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When it comes to summer eats, it doesn’t get much better than food that’s fresh off the grill. Whether you’ve got a decked out barbecue or a little portable number, we’ve got 12 tips – based off of some of the most common grilling mistakes we hear about – that will help make sure you’ve got a delicious season of barbecue in front of you, unimpeded by those little things that can trip us up along the way.

12. Start With A Clean Grill

Anytime you don’t start with a clean grill, your delicious food takes on some of the gross, burnt bits that are stuck to the grates. Yuck.

11. Don’t Use A Wire Grill Brush

Wire grill brushes do clean your grates well, but there’s a chance that those metal bristles can break off on the grill and make their way into the food you place on the grates. Nobody wants to take a bite of grilled chicken and get a wire through the cheek instead….

10. Check Your Propane Before You Start

How many times have you started grilling for a big group, then realized you didn’t have enough propane and needed to run to the store for more? Learn from our mistakes and do a quick check before you get started.

9. Get More Charcoal Than You Think You’ll Need

Same goes for charcoal: it’s always better to have more than you think you’ll need, because grilling on a not-hot-enough grill is just sad.

8. Let Your Charcoal Get Hot

Just as you would let the oil in your skillet get hot so your food begins to cook immediately when you put it in the pan, give your charcoal enough time to actually get hot, that way your meat or veggies actually start cooking when you put them on the grill.

7. Don’t Cook With A Flare-Up

While it might look cool, cooking something over flaming charcoals doesn’t taste cool, it just tastes burnt and charred. Give your charcoal time to heat up, then cool down to a healthy glow before getting started.

6. Have Different Temperature Zones

Not all foods cook at the same temperatures. Having a low heat zone and a high heat zone means you’ll be better able to control how your food cooks. You’ll thank us for this one later.

5. Make The Vents Work For You

The vents, a.k.a. dampers, on your grill lid are essential for grilling, since they control the strength of your fire. We like to position the vents over whatever it is we’re cooking, that way all the heat coming from the bottom of your grill travels over the food as it cooks, flavoring it, and making its way out of the grill through the top vent.

4. Always Soak Your Skewers

Unless you want ‘em to go up in flames, soak those bad boys for at least 20 minutes before you grill with them. Nobody wants charred, partially-disintegrated bamboo bits in their shish kebabs.

3. Don’t Immediately Sauce Your Meat

If you douse your raw meat in sauce right away it’s going to be an icky, sticky, charred mess. Wait until the fat in whatever you’re cooking has rendered, then, in the last 10 minutes of cooking, brush that sauce on. Mmmmm…

2. Use An Onion To Scrape Off Any Burned Bits

That’s right, half an onion scrubbed across a warm grill can help break down all those pesky charred bits left on the grates.

1. Always Allot More Time Than You Think You’ll Need

Nobody likes grilling under pressure, so make sure to give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Whether it takes longer to heat the grill than you expected, or you’ve got exceptionally chunky chicken breasts that take longer to cook, you’ll be happy to have the extra time.

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