21 Grilling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Summertime is full of cookouts and barbecues. Throwing one of your own? If so, you better be sure you brush up on the most common grilling mistakes and how to avoid them. There are many grilling mistakes that novice grillers make on a daily basis. But, even the most experienced grillers can fall victim to mistakes from time to time.

To become an amazing griller, you must take a scientific approach to good grilling. Others think that all you need to do is fire up the grill and throw some meat on it, without any preparation. Don’t be like this. That’s where grilling mistakes happen. You do not want to commit any of these errors at your next party, so beware! Read on to learn the top 21 grilling mistakes to be sure that you don’t make these same missteps.

Top 21 Grilling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Forgetting to Season Your Meat Before Grilling

top grilling mistakes, forgetting to season your meatA regrettable decision would be to not season your meat prior to grilling. There are many great marinade recipes out there that you could try. If possible, marinate your steak or chicken the night before you are going to grill. This creates the need for pre-planning, but it’s worth it.

Your steak will have so much more flavor than if you did not marinate it beforehand. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you. Plus, even better than that, your steak will be a huge hit with your party or cookout. At the very bare minimum, season your steak with salt and pepper prior to grilling.

Not Cleaning the Grill Grates or Grids

top grilling mistakes, not cleaning the gratesOne of the most common grilling mistakes is to not clean up the grates or grids before you start grilling. Not cleaning the grill grates means that your food will stick to the food left from last night’s meal. Not only will this affect how your grilled food tastes (probably will not be positive), but it will also impact how your food sticks to the grates. When flipping the meat, it could rip or tear some of it off and stay on the grids.

As a result, it is important that you clean those grill grates. Use a grill brush to take care of this. The best tip is to perform the grill brushing during the preheating stage of grilling your next meal.

Running Out of Propane While Grilling

grilling mistakes - not having enough propaneHaving a big cookout? You better check to see if you have enough propane in your grill tank. There’s no bigger buzzkill for a party than realizing that you cannot serve your guests food. Don’t get caught having to go to the store to get a propane tank refill during the middle of your party.

Always check your propane tank level before you plan on using it. Most grills have a gauge on the propane tank, so you can easily see how much is left. If you’re low, you can keep a backup propane tank to use once you are officially out. Head over to your local grill store to get a refill in order to be prepared for this scenario.

Not Preheating the Grill Before Cooking

one of the biggest grilling mistakes is not preheating the grill enoughMany grillers think that once their grill reaches a high temperature, it is ready to cook. You should let the grill pre-heat even longer to heat up the grill grates. The grill might be producing a lot of heat, but the grill grates are still relatively cool. That means that your food will not receive the heat transferred directly by the grill grates. Your food will also stick to the metal. When this happens, your food tears and shreds when you flip or remove your meat from the grill. Who wants that?!

Your best bet is to cover the grill and let it preheat for at least 10 minutes to transfer heat to the grill grates. Some people say to preheat it even longer, maybe even 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the grill. Whether you choose to preheat your grill 10, 20, or 30 minutes, this will give your food a lesser chance of sticking to the grates on the grill.

Oiling the Grill Grates Instead of the Food You’re Grilling

top grilling mistakes - oiling your gratesGreasing up your hot grill grates before throwing food on the grill is a common grilling mistake. If you search online regarding this topic, you might find contradicting information. The thought is that greasing your grates will help keep your meat from sticking. However, the oil will smoke and carbonize. It can also cause dangerous flare ups as it drips down into the fire. This doesn’t help the meat taste very good and will affect the result of your meal.

Another option is to put some oil on the meat itself prior to placing it on the grill. This method will help your food stick less to the grates.

Putting the Meat on the Grill Too Cold

putting your meat on the grill too cold is one of the biggest grilling mistakesGrilling mistakes are avoidable if you are knowledgeable about what can ruin your grilled food. For example, if you put the meat on the grill when it is too cold, then the outside will finish well before the insides cook properly. This causes the meat to take much longer to finish and you increase your chances of burning the outside of the meat. When the outside is done, you will notice that the inside is not. Then, you have no choice but to keep grilling, increasing the odds of overcooking.

The solution to this problem is to allow your meat to come to room temperature prior to grilling it. This will give you a more even cooking process and less chance of charring the outside of the meat before the inside finishes. You should take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it sit, covered, for 15-20 minutes, prior to grilling.

Using Lighter Fluid on Charcoal

big grilling mistakes with charcoal - using lighter fluidWhen grilling on a charcoal grill, oftentimes people get the impression that you should squirt a lot of lighter fluid to get the fire going faster. After all, when you do this, the grill will erupt in a mushroom cloud of fire. Who wouldn’t want to do this?! The reality is that people who do this are making grilling mistakes. Lighter fluid will have a significant impact on how your food tastes. You may get a hint of gasoline on your food and no one wants that.

Instead, you should consider using a charcoal chimney. A charcoal chimney will take a little bit longer to light – you’ll need 20-30 minutes before the charcoal is white and ashy. But, this method will not affect the taste of your food. For a more extensive resource, check out this guide to using a charcoal grill.

