Barbecuing is a favourite leisure activity for Germans. The topic of barbecuing goes far beyond simply grilling sausages and of course this also increases the possibility of making barbecue mistakes. Especially at larger parties with different types of barbecue food, important details are easily overlooked and the disappointment is much greater than when barbecuing for just one or two people. Things can quickly get hectic, especially if you haven’t prepared properly for the barbecue. That’s why everything needs to be well planned, because time pressure or a hectic pace can turn an otherwise very enjoyable hobby into stress and almost invite barbecue mistakes. It makes the barbecue day easier if a lot of things have already been done the day before. As barbecues are usually held at the weekend, it is also important to have everything in stock before the shops close on Monday. If necessary, some forgotten items can still be obtained from a petrol station, for example if there is not enough charcoal. Even gas cylinders are offered by some petrol stations, but replacing a defective gas hose or pressure regulator on Sundays can be very difficult. It is therefore essential to carry out a functional check with enough time to replace it. It is also best to clean the barbecue the day before the barbecue. You may also be interested in our article on pyrolysis.
The worst barbecue mistake is the use of fire accelerants. Anyone who lights their barbecue fire with spirit, petrol, paraffin or other liquid fire accelerants not only destroys the desired smoky aroma on the barbecue food, but also puts themselves and other people in danger. Even property damage such as house fires can be caused by this irrational behaviour. Due to the dangers of fire accelerants when barbecuing, we have written a separate article on this topic entitled “Lighting the barbecue with alcohol – mistakes with consequences”.
Planning – preparation
Planning naturally involves knowing the number of people and the food you intend to grill. Bear in mind the space required on the barbecue grill and the different cooking times. You can find some tips on this on our page “Ideal barbecue grill size”. Always plan a little too much time rather than too little. Thicker pieces of meat take longer to cook and finish cooking than thin meat. You must also allow sufficient time for preheating (at least 30 minutes). Placing meat too early on a grill that is not yet really hot is a common grilling mistake. Not allowing the barbecue to cool down to the desired temperature after preheating is another. If you plan the wrong times, you will soon be caught up in the rush.
Which barbecue gas cylinder to use? a lot of things can be considered during preparation that will be time-consuming later on. Unless you have an electric barbecue, you need to make sure you have enough fuel. Of course, there must be enough fuel for the entire planned barbecue time (plus a reserve). With solid fuels such as charcoal or wood, this is easy to manage. Gas cylinders should be checked for their fill level and a spare cylinder would be a good tip. To check the fill level, see our page “Checking the gas cylinder fill level”. As barbecues are usually held in the garden, long journeys to the kitchen are often necessary. If you have already thought about everything you need in advance and put it near the barbecue, you can save yourself these trips and thus time and searching. This includes the necessary materials, spices, barbecue cutlery and accessories as well as tools if, for example, the gas cylinder needs to be changed. If the barbecue goes on into the dark, adequate lighting and a torch (with full batteries) are advisable. Depending on what time the barbecue starts, it makes sense to make some preparations the day before. Ingredients or side dishes can be cut and weighed out in advance.
One barbecue mistake is salting too early
Salt removes the liquid from meat or fish. So if you salt your barbecue food 1 or 2 days in advance, you run the risk of the meat being too dry. There is even a debate among barbecuers as to whether salting and seasoning should be done at all before barbecuing. The different results when seasoning or salting before or after are a matter of taste. Everything that is added to the food before grilling is also exposed to the high heat of the grill. This causes salt or spices to change the flavour, but many people like this. If you season or add salt afterwards, you can dose better and better anticipate the flavour effect. You should also take into account the different tastes of your guests, who may prefer to season their own food.
Oil for barbecuingSuitable oil
If you have made a plan of what you want to grill, you also need to know the appropriate grilling temperatures. However, it is a common barbecue mistake if the oil used is not suitable for the desired temperatures. Due to the different boiling points of individual oils, the wrong oil can cause unpleasant smoke development, which has a negative effect on the barbecue flavour. The most commonly used oils and their smoke temperatures:
Refined peanut oil (hot-pressed) approx. 230°C
Unrefined peanut oil (cold-pressed) approx. 130°C
Refined rapeseed oil approx. 220 °C
Unrefined rapeseed oil 130-190°C
Refined olive oil up to 220 °C
Unrefined olive oil 130-175 °C
Refined sunflower oil 210-225 °C
Unrefined sunflower oil approx. 105 °C
Avocado oil up to 260 °C
Palm kernel fat approx. up to 220 °C
Unrefined walnut oil 160 °C
So if the oil matches the temperatures, another barbecue mistake is avoided.
No holes in the meat
A barbecue fork is often used carelessly to turn the pieces of meat. However, this creates perforations which allow the juices to run out of the meat. However, the meat should remain tender and juicy. Grilling tongs or spatulas prevent the meat from drying out, as they do not need to be inserted into the meat when turning.
Don’t turn too often
A popular barbecue mistake is frequent turning. The idea behind frequent turning is to cook the inside without burning the outside. However, exactly the opposite is achieved. Constant turning causes the internal temperature of the food to constantly drop. In the worst case, the inside is still raw, which can even be dangerous with poultry, for example. Food should not be turned more than 4 times. The desired sear is also achieved much better if the food is left on one side of the grill rack for longer. Don’t forget the narrow sides when branding. Just 1 minute on the grill rack at a 45° angle is usually enough for this. By not turning too often, the desired crust is created on the meat.
