5@5 - John Stage
May 26th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Summer weekend - ready, set, go!

Your grill is so fresh and so clean (clean). You're chock-a-block full of red-hot grilling tips. You've got a bangin' burger recipe.  Nothing could go wrong. Nothing will go wrong.

Juuuuust in case it does, meet our last line of defense: John Stage, the pitmaster and founder of the wildly acclaimed Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Onward and upward. Deep breaths. Keep calm and grill on. Remember: You hold the spatula in this relationship.

Five Most Common Grilling Mistakes and How to Fix 'Em: John Stage

1. Lack of 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."

2. Meat sticking to grill
"Always keep your grill grates clean in order to keep the meat from sticking while you are cooking. A helpful tip is to take a wire brush and hit the grill grates once you are done cooking while they are still hot - this will prevent hardened build-up on the grill grates as they cool and next time you are ready to cook, you will be good to go.

When cooking fish, steaks or chops, a light brush of vegetable oil on the meat will keep it from sticking – chicken has enough fat in its skin and does not need to be brushed with oil. Finally, resist the urge to over flip meat - if it doesn't easily flip, it's not ready."

3. Marinade mistake
"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."

4. Gas taste
"I’ve never been a fan of a gas grill, always preferring charcoal in order to obtain that true blue, outdoor grilling flavor in meat. With that said, always use a chimney starter versus lighter fluid to eliminate a gassy flavor.

If you do use lighter fluid, never spray it directly onto the hot coals, this is dangerous and doesn’t help. Also make sure coals are almost a grayish white before you start cooking over them. You can achieve better results grilling on a traditional $100 kettle Weber grill than you can with any expensive gas grill."

5. Flare-ups
"You don’t want flames to engulf the meat as it will cause the meat to taste charred and bitter, and you can easily control flare-ups with a few simple techniques. Always set up two tiers of coals, a hot one and a warm/cold one.

If you flare-up, just move the meat to the cooler safe harbor until the fire dies down. Then, you can adjust it back to the hotter side when it is safe.

Too many flare-ups can mean your meat is too close to the flame. Try also raising the height of your grill grates in order to prevent flare-ups."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

See all our best grilling advice at Grilling 101

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Filed under: 5@5 • Grilling • Grilling • Make • Techniques & Tips • Think

soundoff (209 Responses)
  1. on_my_soapbox

    Something these articles always seems to miss, allow your meats (or whatever) to become room temperture before grilling.
    To help in that last bit of grilling and adding your sauce. If your not the type to make your own sauce and use store bought, try adding some powdered garlic/onion/dry hot spice(s) to it ... flavor to taste and of course ALWAYS use Jack Daniels© in it.
    try Kraft Thick and spicy 18oz(or your fav) add 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2-1 tsp onion powder, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup Jack D (1 shot for cook also), stir well...nuke for 1 1/2 min. @ 50% stir again to help blend flavors. This will be thinner but it helps keep your meats/whatever moist at the end and several coats will create a great look and Taste !

    September 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  2. the miner

    I like to use the bones of republicans as my fuel. They have been full of sh*t their entire life so they burn easily.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Phil Esteen

    I think humans are best when they are roasted over mesquite on a slow turning spit.
    But beware, it is extremely difficult to make roasted Republican taste good because it is very fatty, intrinsically bitter and doesn't mix well with cuts of meat that are a different color.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jerv


      May 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Stew Pedassle@Phil Esteen

      HA! Similar things can be said of certain types of vegans. They make a very healthy version of Soylent Green – except you need to add a B-12 supplement to your diet.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
      • I got dat gold!

        I'd like to add some "yellow cake" to their diets.

        May 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
      • Stew Pedassle@I got dat gold!

        Good idea. They'll be easier to see in the dark Soylent Green processing plants!

        May 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
      • I got dat gold!@Stew

        Hahaha! That's funny!

        May 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • bone nose

      Humans that smoke tobacco have a nasty wet cigarette butt sort of taste. I avoid them but they might do in a pinch. Trying to pair a wine to that flavor is next to impossible. Even the wines with hints of tobacco are hit and miss.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  4. SmokinSteve

    Hey charcoal snobs. Gas works just as well if you know what you are doing, but oviously John has made up his mind that you can't grill with gas. If you are truly a grill master, then charcoal/gas, doesn't make a difference.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Matthew

      Hahaha keep telling yourself that. There is no way for gas to ever taste as good as charcoal. That is not to say gas is bad, but you're relegated to only grill on a gas grill, where you can both grill and smoke on a charcoal one.

