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9 Grilling Mistakes Even Seasoned Barbecue Cooks Can Still Make

Common BBQ habits may actually sabotage your cookout. Here, grilling experts reveal the biggest grilling mistakes and how to avoid them.

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You don’t preheat the grill


The biggest grilling mistake most people make occurs before the meat even hits the grill, says grilling expert Kevin Kolman, official “Grill Master” for Weber. “If you preheat the grill properly, the meat will cook faster, and be more moist and tender.” Close the lid once the ideal temperature is reached (between 350 and 450°F depending on the food) to prevent your meat from losing moisture. Watch out for these ways you’re using your grill completely wrong.

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You don’t clean your grill


Skip out on a thorough cleaning at the expense of your taste buds. “Residue accumulates over time and settles into the nooks and crannies of your grill grates, causing the sticking that can tear off the beautiful crust you worked so hard to create,” chef Adam Perry Lang, author of Serious Barbecue, told Men’s Health. Timing is key: Kolman suggests you clean right after you’ve preheated the grill. Run it on high for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid closed. Use a brass bristle brush to scrub off the ashy debris. If you don’t have a brush, use aluminum foil balled up and grasped with a pair of tongs. Replace drip pans if they’re more than
half full.

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You don’t think about food safety


Don’t spoil the fun by consuming spoiled food. According to CDC reports, one in six Americans becomes ill from food poisoning each year. Most of these illnesses can be avoided when grilling by following simple food safety rules. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat. Make sure any plates, platters, or utensils that have handled raw meat don’t come into contact with other foods, like veggies or buns. If you need to reuse utensils after they’ve touched raw meat, scrub them with hot, soapy water to avoid contamination. Never leave raw meat sitting out for more than two hours (cut this time in half if the temperature is over 90 degrees). Grilled food has a shelf life of three to four days if refrigerated, so make sure to label any leftovers with dates.

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You wait for your steak to warm up


You don’t need to let those juicy filets in your fridge to reach room temperature before you toss on the grill. Warming the meat won’t help you achieve the perfect steak because room temperature cuts cook too quickly. “Cooking with cold steaks allows you to control the temperature more, resulting in a perfectly cooked steak,” Michael Lomonaco, executive chef and managing partner at Porter House New York, told ABC News. “I like to cook my steak cold, right out of the refrigerator. You want your grill to be searing hot and the steak to hit it icy cold.” These are some other mistakes everyone makes when cooking steak

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You don’t season correctly


Using the wrong marinade can mess up your BBQ. Stay away from high-citrus and sugar-heavy marinades, which will burn quickly on the grill, advises Dave Martin, a first season contestant on Top Chef and author of two cookbooks. Instead, he recommends marinating your meat for several hours or overnight with a low-acid fruit puree, like mango, or a simple Worcester sauce. Brush on high-sugar sauces, like barbecue sauce, during the last few minutes of grilling. Or skip the marinade entirely and just use a dry rub, such as a simple mixture of salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar, which you should apply right before you cook. “A rub is a quick way to get your flavor on there,” says Martin. “A marinade is when you have a little more time.”

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You grease the grill


Directly coating your grates with oil isn’t the best tactic; instead of staying on the grill, the grease will drip down the sides. What is left over will get burned onto the metal from the high temperatures. A better approach: Brush your meats and vegetables directly with oil instead. Avoid these grilling mistakes that could make you sick.

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You mess up lighting it up


According to a report from the National Fire Protection Agency, grills are responsible for 10,200 home fires annually. If you use a gas grill, check for dents in the propane tank, which may signify a potential leak, and keep the lid open while lighting up. If your grill doesn’t immediately start, wait five minutes for gas fumes to clear before trying again. And never add lighter fluid to a lit charcoal grill; it can cause flare-ups that stretch several feet.

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You don’t buy enough meat


Did that patty just shrink? If you’re shaping your own burgers, remember that meat is about 75 percent water, so the burger will look a lot smaller after it’s done cooking than it does on the cutting board in your kitchen, says Kolman. About 6 ounces of good quality beef is the right amount for one burger; if you like yours on the jumbo side, opt for 8 ounces.

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You cut into the meat right away


Ready to dig in when the food is piping hot off the grill? Best to wait for the meat to cool for a few minutes (and a little longer for larger portions), says Sabrina Sexton, program advisor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. “As you cook the meat, all the juices start moving around the meat, and they tend to pool a little bit more in the center,” says Sexton. When you cut into the meat right away, this juice spills out, which can dry out your tender cut. “If you let meat sit for five to ten minutes, the juices actually get reabsorbed.” The result: A tender cut of meat all around. Also, make sure to avoid these cooking mistakes that can ruin your food.

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