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 and many love it so much, they keep grilling through the winter. Though, becoming skilled at grilling isn’t so easy as buying the grill and plopping 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 crispy, delicious grilled food, sooner rather than later. 

Using Lighter Fluid for Charcoal Grills

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. While using kerosene seems like an intuitive solution, we’re here to tell you, don’t do it. 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. But what are cooking zones, you ask? They function as a way to provide you with both direct, hot heat and indirect, low 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 Cheap Grill

Of course, 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 but also, good grills typically come with good warranties. You see, manufacturers normally guarantee a product right up until the point that failures caused by normal wear and tear will start. So, to make a more informed decision on which grill to buy, don’t simply compare the up-front cost of each grill. Rather, divide the price of each grill by how long their warranty lasts.

Not Using a Meat Thermometer

Sure, 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. First, it’s best practice to open the grill as little as possible so that the meat can cook efficiently and evenly. Using a meat thermometer helps you to reduce anxious checking because you don’t just think, you know how close your meat is to being finished. Second, grilling is often a social affair, meaning that you’ll have more people to cook for and more distraction while doing it. Using a meat thermometer helps keep you on track, as well as ensures you and your guests are eating safely cooked meat.

Checking on Your Food too Much

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). Now, this isn’t perfectionistic thinking, it’s actually going to make a very real difference for both your experience and results. This is because charred bits get stuck and accumulate very fast on grill grates, meaning that if you don’t clean them off every time, they can make flipping your food more difficult, as well as give your food an acrid, burnt flavor.  

Not Understanding Direct vs. Indirect Heat

Direct and indirect heat are incredibly important grilling concepts to grasp. Not just because it will help you achieve the results you want for meat and veggies, but because you can also harness that knowledge to grill just about anything, including dessert. Tender cuts of meat like pork sirloin and beef ribeye will almost always get a good sear on them first, and then be finished off using indirect heat. On the other hand, tougher cuts like chuck and brisket should get the low and slow treatment, using just indirect heat.