      June 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
  5. Tim Ivers

    Great BBQ tips... I definitely need all the help I can when it comes to outdoor grilling. I found this fantastic BBQ recipe at http://www.recipeperson.com but I messed it all up... grilling can be a lot harder than it looks.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  6. Tim

    Give me an $8/lb ribeye rubbed with garlic salt and a gas grill any day. Done in 10 minutes. Zero prep time. Zero mess.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  7. Spanky

    If you're lookin' you aint cookin!'

    May 31, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • I got dat gold!

      You can look and cook all you want cuz I got dat goooold!

      May 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  8. Gale

    "In order to build layers of flavor in your meat, always start with a rub and finish with a good BBQ sauce."

    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Meat tastes good all by itself. You might as well slather a fine filet mignon with ketchup as use rubs and BBQ sauce. They do nothing but hide the taste of the meat.

    May 31, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  9. Jeff M

    I use pig bio gas, makes all my steaks taste like fart.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Farmer in the Dell

      Funny you should say that. We have a farm animal poo digester that eats the muck from the stalls and barns. It captures, compresses and stores the methane. We use that for heating the horse stable, run few small farm engines that works some pumps and a conveyor belt and a small tractor and now you mention it, we could set up a grill to use that as well. Good idea,

      May 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
      • Jerv

        Farmer in the Dell wins, that is the best! Seriously, if you do that, come over to the Coffee klatsch and let us know how it goes.

        May 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  10. Endoguy

    For one it isn't smoking or grilling if it isn't done with wood or charcoal. The only thing I've ever found gas to be good for is rotisserie. As far as getting a bit of flame on my steak; Nothing tastes better!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  11. Rondaoutdoors Kitchen

    If the meat is really good you don't need BBQ souces you will cover the test of the meat:

    May 30, 2011 at 10:29 pm |

    You are wayyyy tooo serious here. Grilling/BBQ/Smoking is about having a good time while eating.

    My grandpa used to cook the best steaks in a cast iron skillet, heated to almost smokin, a light layer of coarse salt to prevent sticking and SSSSsssss! for a while on one side, flip and Sssss on the other and eat!

    Me, I currently use a $25 garage sale sears gas two burner (rebuilt). Got to have the lava rocks, ceramic tiles let the gas flame through the spaces between them. With the lava rocks you can develop a nice layer combined with burnt on grease that heats up evenly. You don't want to be cooking with the gas flame, you want to cook with the heat radiating from the rocks. I "clean" the grill with a wire brush after the initial warm up. Any gunk is on the bottom side and never touches the food. Smoke? Just toss a handfull of soaked chips right on the rocks in the back corner before shutting the lid.

    Seasoning? Put on what YOU like, you are the one who has to eat it.

    Turning? I go for the minimal amount of turning, except chicken, you have to keep the chicken moving to avoid burning. Turn away for a minute and the chicken fat will explode!

    May 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  13. remi

    I prefer hardwood charcoal over charcoal briquets and I always keep a spray bottle nearby for flareups. Mist not spray so you wont stir up ash. For a sweet and spicy grilling flavor use Caribbean Jerk dry seasoning, absolutely love it! As for the grill surface, mine is standard wire from Weber. I always wait to grill is about ready to cook on then brush it, and shake down coal bed for even cooking. I always use olive oil with my seasonings to prevent sticking and to help hold the juices in.

    May 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  14. Dennis K

    I still cook on my twenty year old electric grill with cast grates over lava rocks. It is consistent, even, and provides great flavor. If I want to vary the flavors, I vary the wood chips that I add next to the electric element. Oh, and I wire brush the grates to keep the buildup to a minimum, without removing every speck of drippings. I wish there was a viable alternative for replacement (I would like a larger cooking surface) but since there is not a large selection on the market, I will keep patching the stand together as long as I can.

    May 30, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  15. CT

    Anybody who needs these tips should just stick with the Golden Corral or some equivalent.

    May 29, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  16. bence00

    I have always said grilling on charcoal is a lot like sex when you get done it is really when you need to start.

    May 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  17. MarthaInBuda

    Have to admit, these are pretty good tips for grilling (not smoking, good tips for grilling)...!

    May 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  18. Underground

    Marinating is often way too overdone, the texture of the meat becomes mealy and rather unpleasant. If you think it needs tenderizing, I prefer to either poke holes in it and a minimal marinade of 45 minutes or so, or smack it for a minute.

    And I've eaten at some those "best" steak houses. I was very underwhelmed for the most part. The steaks were ok, but certainly not what I hoped for, and definitely WAY overpriced.

    In order of preference.
    1. Wood
    2. Charcoal
    3. Gas

    May 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
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