18 Commonly Committed Grilling and Smoking Mistakes You Should be Aware of

Smoking and grilling meat ought to be fun, yet if you're a beginner, it can feel daunting and like there is an excessive amount of things you need to learn.

In the world of cooking, both grilling and smoking are an artistic field to prove oneself. Claiming oneself a BBQ lover usually doesn’t satisfy the person until the perfection in taste appears and it can take many years of practice to master the art of barbecuing.

It’s important to be aware of common errors people make when grilling and smoking so that you can look out for them and prepare yourself and try to get it right.

So, let’s look at some of the common mistakes and errors made when learning to grill and smoke meat, so we can try to get it right the next time we host a BBQ.

Some Most Occurring Mistakes

Here, we have enumerated some of the most common mistakes that people often get into while smoking and grilling meat. Taking care of these should help you undergo the transformation from beginner to pro griller!

1. Incorrect Tools And Materials Use

It is found that both experts and newbies tend to fall into this mistake.

The overuse of tongs when grilling is a very common mistake. People may use them to turn pizzas, flip fish, brisket and burgers. Don’t get me wrong - tongs are great, but they should not be the only tool in your grilling tool kit!

A good BBQ spatula is a must have tool for any BBQ or grill. Perfect for flipping burgers and much less likely to damage your fish fillets than tongs.

A good size spatula is also useful for turning pizzas, although, if your pizzas are large we’d recommend having a proper pizza peel at hand too.

So, keep your tongs for hot dogs, sausages, ribs, steaks, chicken and skewers and get the right tools to handle everything else.

2. Using Lighter Fluid to Light Charcoal Briquettes 

When you want to get your charcoal lit in a hurry, it can be tempting to use lighter fluid. While this will certainly work, it’s dangerous and we don’t recommend it.

Lighter fluid and food don’t go well together and the smell of the fluid can permeate through your meat affecting the taste and the texture.

Instead, it is better to use a chimney starter to light up the charcoal briquettes. We know it’s an extra step in the process but the extra effort is worth it and your meat and guests will thank you for it.

3. Using Wet Wood Chips Or Chunks 

It’s important that you don’t let your wood chips become wet. If they are left out in the weather and do get wet, you must allow them to dry before attempting to use them in your grilling or smoking efforts.

Wet wood chips or chunks will severely slow down the cooking process as they will be cooler and thus take a longer time and more energy to get to the required temperature.

Smoking food is a slow and lengthy process at the best of times, wet wood chips will really slow this process down and make it harder for you to keep track of your cooking time.

4. Making Mistake In The Wood Selection

Note that the flavor of the food you have planned to grill and smoke is dependable on the wood you are choosing.

Ripe wood of any tree will provide the best possible flavor. Vice versa, unseasoned or the green wood will affect the expected texture of the food.

Green woods also don’t burn clean as the seasoned woods do. Therefore, using oak, hickory, maple, apple, etc. or any other seasoned hardwood will prove a better choice.

5. Over Adjusting The Temperature

One must know the best use of the device in which he/she will grill or smoke the food. It is necessary to maintain a medium or high-medium temperature.

You should never just put it on the highest heat possible thinking that it will cook your meat quicker that way. Meat cooked quickly at super high heat will be less juicy and tough and more likely to have uneven cooking, with some areas burnt to a crisp but potentially not cooked through properly.

It is also important to maintain the temperature not too low, because it will make the procedure lengthy. To control the temperature, closing and opening the vent can be the best technique to accomplish temperature strength on a normal flame broil.

You need to keep in mind that your grilling temperature will fluctuate depending on the recipe. So, it’s important to read the user manual for your barbecue or smoker and familiarize yourself with the best ways to control the temperature.

6. Peeking The Lid Too Often

Excessive peeking should be avoided to maintain barbeque perfection. It interrupts the flow of required oxygen which maintains the taste excellence.

If someone keeps peeking too much, it will also delay the cooking time. As to checking the food when the lid is open each time, it will make the temperature fall from twenty to thirty degrees. So unnecessary peeking must be eliminated.

To dodge this hitch, use a remote thermometer after placing the meat in your grill.

Wait until your food is cooked to the approximate thermometer indications, maybe check on it once, but otherwise leave it alone and let the grill or smoker do its thing.

7. Regulation of Fire And Air Vents

They’re often overlooked by backyard grillers, but it’s important to look after the air vents. Sometimes, lower air vent gets blocked and lack of airflow makes the wood start smoldering. This causes unwanted smelly smoke.

Sometimes you might need to open the upper air vent to help regulate the flow of air through the lower air vent.

8. Wrong Conception of Making Excessive Smoke 

When smoking meat, obviously some smoke must be produced to get the job done. But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the more smoke the better.

Excessive smoke doesn’t equal excellent barbecue results. Beginners, especially, often make the mistake of adding too much wood resulting in huge amounts of smoke which is unpleasant for your guests and not ideal for your meat.

Excessive smoke creates an unexpected intense aroma, which makes the meat disgusting to eat sometimes. Oppositely, if you manage to maintain the right amount of smoke then your BBQ food will be delicious.

