12 Mistakes Beginners Made Planning Their First Barbecue And How To Avoid Them

The time is here. You have bought a new grill and wanted to show them off to your friends. Or, you do remember you have a grill, somewhere in the basement. You dusted it off and invited friends and you suddenly remember you haven’t grill in years!

Have no fear! These are what you should know.

I Learnt To #1. Buy More Food

This will happen. Usually, when you are hosting your first BBQ, you will want to err on the safe side. Moreover, have you considered that the meat you grilled will shrink? A significant portion of meat contains moisture – about 80 percent of it. During the grilling process, the heat will cause the moisture to evaporate, and that patty you were grilling, shrunk.

How to resolve it? By purchasing a lot more or make more than usual. You won’t have to worry about running out of food. You are hosting your first BBQ party and chances are, you would want to be perceived as very hospitable.

People tend to eat more than they usually do at parties, such that overeating is actually an issue.

So consider this and whatever amount that you are thinking, double it. FoodNetwork has a guide on how to plan for food in your upcoming BBQ. 


I Learnt To #2. Use Both Direct And Indirect Heat

Have you seen Burger King’s commercials? The constant touting of flame-grilled WHOPPER might have left a deep impression so much that some may have only forgotten about the existence of indirect heat. Also, you do not want flaming coals, you want glowing ones.

The sad reality is the fire will burn through your steak’s surface while leaving the core barely touched. Thinking that using tin foil would do the trick like cooking corn on the cob? It would burn right through the foil and scorch the kernels – more like corn in the bin.

How to resolve it? Distribute the charcoal unevenly. Yes, you heard that right. You would need to spread 3/4 of it on one side and 1/4 on another. The high heat area will be used for grilling meat. The other would be used for grilling flame-sensitive food such as vegetables.


I Learnt To #3. Use The Right Skewers

Faced with the problem of bamboo skewers turning to ashes once it hit the grates? There are some that advocates soaking those skewers in water for about 20 minutes to protect them from the flame. Well, that is a myth. Bamboo skewers can’t absorb that much water and no matter how soaked they are, under a direct flame, they will turn to ashes in a matter of minutes.

How to resolve it? By using both metal skewers and bamboo skewers. For meat or any foodstuff that needs to be in the high heat area for a longer period of time (read point 2), you would want to use metal skewers. For those that use indirect heat, it is okay to use un-soaked bamboo skewers.


I Learnt To #4. Glaze The Sauce Only At The End

For many kinds of condiments such as BBQ sauce, one of the ingredients would usually be sugar. Sugar burns at the temperature of 265F (130C) and if apply them at the start, the sauce will start to burn and turn into a layer of additional flavoring for your chicken – just taste awful, that’s all.

How to resolve it? It has been said many times. Sauces or marinades can hardly penetrate beyond the surface of the meat. Apply the sauce near the end of the cooking process for maximum flavor. 5 minutes prior to serving is good.


I Learnt To #5. Not Cook Too Many Things At Once

Everyone has different preferences for food. Some like a good burger, some a turkey, others – sausages. A great idea is to cook everything at once. Why not, right? It is a great idea. It saves time and everyone can get placated at the same time.

It doesn’t work this way. You may have a big grill, but you don’t have more than a pair of hands. What will happen is the sausages will get burnt one side of the face, but perfectly fine on the other like Harvey Dent. The turkey is under-cooked, and you forgot to glaze the burger patty.

How to resolve it? Some might disagree with me. Personally, I do not grill more than two items at any one point in time. Why not one? If I am the only attendee at my party, one item at a time is probably alright. If there is a dozen of your friends, you probably do not want to keep everyone waiting. The only exception is when everyone has the same preference – hardly likely.


I Learnt To #6. Not Start Grilling Before The Charcoals Are Ready

Have you seen someone doing this? He will light up the charcoal. Then, before the coals are fully grey, he will pour them out of the chimney and into the base. The flame starts burning through the food he threw without thinking. Immediately, he panicked, starts to pick up the raw food one by one, ruining some of it. Who’s he? Admittedly, me.

How to resolve it? Have more patience. Yes, your guest may be hungry but wait for the charcoal to turn fully grey and glowing before grilling. The temperature is more even and easier to control. Don’t be like me.


I Learnt To #7. Hydrate Often

Barbecuing not only takes the moisture out of your food, but it also takes moisture out of you too. You may be too engrossed in searing that perfect crust or grilling that perfect burger and forgot about yourself. BBQ food is usually high in sodium as well, add to that, you can a dehydrated chef.

How to resolve it? It is generally a good practice to constantly hydrate yourself. What is a good sign that you are not drinking enough water? When your friends look at your dried, pale lips and ask if you are alright? That is the surest sign that you have neglected yourself. Drink up and take care of yourself, don’t make your guests worried about you.


I Learnt To #8. Have A Night Lamp By The Grill

Seriously, this is an underrated issue. You might not have adequate outdoor lighting and when nightfall and the sun bid you adios. You start to squint your eyes, using your fork to poke the food, wondering if it is cooked. You might even wonder where that sausage that was there a second ago rolled off to? While pondering that, your spouse knocked down that bottle of beer.

How to resolve it? Good lighting is important for visibility when you lose the light of day. You can get a headlamp for cheap. Save yourself from these troubles.


I Learnt To #9. Not Taking The Vents For Granted

Thought that the vents are merely decorations? Ever wonder how you could have exerted more control over the temperature? To make good food, temperature control is of paramount importance and being able to control the flames is important for safety too.

How to resolve it? Most charcoal grills have air vents on the bottom. Open it and there will be more airflow and hence, a bigger fire ensues and the hotter it gets. Close it for the opposite – a cooler fire.


I Learnt To #10. Refrain from Using My Hands As Thermometer

Have you ever hovered your hands above the grate and confidentially declare that the temp is right! Probably, a press conference is in the pipeline too. Your hands are good at many things, a temperature detector is not one of them – in fact, horrible at it.

Attempting to temp a steak is very difficult, even for pros. Thomas Kelly once said, “You have to cook steak a thousand times to suck at (temping) it.”

How to resolve it? Get a thermometer. It is good at that job, promise.


I Learnt To #11. Not Cooking Vegetables And Meat On The Same Skewer

Thought you can get the same Instagram-worthy shot on the perfectly done capsicum and chicken skewer? What you get at the end is probably a dried-up capsicum or an undercooked chicken. That bamboo skewer probably got so hot you can’t touch it without a tong too.

How to resolve it? Vegetables and meat cook at different rates. Keep them on separate skewers.


I Learnt To #12. Not Drink Too Much Beer

via Giphy

You got a new grill. You invited friends and colleagues and you held a BBQ party! What’s better than chilling with beer – a few dozens of them? What can possibly go wrong? You won’t get inebriated and starts blabbing about nonsense or starts criticizing a project that is being handled by Albert sitting across you, right?

How to resolve it? Control your beer intake. Your colleagues and friends are there to laugh with you, not at you. And no, that didn’t happen to me. Damn, I need a beer.


Plan It Well!

A well-prepared beginner is better than making a fool out of yourself. For a great party, you have to bring out the best in you. I had fun re-collecting the mistakes that I have made and hope that I have helped averted yours. Any fun stories to share? Have a great party!

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