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Barbecue mistakes to avoid

Caitlin McCormack
Shine On
June 15, 2012

Outdoor cooking has got to be one of the best parts of the Canadian summer, but are your barbecue skills up to snuff?

Tom Fillipou, executive chef for President's Choice shares the barbecue mistakes you should avoid this summer and what things you should be doing so that your grilling goes off without a hitch.

Barbecue mistake: Saucing too early

Fillipou says one of the most common mistakes he sees grillers making is putting on barbecue sauce products way too early. "It usually turns out to be like burnt offerings to the gods," he says. Because of their high sugar content, these sauces will naturally burn fast.

Besides burning the outside, adding barbecue sauce too early in the cooking process could give you the illusion your food is fully cooked when the product hasn't necessarily had enough time to cook internally, he adds.

"I always let folks know that you should add it at the latter stages of barbecuing. Yes, caramelize it, but if it's black it's not good."

[See also: How to eat healthy at a barbecue]

Barbecue mistake: Flipping too early

Another mistake Fillipou says he sees a lot is that people tend to be impatient with their meat and they try to flip it too early. Not only will this rip or tear the product, but any leftover bits stuck to the surface of your grill will leave it dirty. Plus, your final presentation will suffer as you're not getting those beautiful sear marks.

"You want to leave it on that grill until the proteins get caramelized and then it just releases on its own," he says.

How can you tell if it's time to flip? Fillipou says your food should be a little bit more opaque on the edges and you'll almost see it slightly curling — which is an indication that it's releasing itself from the grill.

"I always tell people that when you're grilling, cooking, whatever you're doing always use your senses," he says, "Those are some of the clear indications that it's time to flip."

Barbecue mistake: Cutting into the meat

Fillipou says that the worst thing people can do is to cut into their meat to see if it's cooked.

"Every time you're cutting into it, you're releasing the juices. Even if you're using one of those large barbecue forks I don't recommend it because every time you're stabbing your product, beef, chicken or whatever, you're releasing those great juices that you want left in the product."

Instead of trying to look inside, you can use the touch method (described here) to see how cooked a steak is.

Another surefire way to ensure your food is fully cooked and safe to eat is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Make sure you've used your senses, and general cooking time guidelines to ensure you aren't putting too many holes into your meat. Always wash the thermometer between checks if the food isn't up to temperature when you check. Health Canada has guidelines for safe internal cooking temperatures.

[See also: Don't get ill from your grill]

Ultimately, it will depend on how big what you're cooking is, and how powerful your barbecue is, says Fillipou.

Barbecue mistake: Not preheating the grill

Patience and planning are key to avoiding this barbecue faux pas.

"Preheating is incredibly important and I think it's something that not everybody does because we're all in a rush," says Fillipou. "But if you're a bit patient, you're actually going to get better results and your product or your dish will cook a lot quicker."

Barbecue mistake: Not seasoning the grill

The final oversight people make when grilling, according to Fillipou, is not seasoning their grill properly. Seasoning a grill entails getting it nice and hot, cleaning it with a good long brush, and then taking a bit of cooking oil on a clean cloth and rubbing it across the grates of the grill.

"It helps with the product not sticking," he explains. "With seafood or fish, that's something that you should always be doing. And that's what really good steak houses typically do too."

Don't use an oil sprayer as it's a fire hazard, and don't soak the cloth in oil for the same reason — you only need a little bit to get the job done.

Do you have any tricks you use for perfect grilling every time? Share them in the comments below. And check out the video below to learn from chef Fabio how to make the perfect burger.

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