It is also necessary to understand that keeping too low smoke supply is also not expected in this process. At least, it should maintain a level of consistency with the food you are preparing. It is better to keep the upper air vent open and let the air and smoke flow free.

9. Hood Thermometer Observation Technique

Many people make a silly mistake thinking that the thermometer is on the perfect location of the grill’s lid. This placement of the thermometer gives a slightly different temperature reading as it is placed a bit distant from the grill gate.

In most cases, thermometer placement in the grill gate is very cheap. Therefore, it often shows the temperature of its above space atmosphere. Hence it shouldn’t be trusted 100% as it lacks accuracy.

It is crucial to get an accurate temperature reading while smoking meat. So, one must not compromise with a good quality smoker thermometer - it is well worth the small expense.

10. Quick Cooking And Some Other Technical Issues 

It’s important to remember that different foods are prepared and cooked at different rates and times.

You cannot just expect to throw all of your different prepared meats onto the grill or into the smoker at the same time and expect them all to be cooked in the same time frame.

Some level of cooking expertise and a familiarity of ingredients is very important when grilling or smoking, for example chicken may be quicker to cook, and be cooked at a lower heat, than a thick steak. It’s important to know what you are cooking and adjust your temperature and cooking time accordingly.

11. Being Impatient

It’s true - impatience can spoil your barbecue!

Everything may be perfect - amazing salads and side dishes ready to go, guests with drinks in hand waiting for the feast. But, if you’re impatient and don’t allow enough time for the meat to cook, or you keep peeking at it and therefore slow down the cooking process, the highlight of your BBQ, the meat, may be ruined!

12. Making Mistake In Meat Selection

It’s important to buy the right meat for the job. Particularly if you’ll be entertaining guests, don’t compromise on the quality of the meat you purchase.

While we all like to save money where we can, your grilling and smoking efforts may be wasted if the meat isn’t tip top quality.

13. Beginner Experiments Without Prior Knowledge 

You may be a barbeque lover but if you are preparing a barbeque or smoking meat for the first time, then it is better to learn some important stuff first.

Read articles, watch YouTube and ask friends and experts to learn tips and advice on grilling and smoking meat. You don’t want to buy an expensive piece of meat and put it into a smoker without knowing what you are doing.

Learn everything you can about your smoker and how to maintain the correct temperature before potentially wasting an expensive piece of meat.

14. Not Preparing The Smoker By Preheating

Whatever meat or recipe you are preparing, it’s very important to preheat your smoker before adding the meat. Then you can be sure that your meat gets the full amount of time required, at the right temperature to achieve the best results.

So, you’ll have to heat the smoker properly to the required temperature before the smoking process can begin.

15. Losing Control On The Grill Internal Temperature

You may try every possible way to keep the required temperature but sometimes you may fail to do so because of sudden weather changes.

Many times the weather outside may have a sudden temperature fall or a strong wind blows. So one must see if everything is okay inside or not.

If a temperature drop occurs then it must be corrected instantly to keep the process going.

Many smokers are not equipped with special monitoring systems, so if yours is not, it’s important to check on it occasionally to make sure the temperature is still OK.

Sometimes it may run out of charcoal or wood which would also cause a dramatic change in temperature so, again, it’s best to always keep an eye on it and make sure everything is OK.

16. Changing Grills Setting Too Often 

While it can be tempting to fiddle with the controls and continually change temperature settings, this will usually just slow down the whole process.

Opening the lid frequently and changing the air vent setting too often may cause a sudden rise in temperature. Especially when smoking meat, consistency in temperature is important for good results.

Therefore, if you want to maintain the temperature and control the whole smoking process better, it is better not to change the setting too often.

17. Not Allowing The Meat To Rest Before You Bring It Out

Many people don’t even know that letting meat rest is a very important part of the cooking process. It seems counterintuitive, afterall, resting the meat might allow it to get cold, why not serve it piping hot and fresh? Trust me (and all good Chefs), if you want tender, juicy meat, you need to let it rest after cooking.

No matter how it has been cooked, grilled, smoked or roasted, all meat benefits from some resting time. If you’ve had to wait a few hours for the meat to cook, surely you can wait 10-15 minutes more for the meat to rest.

If you have never tried this technique before, then please, you must give it a try.

Instantly cutting the meat often spoils the flavor and it will not remain as juicy as you want it to be. If you wait a while patiently, you will get much juicier, tastier meat.

18. Using A Single Cooking Zone 

When you are using a single cooking zone, the risk of undercooking will appear. As you are cooking, take care of both sides of the meat. Or else, one side will be over cooked and the other side will remain raw.

Often grills will have different hotplates that you could use at different heat settings. It’s a good idea to utilize this function if your grill has it. You could cook chicken and meats requiring a lower heat in one cooking zone and use a hotter hotplate for steaks and sausages.

No matter how experienced you are, grilling and smoking mistakes are going to happen from time to time. But, there’s no need to fear mistakes as long as you learn from them to help you to do better next time.

Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas on the types of mistakes some people commit when grilling and smoking and this has armed you with the knowledge of things to avoid.

In any event, no doubt you will enter your next BBQ with the confidence to at least eliminate some, if not all, of the above mistakes and, therefore, will manage to host a fantastic BBQ!

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