to men, there are two things they will not do: 1) ask for directions and 2) admit when they’ve made a blunder or two at the grill. With that being said, there are any number of grilling gaffes that–even though they might be obvious because of the condition of the food off the grill—they won’t be admitted by the griller at the helm. That would be admitting grill-ineptness, and that would be far too painful. Even if meats are marinated for hours, they can still end up with being dry and tough; and what a shame; especially if the meats were exceptionally-expensive choices!
Here are five common mistakes that grillers, universally, seem to make:
Grilling Mistakes—Nip Them In The Bud:
1: Using an Unclean Grill:
Yes, “unclean” is synonymous with “dirty”; and the idea of cooking fresh food on top of burnt, leftovers from weeks ago does not add “flavor”, as some seasoned grillers might claim. Clean that grill before those steaks, burgers and chicken thighs are positioned into place. Your food will taste so much better! Also, grates with stuck-on gunk or old grease can easily catch fire, so safety first!
2: Placing Meat on the Grill Too Early:
There are any number of little secrets that will enhance the flavor of food to be grilled; and one of them is giving food an opportunity to lose some of its chill after it is removed from the refrigerator. Let meat set out at room temperature for a good 45 minutes before it is subjected to the grill’s heat; but keep it covered. When placed on a hot grill too early, that $10.00 New York Strip or Rib-Eye will cook unevenly. Additionally, putting meat on the grate right from the refrigerator can actually cause condensation of creosote from the charcoal. The creosote will float upwards, via the smoke, and become embedded into the meat, adding an undesirable texture and flavor. This brings up a second grill gaffe: cooks who do not allow the grill to completely heat up before any food is placed on it. Give the grill enough time to really heat up! If you can’t hold your hand slightly above the grill for longer than 2 seconds, then the grill is ready!
3: Not Using a Thermometer:
If you have steaks on the grill, how will you know when they are ready to be served, considering some guests have requested their steaks be “medium” while others prefer “medium rare”? Cutting into the meat to check on the color is a good way to lose delicious juices; and you are allowing flavor to literally drip to the bottom of the grill. A thermometer inserted into steaks to test for doneness will clearly indicate when each piece of meat is ideally ready. A perfect medium-rare steak, for example, will register on the meat thermometer as 130-degrees—no guessing and no mistakes!
If you don’t have a thermometer, use the ‘touch-test’. Here, you can touch the surface of any steak with your fingertip—a rare steak will feel soft and spongy; a medium steak will spring back slightly when pressed; and a well-done steak will feel firm. Also, avoid using a BBQ fork to turn steaks—use a pair of tongs, instead, to prevent any piercing of the meat that would sacrifice those savory juices.
4: Adding Sauces Too Early:
If you are going to add sauces, be aware of what is in them that can cause problems and when to add them. Sauces add an immense burst of flavor to meats, but because sauces can contain sugar, if they are added too early to meats the sugars can create a gummy texture and will burn and leave food with a disagreeable taste. Sauces typically contain tomato ingredients, too; which have low-heat tolerance and will cook faster than meats. Sauces should be added during the last few minutes of grill-time. During those last few minutes—a minute or two on each side of the meat–the sauce will be able to heat up and permeate the meat without burning.
5: Counting Lighter Fluid as a Legitimate Flavor:
With charcoal grills, avoid using charcoal lighter-fluid to get the flames going. Lighter fluid—whether one wishes to admit it or not—will add ‘lighter-fluid flavor’ to the foods. Regardless of how a griller attempts to cook the coals down before any food is added, the taste of lighter fluid just can’t be avoided. For best results, use a chimney starter—it’s so much easier, it’s safer and the only flavors you will end up noticing are the flavors from the food!
Earning the rank of “Grill Sargent” isn’t easy. It takes a lot of trial and error before one can become a true ‘grill-master’; but once you know what mistakes to avoid, you’ll be well on your way to grilling delectable foods that friends and family will relish and savor!