The Ten Most Common Grilling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Photo by Erik Charlton via flickr
The coals need to be white before you start grilling.

3. Don't Properly Prepare Your Grill

You don't want to be like my fiancé and singe your eyebrows or eyelashes, so don't let the grill get too hot before opening the lid. At the same time, though, you must properly heat the grill (charcoal or gas) before cooking the food. For a charcoal grill, Killen says you need to burn the coals down until they are white (after you add the lighter fluid and start the fire) then put the meat on the grill.

4. Use Too Much Lighter Fluid

Speaking of lighter fluid, no one wants to taste chemicals when they bite into any food. After your coals become ashy or white in color, Killen says you need to use as little lighter fluid as you possibly can, and make sure that it burns enough before you start grilling.

Photo by Molly Dunn
Let the meat speak for itself.

5. Over-Marinate Before You Grill

Yeah, this shocked me too. But despite popular opinion, you should not heavily marinate your meat before grilling, especially with salt. Chef Goncalves says you don't need a lot of seasonings if you have a good piece of meat. He also says a lot of marinades have sugar, which burns on the grill.

Chef Killen notes that these store-bought marinades, or homemade marinades with lots of oil, vinegar, powdered seasonings and salt, actually take moisture out of the meat. "Season it very lightly," Killen says. "Let the steak or thing your grilling speak for itself. People go buy marinated fajitas in a bag and then they'll throw them on the grill. Those things are terrible. They're tender because they've got so much tenderizer and stuff in them, so of course they're going to be tender, but they're not that good."

Lightly season with olive oil, pepper and chopped garlic at first, then add your salt at the end of the cooking process, like Goncalves and Killen say.

6. Move and Flip Meat with Tongs

If you can't use tongs, then what else are you supposed to use? Chef Killen suggests using a heat-resistant glove so you don't puncture the meat or knock off seasoning. But, if you are nervous about using a heat-resistant glove, then gently use tongs to move or flip your meat.

Chef Killen also recommends using a pancake turner or large spatula to flip chicken. You can easily scoop up the entire bird without cracking into the wings or legs, resulting in a dry chicken.

"I always tell my staff to treat it like a baby," Killen says.

This story continues on the next page.

Location Info

Killen's Steakhouse

2804 S. Main, Pearland, TX

Category: Restaurant

Killen's Barbecue

3613 E Broadway, Pearland, TX

Category: Restaurant

Fielding's Wood Grill

1699 Research Forest Drive, Shenandoah, TX

Category: Restaurant

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FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Cutting into a steak does NOT make it lose its moisture and I can find multiple sources to back that up. I'm disappointed if Ronnie Killen actually said that.


By far the part we struggle with every single time we invest in beautiful VERY THICK filets (tenderloins) to grill is waiting to cut! Not necessarily cuz we're starving, but just for the simple fact that it's hard to let the grill run for what might be no reason at all for 10+min. If 1 or more steak isnt done enough, we'll need to throw it bk on a HOT grill. Doest help that my dad absolutely refuses to use a thermometer! Even bought him 1 for xmas & all he did was insist that surely it isnt accurate cuz meat wasnt done according to him (who tends to overcook most of what he grills, although we wont let it fly with steaks anymore...unacceptable !)


After your coals become ashy or white in color...use as little lighter fluid as you possibly can...

Why in the heck would anybody put lighter fluid on hot coals?

And far be it from me to disagree with Mr. Killen on how to grill meat, but I like a liberal amount of salt on my steak. Seasoned just before it hits the grill, of course. If you have a nice thick steak you've got a lot of meat there that won't be touched by seasoning; when you slice it, you're only going to have the salt on the edge, so I like a good amount. It's one of the few times I can rationalize using sea salt, too. Not so much that you have a coating of salt but the crunch of the charred meat with those big crystals of salt is really nice. 


It's a myth that you need to let your meat reach room temperature before cooking.  Here is article that did the research and tested both ways -

I'm sure that Chef Killen and Chef Goncalves have cooked 1000 times more steaks in their lives than most of us and can tell internal meat temp with a finger, but for the rest of a digital thermometer like a thermapen is a great device.


@Anse  J.C. Penny would never hire a person for store manager if the person salted their steak before they tried it.

Bruce_Are topcommenter


I followed your link. Not exactly scientific. One biased guy takes one steak and does one test and declares victory for himself.


@ball_go_far @Anse You shouldn't add salt at the table before trying your food because the chef should have already seasoned it before and during the cooking process.

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