Grilling season has officially started -- are you ready? I'm no expert, but I have been grilling long enough to know that cooking with fire is NOT the domain of men only. If you don't already, this could be the year for you to own that Weber grill. It's one of the easiest ways to cook food. Why do you think men like it so much?
Grilling isn't fool-proof, though. I've learned this the hard way. (Not that I'm a fool ... um, never mind.) Here are eight grilling mistakes I've made and how you can avoid them.
1. Failure to prep. Things can happen fast on the grill. I've been caught with burning meat and no tongs to move it -- and by the time I ran back inside for them, it was too late. Don't let this happen to you. Bring everything you'll need out to the grill at the beginning, even if you think you'll have time to grab it later on.
2. Flavoring with chemicals. Maybe it's just me, but I kind of feel like lighter fluid and regular briquettes taste and smell like toxic death. Why flavor your food with that junk? I've ditched the chemicals, and now I use a chimney to light my grill with wood briquettes. It makes such a difference -- now my food tastes like food and not petroleum.
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3. Not enough heat. It takes a while for those coals to get going. You need to burn them until they're white. Don't try to make miracles happen on a cold grill. ALSO: Take your meat out and let it warm up a little on the counter first. Don't throw cold meat on the grill.
4. Too much heat. On the other hand, you may not want to put your food directly over those hot coals. This is how we get chicken that's black on the outside, pink on the inside. Use your hottest heat for searing. For anything thick that needs to be cooked all the way through, move your food to a cooler part of your grill and plan for a longer cooking time.
5. Sauce overload. Don't go crazy with the basting. It's just going to drip off and sputter in the fire, or burn right on the meat. Baste lightly and toward the end of the cooking. I actually don't baste with sauce at all while grilling -- I leave it on the table as a condiment. But then, I like my meat to taste like meat.
6. Meat abandonment. You know what's sad? When you wander away to make lemonade and come back to the burning black death. Try and stick around while you food is cooking.
7. Death by poking. Spearing your meat causes juices to run out. And it's mean. I've tossed out my meat forks and now I just use tongs, gently. What's with all that poking and prodding people do? Unless you need to change the temperature or turn your meat, just leave it alone and let it cook.
8. Premature slicing. Your meat needs to rest a while before you tear into it. I know it smells intoxicating -- but resist! This allows the juices to set and makes for the most delicious food.
What are your worst grilling disasters?