6 Bad Grilling Habits to Break

For Charcoal and Gas Grills

Tips to master your charcoal grill
John Carey / Getty Images

Grilling is a summertime staple loved by many. Though, becoming skilled at grilling isn’t so easy as buying the grill and throwing steaks on it to cook. It requires both practice and diligence, whether that be if you’re self-taught or learning from someone you know. This article is written to help you avoid some of the most important grilling pitfalls, so you can get ahead of the curve and enjoy flame-kissed grilled food, sooner rather than later. 

Using Lighter Fluid for Charcoal Grills

While using kerosene seems like an intuitive solution, we’re here to tell you, do not do it. It You may think using lighter fluid seems like an easy solution to light your charcoal, or perhaps you’re intrigued by the presoaked charcoal briquettes. It will absolutely infuse that gross, kerosene flavor into your food. Instead, use a chimney starter or other charcoal grill starter method.

Not Using Grilling Zones

Grilling zones are super important to use as they function as a way to provide you with both direct and indirect heat while you’re grilling. There are several types of common cooking zones, but the most simple is a two-zone approach. If you’re using a gas grill, simply turn one side of the grill on while leaving the other side on low or off. But if you’re using a charcoal or wood-fired grill, pile your fuel on one side of the grill, leaving the other half empty. 

Buying a Poor Quality Grill

Everyone has a budget to obey but if you can swing it, purchasing a quality grill is worth it. The design and functionality will be better and good grills typically come with good warranties. Grill manufacturers normally guarantee a product caused by normal wear and tear. To make a more informed decision on which grill to buy, don’t compare the up-front cost of each grill. Instead, divide the price of a grill by the length of its warranty.

Not Using a Meat Thermometer

You may not use a meat thermometer in the kitchen, but the grill is a different beast and it will absolutely benefit you to use one. Firstly, it’s best practice to open the grill as little as possible so the meat can cook efficiently and evenly. Using a meat thermometer helps to reduce anxious checking because you will know how close your meat is to being finished. Secondly, grilling is often a social affair with more people than yourself to entertain. Using a meat thermometer helps keep you informed on the progress of your food and ensures you are eating safely cooked meat.

Starting With a Dirty Grill

After each time you use your grill, be sure to clean and oil your grates. Also, deep clean your grill every year, or more, depending on how much you use it. This isn’t perfectionistic thinking. A clean grill makes a difference to both your experience and the final result of the food. Charred bits get stuck and accumulate very quickly on grill grates and if they are not cleaned regularly, they can make flipping food more difficult, as well as give food an acrid, burnt flavor.  

Saucing Too Early

Beware, barbecue sauces are not marinades. Both share similar ingredients, but sauces often have a higher sugar content than marinades and are designed to coat the outside of anything to which it is applied. Since sugar will caramelize quickly over high direct heat, the outside of whatever is being grilled will burn and char before the inside is totally cooked through. Instead, use a rub or low sugar marinade before grilling. Once the grilled item is almost cooked through, about the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, move the grilled item to indirect heat zone before saucing. This will allow the moisture of the sauce to evaporate, concentrating its flavors on the outside of the grilled item without burn or char.