Beer in hand, spatula at the ready, and hungry people standing by. When you’re the grill master this July Fourth, everyone’s enjoyment of the meal is up to you. And if they’re not happy, there could be fireworks. Fortunately, Men’s Journal has you covered, with this list of the eight most common grilling mistakes — and advice from live-fire pros on how to avoid making them.
A Dirty Grill — Zakary Pelaccio and Andrew Knowlton
Like anything else, a grill needs cleaning. Here, the owner of Fish & Game in Hudson, New York, talks to MJ about grilling fish — but his wisdom applies to any protein. A clean grill means less sticking, which means the delicious crispiness won’t rip off when you remove your meat from the grill. If that’s not enough, a quick cleaning decreases the chance that some of the gunk on the grate will catch fire and burn your burger. As this editor from Bon Appetit puts it, “A dirty grill does not make beautiful food.”
Putting the Meat on Too Cold — Jeff Mauro
Taking a steak out of the fridge and slapping it on the grill doesn’t give your meat a chance to get settled. Let it come to room temperature before cooking, says the Food Network chef. “That way it doesn’t seize up all cold when it hits the grill,” he tells MJ.
Too Much Flipping — Bobby Flay
A lot of guys feel they need to stand by the grill, flipping their burgers. Don’t be one of them, says Bobby Flay. “If you keep flipping it, you’re going to get a gray burger or steak — because it will steam as opposed to searing and getting nice and crispy,” he told Insider. So, relax. Enjoy the party.
Too Much Poking and Prodding — Billy Oliva
Pushing down on a steak, or poking it with a fork, gets rid of the fat — that is, the flavor — the chef at Wall Street’s oldest steakhouse tells Business Insider. Just let it sit and let the fire do the work.
Too Much Heat — Rick Bayless
A grill that’s too hot could cause the outside of the meat to char before the inside is finished, Bayless told the Chicago Tribune.
Not Enough Heat — Tim Love
Before you put the meat on the grill, make sure to preheat the grate. The Texas barbecue chef tells the Food Network that if you don’t, you’ll forfeit “maximum opportunity for a crust or a sear.” Even though the flames on gas grills can heat up quickly, he adds, that doesn’t mean the grill itself is ready to go. According to Cook’s Illustrated, you should wait 15 minutes for a gas grill to heat up and five minutes for a charcoal grill.
Only Having One Temperature — David Burke
Too many people think heat is a one-size-fits-all for meat kind of deal. Not so, says the Iron Chef America contender in an interview with MJ. This is especially true if you’re cooking different kinds of meat on the grill — they won’t be done at the same time. So keep a low-heat zone to keep, say, your perfectly cooked chicken breasts so they won’t dry out before your steak hits medium rare.
Serving Too Quickly — Anthony Bourdain and Jan Birnbaum
Meat continues to cook even after it’s off the grill, the chef at EPIC Roasthouse in San Francisco tells Forbes. Or as Anthony Bourdain puts it (talking about steak) to Tech Insider, “Don’t fucking touch it.” Let it sit for five to seven minutes so the juices can distribute “themselves in a truly wonderful alignment.” You might be hungry, but give it some time before you start serving. Then, dig in.