Cutthroat Patio: What to Do When Your Grill Sabotages You


As shocking as it might be to believe, sometimes it’s not a scheming rival chef who’s throwing a wrench into your carefully planned meal. Sometimes the metaphorical call is coming from inside the house – or outside on the patio, as the case may be. Here’s a quick rundown of our top 5 grilling mishaps, and how to avoid them.

1) Getting lit: In an ideal world, you'd have a chimney starter (our go-to way of getting coals lit when we’re grilling) — but if you don't, arrange the coals in a pyramid around a few crumpled sheets of newspaper, use a long match to light the newspaper, and then wait for the coals to turn white. Lighter fluid (and match-light charcoal, which is charcoal that has lighter fluid added) tends to add a harsh chemical taste to the food you’re grilling, and it's not our favorite.

2) Stuck food: Once your grill's hot, lightly saturate a paper towel with oil and, using tongs, swipe it gently over the surface of the grates. Also, food will stick less to a clean grill, and grills are easiest to clean when they're hot, so brush your grill down well once you're done cooking. 

3) Uneven cooking: Are you ending up with meat that's scorched through on the outside and raw on the inside? Build yourself a two-zone fire, either by banking charcoal more on one side than the other or by turning one side's burners on and the other's off — now you've got somewhere to sear and somewhere to roast, so everything ends up perfect.

4) Flaring up: Flare-ups are a pretty common side effect of cooking anything juicy. If the food is small and not touching the meat, just keep an eye on it, and know your cook time may be a little shorter than anticipated; if it's big, either move the food to the cooler zone of your grill (if you have one) or remove the food and cover the grill with its lid until the flare-up dies down. Some cooks like water spray bottles to tame flare-ups, but we've found that depriving flames of oxygen is generally a more-reliable and less-splattery way to go.

5) Overcooking: Just as with any other cooking method, remember that food will need to rest after it comes off the heat, and that its internal temperature will rise while that happens. Pull meats off the grill about 5 degrees below (or a few minutes before) where you'd like them to end up, and they'll do the rest on their own.

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