(MEDIA GENERAL) – Memorial Day is the unofficial start of grilling season. And though your trusty grill likely will get a workout over the course of a fun-filled summer, Memorial Day is one of the days where it simply must perform. No wants to remember Memorial Day as the time the grillmaster had to run to the local pizza joint because they messed up the meal.
Grilling pros have reached out to deliver these helpful tips for a Memorial Day meal everyone will remember – for all the right reasons.
In 2013, Cooking Light created a list of the most common grilling mistakes. I surveyed three barbecue connoisseurs and asked them to rank which mistakes were the most egregious. Not everyone is a barbecue pitboss, but if we can keep our hands at 10 and 2 and follow a few simple rules, anyone can deliver a quality grilled meal.
Here are our experts’ top mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t grill directly over a flame
Grilling directly over a flame only becomes a mistake when you’re not paying attention. Flares can cook the meat too fast and cause an unwanted char. But it also depends on what you are cooking.
“There are all types of grilling, so this really depends on what you’re cooking. For fish or meats where you want a quick sear or char on the outside and leave the inside rare (like a flank steak), grilling over a flame may be the way to go,” Matt Ramey, grillmaster and proprietor of Pine Shed Ribs in Lake Oswego, Oregon, said.
- Make sure the grill gets time to warm up
Inexperienced or impatient grillers will throw their meat on the grill before it has reached the appropriate temperature. For grillers that cook by the clock, this can pose a problem, resulting in undercooked food. Oftentimes, cookouts are a juggling act, with meats on the grill and sides and other foods being prepared elsewhere. A cold grill is an unexpected chainsaw in the cascade. Be patient and let the grill do what it needs to do.
- Don’t grill on a dirty grate
A clean grate is a sign of a prepared grillmaster. The last thing you want is “old scraps of meat, ash, etc. … on your meat,” said Tim Bly, owner of TJ’s BBQ by the Beach in Hawaii. You don’t have to worry about bacteria – that will be killed off in the cooking process – but the flavor is compromised. And come on, flecks of last week’s meal on your meat can be pretty gross.
- Don’t check the “doneness” of your meat by cutting into it
According to Carolyn Wells, executive director of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, prematurely cutting into meat “releases juices and results in unevenly cooked meat and a dried-out product.
“Don’t. Just don’t,” Ramey said. “An instant-read thermometer with a super-narrow probe is your friend!”
- Don’t add barbecue sauce too early
This is possibly the most common mistake, and according to the pros, one of the most costly.
“(Most) barbecue sauces contain sugar and tomatoes; therefore it will burn and blacken long before the cooking process is completed,” Wells said. “Sauce or glaze should be added during the last 15 minutes of the cooking process.”