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The 11 Biggest Grilling Mistakes Newbies Make, and What to Do Instead

This article contains a broad range of the biggest grilling mistakes many beginners make when they first start grilling. Don’t get discouraged if you are making a few. The intent here is personal growth, use any mistake as a learning experience. Each section contains vital information on what to do instead.
If you think you’re a newbie when it comes to grilling, check the list! If you might be making these mistakes chances are you are. This isnt the end of the world. Fixing your mistakes is very easy.
Some of these mistakes are nitpicky, whereas some can lead to serious illness or death! Use this list to make sure your starting your grilling hobby on the right foot.
Below is the list of mistakes newcomers often make. Each section contains information on why the mistake is considered wrong, along with ways to combat you from making them again.

1. Letting Gas Escape

There is a reason this is number 1. Gas is flammable, it also ignites instantly. There are many areas for gas to escape, for safety I’ve included more than one way.
Another reason is gas is money. Don’t let your money evaporate into thin air.
First lets identify a gas leak. If you walk out around your grilling area, and you smell gas, you may have a leak. If at any point during cooking you smell gas, turn off your burners.
The most common way of letting gas escape, is by improperly lighting the grill. Always visually confirm each burner is lit, and lit well. Use a grill lighter if your grills ignition isn’t working.
Gas can also escape from the source. If your connections are old or worn down, they may let gas escape. The most common mistake is not closing the gas valve after cooking.
Easy to fix, just turn the valve! If your gas is escaping due to equipment, look into getting it replaced. In the meantime disconnect all gas from the grill.
Handle all gas related issues and mistakes as soon as possible.

2. Not Cleaning Your Grill

Beside the fact a dirty grill is visually embarrassing, it can really mess with your cooking. A dirty grill will first and foremost affect the flavor of the foods. Giving foods a dirty burnt flavor.
Dirty grills give off lots of smoke. It can be a buzzkill at a party when you smoke out your guests. This smoke can also infuse with foods, adding flavors from past cooking into the mix.
Some of the dirt may be left over fats, which will cause flare ups. These old fats can be detrimental to your health when burned. Be sure to clean your grill.
The best way to avoid this mistake is to clean your grill!
Cleaning your grill is easy, here is how to clean your grill in two steps.
1. Heat Grill
2. Brush with a grill brush
A good grill brush is going to save you a lot of trouble. A good one can be found on my Best Grill Brush page, and you’ll see it’s a sturdy one. It’s got medium-soft wire bristles, which are going to clean the grill without ruining the grates.
Any tough messes can be easily cleaned by simply dipping your grill brush in water. The water creates steam, which breaks up the mess.
You don’t have to clean after cooking, it is actually recommended that you don’t. Wait the grill has cooled and the fats have solidified.

3. Keeping the Lid Open

Unless you are grilling super thin steaks, or delicate seafoods, you shouldn’t open that lid. Keep that heat where it needs to be. There are certain times you need to open the lid, so research your foods.
My personal rule for the lid is as followed. If your foods are thicker than half an inch, cook them with the lid closed. Anything thinner and you dont require the heat, just the sear.

4. Not Preheating the Grill

This is the most important step when grilling. Forgetting to preheat your grill can give you some serious issues. First of all preheating the grill kills any bacteria that may be present on your grill.
Secondly preheating the grill makes cooking easier. Foods sear faster, and cook faster. Placing foods on a cold grill will give you less than adequate results.
Preheating your grill is easy. Turn on your grill, use medium heat, and close the lid. Wait fifteen minutes and check. If the grill isn’t hot by then just wait a few more minutes.

5. Using the Wrong Cookware

Using the wrong cookware can really damage your grill and put you in danger. Most grills emit intense heat, over an open flame. Anything that can melt should be avoided.
My suggestion is to use only metal only tools when grilling. Such as stainless steel. A good collection is found on my Best Grill Tools page, all of them sturdy metal.
Using plastic materials can damage your grill. A friend of mine ruined her grill by letting plastic melt and build up on her burner. After a few melted spatulas later, her burners were completely blocked.
A quick fix would have been burn off the plastic or scrape it off. If you ignore the buildup of stuff on the burners you will have a problem.
To avoid this issue use non melting kitchen tools.

