9 Things You Should Never Do When Grilling

9 Things You Should Never Do When Grilling

Don't make these 9 rookie mistakes when you're grilling this summer.

Mistake: Cooking on a Dirty Grill

A seasoned grill is one thing; a dirty one is a whole different thing. Your grill doesn't need a deep clean every time you cook on it, but do use a grill brush or a ball of aluminum foil to remove bits of food and char from the grates before or after cooking — every time.

Mistake: Using the Wrong Tools

You don't need many tools to grill, but do make sure you're using the right one each time. In general, opt for long-handled tools (to prevent burns) and stick to a pair of tongs and a spatula as much as possible. A long-handled fork can be great for grilled vegetables, but don't use it for meat; puncturing the meat will cause you to lose some of its juices.

Mistake: Letting Food Stick to the Grates

Before you start grilling, lightly oil the grill grates with a neutral cooking oil like canola. This will help ensure that food doesn't stick to the grill as it cooks. Cleaning your grill regularly (as mentioned earlier) will help as well.

Mistake: Using Only Direct Heat

You need two different types of heat when you're grilling: direct and indirect. You create direct heat by grilling directly over the fire, indirect heat by grilling near the fire. An easy way to set up two different cooking zones is to spread the glowing charcoal briquettes into two distinct piles at opposite ends of the grill; the ends of the grill will provide direct heat that's perfect for cooking small pieces of food (like shrimp or chicken skewers) quickly and the center of the grill will provide indirect heat that's good for cooking larger items (like a rack of ribs) that need more time on the grill.

Mistake: Letting Flare-Ups Get Out of Control

Flare-ups (which usually happen when fat drips into the fire) can burn food and become dangerous. If you've set up a zone with indirect heat on your grill, move the food there when flare-ups happen — and keep a small squirt bottle of water handy in case the fire needs to be tamed quickly.

Mistake: Letting Wooden Skewers Catch Fire

Making kebabs on wooden skewers? Make sure you soak the skewers in water for 30 to 60 minutes before using them; otherwise, they'll catch fire when they're on the grill.

Mistake: Adding the Sauce Too Soon

Most sauces contain sugar, which can burn when cooked for too long. Avoid this by brushing sauces onto food during its final 15 to 30 minutes on the grill.

Mistake: Leaving the Meat Thermometer in the Kitchen

Nobody wants to bite into an undercooked burger or grilled chicken breast. Keep your meat thermometer handy when you're grilling and be sure to remove chicken when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, and burgers when the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165 degrees F.

Mistake: Serving Food Straight From the Grill

Most foods benefit from resting a few minutes after they're cooked. If you're cooking large cuts of meat (like a rack of ribs or a thick chicken breast), be sure to let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving; the juices will redistribute themselves during this time, ensuring a perfectly juicy piece of meat or poultry.