Using wood chips correctly
If you want the typical wood flavour on your food, but don’t have the right grill for wood or simply don’t have the right wood, you can use wood chips. But here, too, barbecue mistakes are possible. If you simply throw wood chips into the flames, you will only have a brief pleasure or you will need a lot of them. To prolong the aromatic effect of wood chips, they should be soaked in water for several hours beforehand. This makes them last much longer. If you want to extend the effect even longer, you can also wrap them in perforated aluminium foil. This way, the desired smoke will be available for longer. Woodchips should also not be used too late, as the flavour on the meat will then hardly be noticeable. The flavour of the wood chips must of course match the food. The same applies to the use of wood types, for example for a smoker. See also our article “Smoker – which wood to use”. There you will learn, among other things, which wood is used dry (stored dry for 2 years) and some wood (for example resinous) is not used at all.
Too much of a good thing
Especially at larger barbecues or with a larger number of guests, people like to use too much. Many different dishes can be prepared in several variations on a barbecue. However, it is also a typical barbecue mistake to prepare everything in one barbecue. The sources of error increase significantly as a result and time pressure quickly builds up due to too many different cooking times. You should not experiment here either, but use the food you already have experience with. It is better to offer fewer different types of food and keep control than to offer too much, which is then perhaps only half cooked or already charred. You can gradually demonstrate the variety of grilling on other barbecue days, so you don’t always grill the same thing for your guests and yourself.
Measuring the barbecue temperatureTemperature control
Avoid excessive temperature fluctuations. Meat reacts sensitively to this and can cook unevenly or dry out quickly. Thermometers for checking must also be able to measure the temperature range on your barbecue, as there are considerable differences. Several barbecue thermometers are ideal for measuring different zones on the barbecue. It is particularly important to measure the core temperature of the meat. The optimum temperature must be approached slowly, as the cooling time if the temperature is too high generally takes longer than the reheating time if it is too low. When using pieces of wood, start with smaller logs (quick burn time) and then use the larger pieces of wood with higher heat development. In this context, frequently opening the barbecue lid is also a typical barbecue mistake. This affects the constant temperatures and extends the cooking time. Pieces of meat must be placed at a distance from each other so that the heat can flow around them from all sides. If pieces are on top of each other, cooking is no longer even. If you use the recommended temperatures from a cookery book, cool ambient temperatures can lead to changes in grilling times.
Cutting meat correctly
If meat is cut along the fibre, it becomes tougher. You should therefore avoid this and cut the meat across the fibre. This will make it much more tender. The grain must therefore be checked before cutting. Sharp knives are of course also a must when grilling, otherwise the meat will tear unattractively.
Different cooking zones
Use the available burners on a gas barbecue to achieve different temperature zones for grilling, post-cooking or keeping warm. This is more difficult with a charcoal barbecue. Stacking the charcoal at different heights helps here. Here too, several barbecue thermometers provide information at a glance. Many thermometers require batteries. Check them before closing time and make sure you have a spare.
Sweet becomes bitter
Honey or sugar is used for many marinades. However, it is important to pay close attention to the temperature and cooking time. Sugar and honey tend to caramelise quickly when heated and then burn. This does not provide the desired sweetness, but rather spoils the overall flavour. If you don’t want to make things unnecessarily difficult for yourself or prefer to avoid any additional risk, you should do without sugar or honey.
If you take a closer look at our Grill-Kenner.de website, you will be well equipped for anything. You should not assume failure, but you should allow for it. Something can always happen that was not planned for. That’s why it’s good to have an alternative. For example, if you end up with bad meat or meat that can no longer be kept, the barbecue day doesn’t have to be a lost cause. Take a look at our article on the pizza stone, perhaps it would be a good alternative and the barbecue day can be saved after all.
Meat needs to rest
A common barbecue mistake is to serve the meat straight from the hot barbecue. However, the heat has drawn the juices inwards, making the outer layer relatively dry. A short resting time of 5 minutes allows the juices to redistribute in the meat and it tastes juicy all over.
The difference between grilling and barbecuing
Anyone who thinks grilling and BBQ are the same thing is making a mistake. Grilling is mainly about higher temperatures (approx. 250 °C) directly over the fire. BBQ utilises the heat of the smoke (approx. 85-165°C). BBQ hardly dries out and is more tender than grilled meat. A lid distributes the heat and smoke around the meat and creates the desired smoky flavour. The cooking time is longer with BBQ, which must be planned for accordingly. However, it is also cooked more gently.
Barbecuing is better with beerDeglaze with beer
We have already provided you with some information on the topic of beer as a marinade in our barbecue beer article. However, it is generally a barbecue mistake to pour beer unrestrainedly over the food and ash. This causes the ash to swirl up and land where it shouldn’t, namely on the food. It will get very steamy and not necessarily smell good. Other marinades and spices will be washed off the food by the beer. Using beer as a barbecue spice is certainly not to the taste of every barbecue guest. There are often children at a barbecue.
There are various cool boxes on the market. They are practical for cooling small quantities of drinks, salad or food. However, the small dimensions can quickly lead to the need for several cool boxes. The cheapest cool boxes require ice packs that have previously been frozen in the freezer. A barbecue mistake can be avoided here if you also remember to freeze spare batteries. Especially at high ambient temperatures and due to the frequent opening of the box, they quickly lose their cooling effect. If you have a spare in the freezer, you can maintain the cooling effect. Cool boxes must not be left in direct sunlight. A wet towel on the chest creates additional cooling time through evaporative cooling.