6. Improperly Handling Foods

Improperly handling foods can lead to illness. Certain foods are prone to foodborne illness, such as chicken and pork. Raw foods should never come into contact with cooked foods.
You can have cross contamination happen at any step. When storing the foods wrap them in plastic. This keeps any drippings are droppings from touching the food directly.
Another area for contamination is cooking. Use two separate plates, one for raw and one for cooked. Placing cooked foods on a raw food plate can lead to problems.
The last area I can think a rookie would make a mistake is with the tools. Use separate tools for handling raw foods and cooked. If you lack multiple tools you can simply give your current item a quick wash after handling raw foods.
If you remember that cooked and raw must remain separate than you should never make this mistake again.

7. Wasting Gas

Gas may seem plentyful but that’s not the case. The gas you need is always too low, unless you just got the tank. I’ve found that when I expect to have gas is when I don’t.
Don’t add to your gas lose, keep the burners low and make sure the valves are closed after cooking.
Gas can escape if the valves are left open. Turning a full tank into a half full overnight, with no use!
The most likely place you’re losing gas is through the burner. If you turn your burners on high and keep them there you will be wasting gas. Very few foods require a long high heat.
Sear on high, but cook on medium. The heat is still there, unless you kept the lid open. Don’t add to your gas waste because you can’t be bothered to turn your burners down.

8. Storing Foods Incorrectly

This may seem like a null mistake. Just put the foods in the fridge and wait. That last part is true if you do everything leading up to it correctly.
Imagine marinating foods. If your marinating in a bag and the bag has a hole in it, you risk major cross contamination.
All your foods should be air tight, and secure while storing. They also should be wrapped in a food grade plastic wrap to keep any free falling foods from touching the food.
I marinade foods in one liter ziplock bags. I always move the meats around in the bag to ensure there is no leakage.
Double check your wrapping and that the foods are secure to avoid this mistake.

9. Not Learning

You need to keep learning! In every aspect in life. Grasping the basics is not an excuse to stop learning. It’s a reason to continue and grow!
You are currently researching grilling, why else are you reading articles such as these? You should continue that research and learning process for the rest of your time grilling.
Some of my biggest education has come not from school, or from work. It has been passed down to me by people who know more about grilling and self exploration. Find some passion and explore what you are cooking. After all you get to eat it.
Research different foods, try new techniques. Add to your skills and watch as you grow from a beginner, into a master chef.

10. Rushing

It can be overwhelming to start grilling. If you are planning a first time, or only have grilled a couple times, than slow down. It’s easy to start rushing without realizing it.
Like the drummer from your favorite band, stay tempo, keep pace. Rushing will lead to continued mistakes. From cuts to burns, I’ve seen it all happen while rushing.
Give yourself ample time before you begin grilling. If you need to prep foods add some extra time. If you lack time there are very simple ways to make it up. Most stores sell meats and vegetables pre cut, or trimmed.
Most of the time these options are more expensive. At best you may find it to be the same price as the unprepared counterpart. My recommendation for everyone is to check the price of both. Do you want to save time or money.

11. Mishandling Fuel

No matter what fuel type you use, you can mishandle it. For example if you are new to pellet grilling, do you store your pellets inside? Are they dry? Can Rainwater escape, or does it collect on top of the pellets.
The mishandling of certain fuels can have some dangerous outcomes. I have broken down proper handling below, for three major types of fuel. If you are making these mistakes you should follow the instructions for safety.
● Store in a cool and dry place
● Close valve when not in use.
● Don’t pour water to extinguish, this can warp your grill. It can also let off a very hot steam which may burn you.
● Let cool without grate, lid closed.
● Spray with small amounts of water.
Wood Pellets
● If possible store pellets inside.
● If outside use a tarp, secured to the ground.
● Keep pellets elevated off ground. (Inside or Outside)
● Keep top of tarp slanted, allowing rain water to run off.
Making any of these mistakes doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. At some point everyone made at least one of these mistakes, myself included. Use the experience as a chance to grow.
Today everyone is about self growth, success. Failure is not even considered as an option, but without it you wouldn’t grow. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all. Remember that cooking is about having fun, bringing people together, and eating some amazing foods!Hope this list of the biggest grilling mistakes has helped you!