Summer’s here and that means one thing – it’s grill time! For juicy burgers, tasty, char-grilled chicken, and succulent corn, there’s no beating the classic grill. But if you really want to be a master of the charcoal, you’ll need to learn some of the all-too-common mistakes people make – and then avoid them. To get you started on your way to becoming a grilling maestro, here are 10 things you should never do to your grill.
1. Never forget fire safety
If you’re going to grill, it’s not enough to simply have the mustard and ketchup on standby. If the worst happens (by which we mean a fire), it’s vital to have the supplies you’ll need to extinguish it within easy reach. Baking soda should be on everyone’s must-have list in case of a grease fire (and no, don’t expect to simply throw a bucket of water on a grease fire and do anything other than make a bad situation worse), while a fire extinguisher is also good to have on hand in case of any other kinds of fire.
2. Never forget to clean
Pickles and ketchup might complement a burger, but carbonized char most certainly doesn’t. After you’ve finished cooking, scrape away any grease or food remnants – you’ll find it a much easier task to remove them while they’re still fresh than you would if you left them to harden.
3. Never cook meat straight from the fridge
If you’re planning on grilling steaks or any other type of meat, make sure to remove the cuts from the fridge well in advance of throwing them on the charcoal. If they haven’t risen to room temperature by the time you introduce them to the heat, they risk charring on the outside before the middle starts to cook.
4. Never forget to oil up
Producing tender, moist meat is what grills are known for, but unless you want most of the meat to stick to the grill, don’t forget to grease it up first. A small rub of oil will go a long way to ensuring your chops stay on the bone rather than the grill, while a light spray of cooking oil on chicken breasts and steaks will maximize how much meat ends up on your plate, and minimize how much stays on the grill.
5. Never forget to give it a check-up
If your grill’s been languishing in the garage over winter, don’t fire it up before giving it a thorough check-up first. If it’s a gas grill, check for any leaks that may have sprung up during it’s period in storage. And don’t think you’ve got away scot-free if you’ve got a charcoal grill. Regardless of the type, all grills should be treated to a deep clean to remove any left-over bits of debris and food. Leave the debris to fester, and not only do you risk your guests turning up their noses at your dirty grill, you could also spark a flare-up.
6. Never forget to lift the lid
If you’re working with a gas grill, never light it while the lids still closed. If you do, you risk the gases building up to a dangerous level – even to the point of causing a fireball. And if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to upset your guests even more than an overcooked sausage, it’s a fireball. As familyhandyman.com recommends, always make sure the gas grill lid is open when you light it. If the flame does go out, turn of the grill and gas and wait at least five minutes before relighting it – and when you relight, make sure the lid is open.
7. Never place the grill by the house
Everyone loves a grill, but most people value their home that little bit more. Don’t risk its safety by siting the grill too close – fire spreads quickly, and if one does start, it’s best for it to happen as far away from the house as possible. Similarly, don’t place the grill next to any trees with low hanging branches. As the Daily Meal recommends, a good rule of thumb is to assess anything that could go up in flames, and then position the grill at least 5 feet away from it.
8. Never forget to use the right tools
You don’t need a giant arsenal of tools to work a grill, but you do need to make sure you have the right ones for the job. Unless you want to burn your hands, look for long-handled utensils. If you want to keep things simple, a pair of tongs and a spatula should be enough to get you by – although if you’re frequently catering to vegetarian guests or just like a lot of veg to garnish your burgers, a long-handled fork won’t go amiss.
9. Never cook pizza on a grill
It might be tempting to think you can cook just about anything on a grill, but you can’t. As bloomberg.com notes, some of the things you should never throw on the grill include filet mignon (try searing it in a cast-iron pan for the best results), pizza (a grill won’t heat the toppings evenly, and is likely to leave you with an over-cooked crust and a part raw, part burnt top), salmon (low, slow heat is best for fatty fish), Shish kabab (meat and vegetables cook at different rates – sticking them both on a skewer and expecting anything other than an unpalatable result is asking too much from your grill), pork chops (cook them in a pan over a medium heat for the tastiest results), and delicate, flaky fish like halibut and cod.
10. Never use lighter fluid
Although it can be tempting to get the fire off to a roaring start, slow and steady wins the race. Instead of using lighter fluid, take delish.com’s advice and use crumpled newspaper to develop the flames on the charcoals, and then wait for them to turn fully grey before spreading them out and starting to grill.