Pushing Your Burgers Down with a Spatula

grilling mistakes - pushing burgers down with a spatulaOne of the biggest grilling mistakes with hamburgers is pushing the beef patties down with a spatula to create flare ups. We are not sure where this started, but novice grillers probably saw somebody else doing it and copied their bad habit. Or, it is just an urge that humans have. After all, fire has fascinated us forever.

Pushing the burger down causes the juices to come out of the burger. Then, the juices create those big flare ups, which engulf the meat. All this does is char the burgers and make them taste like rubber. You should avoid doing this, unless you want a gross burger. Only flip your burgers to avoid squeezing all of the important juices out.

Not Taking Advantage of All Available Grill Zones

big grilling mistakes - not using all of your zonesFiring up all burners of your grill to a high temperature and leaving it there for the entire grilling process can be problematic. If you’re cooking steak, you could burn the outside of your steak before it has even begun to fully cook the center as desired.

You could avoid this by using multiple zones on your grill. This is one of the bigger grilling mistakes. Not taking advantage of the different zones available on the grill. These grilling mistakes comes from not understanding how a grill works. You can turn one burner way up for the initial grilling and use another burner at a lower gauge. This gives you zones, or different spaces on the grill, with different temperatures. That way, if your steak is cooking too much, you can move your meat around to a separate area of the grill to avoid burning the outside of your food.

Creating Big Flames or Flare Ups Because You Think It Looks Cool

creating big flare ups is not cool - it is one of the big grilling mistakesFire is cool. It’s one of the big reasons we like to use a grill, a fireplace, or a fire pit. It’s in our nature as humans. However, creating huge flare ups on your grill is not really that cool, because it will not help the taste of your food. Small flames are fine, but large flames that engulf your meat can have a detrimental effect on the food. Additionally, big flare ups can be dangerous grilling mistakes too – you don’t want to potentially set a fire.

Flare ups are usually caused by fat dripping out of your meat, so to avoid this, trim off excess fat during your initial prep work before starting your grill. If you want to keep the fatty part of the meat, and oftentimes, you will, there is another way. If a flare up occurs while you’re grilling, try to move your food to another, cooler zone. After the flare up subsides, you can return it to that zone. And, as discussed in a previous grilling mistake, don’t press your burgers down with a spatula.

Not Utilizing Your Vents on Your Charcoal Grill

top grilling mistakes - not using charcoal grill ventsA lot of people using a charcoal grill for the first time do not realize what the vent is. To them, it might look like it is there for show. But, it is not. This vent can be used to control oxygen and heat flow within the charcoal grill. Depending on what you are cooking on the charcoal grill, you may want the coals to be hotter or cooler. Adjust the position of the vents to regulate the heat inside the grill. Our recommendation is to go through your charcoal grill’s manual to learn which positioning is best for the type of food you are cooking. Learning how to use your vent can help you avoid common grilling mistakes.

Not Having the Right Grill Tools (Or Not Knowing How to Use Them)

big grilling mistakes - not having or using the right grilling tools or grill accessoriesThis next grilling mistakes are a bit more general: not having the right tools available to you when you start grilling. There are certain grill tools that you need to have. Not having some of these grill accessories can prove to have adverse effects on your grilling performance. Don’t have a grill brush? You should get one to clean your grill. Don’t have a charcoal chimney to help you start and maintain a good charcoal fire? You should get one of those too.

You need to be aware of the right tools you should use when dealing with meat or food on the grill. When flipping your meat on the grill, you should use a spatula or tongs. Never use a fork. Puncturing the meat with a fork is unnecessary. Plus, it will let all the blood, flavor and juices leak out. This will affect the flavor of your steak, hamburger, or other kind of meat. There’s no need to commit these grilling mistakes if you have the correct grill tools available.

Opening the Lid Too Much to Check on Food

stop opening that grill lid - it is one of the biggest grilling mistakes out thereIs your meat done? We should check by opening the grill and looking! Okay, everything is progressing along quite nicely. Two minutes passes. I’m getting nervous – let’s check again! If this is something you do when you grill, you need to stop. Lifting the lid with a gas grill will cause it to lose heat and cook more slowly. This will affect how your meat cooks. For a charcoal grill, the opposite effect will occur. Oxygen will be allowed in, which will make the coals burn hotter, leading to burnt meat.

Here’s what you should do. Be patient and learn the times that you should be flipping your meat. If your recipe calls for flipping at 5 or 6 minutes, wait until then. Set a timer, so you are confident that you are following the correct procedure. Don’t just wing it, time it in your head, or flip at your whim. You need to be aware of the heat that can be lost or gained when opening the lid.

Putting Sauce on Meat Too Early

putting sauce on your meat too early is one of the grilling mistakes you need to be aware ofYou can make grilling mistakes with sauces too. Specifically, a common grilling mistake is putting your desired sauce, such as BBQ sauce, on your meat too early. If you put the sauce on your meat when it still has time left on the grill, the sauce starts to burn before your meat is even close to being done. This ruins whatever meat you are cooking. Your meal will go from a perfectly cooked to completely ruined piece of meat.

