We've all seen, smelled, eaten and regretted some mighty bad grilling mishaps over the years, and it's always such a shame. The meat is juuust a little overdone, under-seasoned, inedibly dry, or even reeking of creepy chemicals. With just a few tweaks, dinner would have been a winner.
This will not happen again. Not on our watch. Here is some of our best advice over the past two years.
"If you use a marinade, always be sure to pat your meat dry once you've removed it from the marinade. If marinated appropriately, the marinade will have already penetrated the meat with its flavor, sealing it inside. If the meat is too wet, you will create a steam effect and negate your grill efforts, not achieving that desired golden color.
Regarding marinade time frames, fish and shrimp need the least amount of time, about 1 to 2 hours, while beef, pork and chicken take longer, anywhere from 4 to 12 to 24 hours, depending on the cut. Place meat and marinade in a plastic Ziploc bag (with air removed) in the fridge."
Raise up the flavor
"In order to build layers of flavor in your meat, always start with a rub and finish with a good BBQ sauce. For a basic rub, I use a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, but use your imagination and be inventive with additional add-ins. When the meat's near done, the rub gives the BBQ sauce something to stick to, bringing out the flavor.
Always use the BBQ sauce towards the end of grilling, during the last 10 to 20 minutes, as BBQ sauces often have high sugar content, some more than others, and will burn off before your meat is done.
For a quick homemade BBQ sauce, grab some ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and honey -- this combination will give you a sweet/savory/sour flavor combination."
What's that stench from the other side of the fence?
You're globbing on sweet, bottled barbecue sauce at the beginning, rather than daubing it on -- sparingly -- at the end. The sugars in that stuff burn quickly and start to smoke. It smells like brimstone and tastes even worse.
Maybe you're using those awful little smoke pellets impregnated with microscopic shavings of "real wood" for an "authentic smoke flavor." Know what also brings great smoke flavor? Real wood. You can soak chunks and chips of hickory, mesquite or fruit wood in water or a bit of beer and fold them into a perforated foil pouch instead of setting toxic-smelling little chunks of chemicals on fire next to food you will be serving to people you love.
Get the gunk off
A couple of years ago I came across this tip, and it works like a charm every time. Once the grate is cool, wrap it in newspapers or paper towels that have been soaked in hot water with a healthy dose of a grease cutting detergent, Put the grate in a plastic garbage bag so the papers don't dry out, and leave it overnight.
The next day, more hot soapy water and little steel wool cleans everything right up in just a few minutes. Rinse well and let air dry, and then you're good to go the next time around. It make take a little longer if you wait several days, or it's been a while since the grate got a thorough cleaning. --Chris in New Mexico
Better beef makes a better burger
The type of beef itself is worth paying attention to first, i.e. 20-30% fat and grass-fed for burgers.
Outside of burning or overcooking the beef, what influences the flavor and texture (and whether you like the steak or not) more than anything is the origin of the beef -- the specific farm, breed, growing region, diet, aging time and technique, and the talent of those who raise and age it.
I used to blame myself for a crappy tasting steak. Nowadays, I know better. The steak or burger from one farm might appeal to me more than that from others. It's a matter or personal preference. If you want to have a reasonably consistent, pleasant beef experience it's important to know who raised & aged it and how. If you find one you really like, you can stock up the freezer with more. - Carrie Oliver
Smoke is no joke
When it comes to grilling I prefer to use chips that are not wet. Yes, wet chips do last longer but not by that much. Try this experiment. Take a couple of chips and soak them for 24 hours and then cut them in half. I'm willing to bet that the liquid only made it 1/16th of an inch.
A better way is to make a 'smoke bomb' from a single layer of aluminum foil. Put a handful of chips in the center and fold it over and seal. Make 2 to 3 1/4 inch holes and put it on the hot coals, but off to the side. You'll get that bit of smoky flavor and not have to worry about 'burning' through your chips. - GrillMasterNorthWest
Don't handle the meat too much. Form it into loosely packed patties that are slightly lower in the middle than on the sides. The dimple will even out as the meat cooks.
For the love of all that is holy, don't mash down with a spatula while the patties are cooking. Yes, it's big, manly fun to hear the tsssssssss sound as the juice hits the coals, but that's flavor you're wasting.