Instead, wait until the very, very end to put the sauce on your piece of meat. Otherwise, your dream of those fall-off-the-bone ribs will just be a dream.

Not Opening the Grill Away from Your Face

grilling mistakes that are dangerous - opening the grill lid by your faceBurning your face (or the hair on your face or head) would be one of the top grilling mistakes to avoid on this list, wherever possible. When you open the grill’s lid, you should always open it away from your face. Flames could potentially shoot out and you do not want to potentially burn yourself.

There is no way to tell when this might happen. You could burn yourself if your face is close to the grill as it opens. Don’t lose those eyebrows! So, please keep this in mind and be careful when grilling.

Cooking Too Many Things at Once

don't cook too many things at once, that is one of our top grilling mistakesSo, everyone at your cookout is looking for a different kind of meat. On the menu, you have steak, burgers, hot dogs, veggies, and chicken. With all these things, why not cook them all at once and get people their orders?

The reality is that these all require different temperatures. You could overcook one and under cook another. By trying to do too many things at once, you may not be able to get them all right. You should stick to grilling one type of food at a time and really getting it right. Cook one before moving to the next.

Not Using a Thermometer to Test if Meat is Done

grilling mistakes that most people make are not using a meat thermometerYour steak is almost done – at least you think it should be. But, how do you know for sure? You may have heard that you should poke the steak with your finger to determine if it is done. Or, perhaps you just cut into your steak to look at it. Both methods are wrong.

What’s better? Take the guessing out of it. Get yourself a meat thermometer. Then, learn what the temperatures are for rare, medium, and well done for each cut or size of meat. When you think your steak is done, follow the thermometer’s instructions to get an accurate temperature reading. This will be a far better solution than poking or cutting. You’ll also improve your chances of not under-cooking or over-cooking your meat, avoiding extremely rare, dried out, chewy and difficult to eat dinners.

Serving or Slicing the Food Too Soon

serving your food off the grill too soon is one of the grilling mistakes you need to stopAfter grilling your meat, you should not just cut right into it and serve. After cooking, you always want to let it rest. This will allow the juices to run back into the center. Waiting will allow those juices to thicken and redistribute within your food. More juices will stay within your meat and less juice spillage will occur when you cut into them.

So, you should wait about 10 minutes or more, depending on the size of the piece of meat, before cutting and serving.

Not Learning from Your Grilling Mistakes

So, you screwed up a steak by cooking it too long. Then, the next time, you under cooked it. Why not start keeping track of how you have cooked your meats and how you feel they have turned out? Chances are you will never become a grilling expert that can always cook by feel. But, if you can learn from your mistakes and take a scientific approach, you will avoid a lot of grilling mistakes. Start writing down your successes and failures, so the next time you need to do it right (when you are hosting a big party), it will go swimmingly, and everyone will rave about your grilling skills.

Don’t Forget to Turn Off the Propane Tank When You’re Done

One of the most dangerous grilling mistakes is to forget to turn off the propane tank when you are done grilling. At minimum, you could waste your propane. This will cost you more money on grilling in the long run. Worse, leaving the propane tank on is a huge fire hazard.

Whenever you are grilling, you should always monitor your grill. There is no telling what might happen if your grill is on and you are not watching it. Don’t set your house on fire. Or your deck. Do yourself a big favor and take grilling seriously. Don’t do other things while you are grilling and pay complete attention to the grill. Don’t forget to turn off the propane tank.

Not Having Baking Soda Nearby for Potential Grease Fires

Finally, you should be prepared for the worse-case scenario grilling mistakes: fires. You should learn what you need to do if a grease fire occurs. One of the best things you can use to smother a grease fire is baking soda. It would be wise to have this nearby if a grill fire occurs. Or, read your grill safety instructions to make sure that you know what to do in case of a fire.

Breakaway: Cape Cod’s #1 Grill & Patio Superstore

Now that you know all the grilling mistakes you have been making, it is time to correct them. And, Breakaway is here to help. We carry the grilling accessories, grill parts, and more, to help you become a grilling expert. From thermometers, to grill brushes, to other grill tools, we have it all to prevent grilling mistakes. Ask one of our “grillologists” at either of our stores and we will give you the guidance you need.

We also carry your most trusted grill brands, like Weber, MHP, or Big Green Egg. We carry all types of grills too, such as gas grills, charcoal grills, pellet grills, electric grills, and portable grills. Visit us in South Dennis or Mashpee, call us at 508-398-3831, or contact us below to learn which products we have that can help you dominate grilling.


Monday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday: Closed.

435 Rt. 134 South Dennis, MA 02660
Next to Mid Cape Home Centers

Phone: (508) 398-3831


Monday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday: Closed.

17c Trinity Place Mashpee, MA 02649
Next to Boston Interiors

Phone: (508) 539-1674