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Whether you're already a pro at open-flame cooking or you're hosting a barbecue for friends and family, there's a good chance you have more to learn about outdoor cooking. With that in mind, you might be making some incredibly common BBQ mistakes. Learn how to avoid them, and use the year's best BBQ equipment. If you do that, you'll cook some of the most flavourful food you've ever tasted.

1. Cleaning your BBQ improperly

Though this is especially true if your BBQ has been in storage, you need to properly clean your BBQ every time you use it. Those charred bits from last week's session aren't "flavour"—they're just gross. Need a great grill brush? This brush from IREGRO is a good pick.

2. Forgetting to pre-heat your BBQ

Look, we understand: You've got a hot BBQ, a rumbling stomach, and some uncooked food. Not so fast. Putting food on the BBQ before it's hot enough just means you're likely to burn the outside and/or undercook the inside. Cook it right, cook it once.

3. Using firelighters to start charcoal

Nothing makes starting fire easier than firelighters. But, firelighters can give your food an acrid taste. If you're cooking with charcoal, do it the right way by using a chimney starter (we recommend this basic Weber one).

4. Failing to re-position your food

Though BBQs seem simple enough, most give you a few different temperature zones based on where the heat source (burners or charcoal) is located. Moving food around at the right time—especially from a high-heat to a low-heat area—ensures food doesn't burn or dry out.

5. Flipping meat using a fork

Ledbury Reporter: A BBQ fork is perfect for use when slicing and plating, not for flipping. Credit: Getty ImagesA BBQ fork is perfect for use when slicing and plating, not for flipping. Credit: Getty Images

Most barbecued foods need to be flipped at some point while cooking, but there are better ways to do it than putting holes in an otherwise perfect piece of meat. In most cases, a spatula or tongs are better choices for the job, ensuring your meat gets evenly cooked without getting punctured.

6. Overlooking the BBQs vents to control heat

Ledbury Reporter: Direct contact with fire looks cool, but it doesn't yield better flavour. Credit: Getty ImagesDirect contact with fire looks cool, but it doesn't yield better flavour. Credit: Getty Images

The vents on a charcoal BBQ are there for a season: Oxygen needs to come in the bottom to fuel the charcoal, but the smoke needs to escape so the fire won't smother—and the process also helps draw in more oxygen.

If you never touch your vents, it's likely your BBQ isn't working as well as it should. If the vents seem like a complete mystery to you, then leave the exhaust at least halfway open and just adjust the bottom until you get a feel for your grill.

7. Opening the lid way too much

"Is it done yet?" ... "How about now?" We get it. You're hungry. Unfortunately, meat doesn't cook faster when you stare at it. In fact, it'll cook a lot slower because the BBQ can't retain enough heat without its lid. Leave the lid on. Trust the process.

8. Cooking without using indirect heat

One of the most common mistakes people make while using the BBQ: You think only the open flames are cooking the meat.

In reality, flame-licked food can taste bad, and most things need at least some time away from the direct heat in order to cook through evenly. If you're only cooking food with direct heat you're more likely to burn it, undercook it on the inside, or just dry it out.

9. Avoiding vegetables

Ledbury Reporter: Meat is great, but grilled veggies can be even tastier. Credit: Getty ImagesMeat is great, but grilled veggies can be even tastier. Credit: Getty Images

Barbecued vegetables are amazing. If you only think about meat when it comes to the BBQ you're not thinking big enough. Even if you are planning on cooking cut-up vegetables, wrapping them in tin foil or using a grill pan can let you get even more utility out of your BBQ.

If you only think about barbecuing meat, you're not thinking big enough.

We also like to chop up an onion, a bell pepper, and maybe some asparagus. Toss in oil, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. If you're feeling crazy, toss in some baby tomatoes. Use tin foil or a grill pan and roast over direct heat until it's just soft. It's a delicious side to any meat dish.

10. Cooking kebabs with vegetables and meat on the same skewer

Kebabs are frequently advertised (and sometimes sold) as having big chunks of chicken, beef, and vegetables on them, but these items simply don't cook well like that.

Cook your meat and vegetables properly and then put them on skewers—you'll be way happier with the result. Oh, and invest in some metal skewers so you're not eating charred wood with your meal.

11. Sticking to burgers and sausages

Everyone loves the classics: burgers, hotdogs, sausages, and steaks. But there is a world of other kinds of meat out there. Don't be afraid to try something new—it could become a new favourite.

For starters? Don't just grill wings or thighs. Whole or spatchcocked chicken on the BBQ, cooked with indirect heat, is incredibly juicy and delicious.

12. Overcooking your meat

This is the big no-no of any BBQ. Overcooked meat can still be good, but it often lacks the depth of flavour you get with properly cooked meat.

Worse, it can be dried out, chewy, and difficult to eat. Get a proper meat thermometer and ensure your food is cooked to perfection.

Also, if you haven't had lamb cooked over a charcoal fire then you've really never had the best version of lamb. You don't need to get fancy. Just add some oil, salt and pepper, and chopped rosemary and garlic, and you're off to the races.

13. Saucing too early

Sauce should be the last thing you put on meat before it finishes cooking, which may seem counterintuitive when we've just finished saying how bad dried-out meat is. Sauces burn very easily, and in doing so, completely change the flavour of your meal. So, add it last—use a silicone brush—and you'll be much happier.

14. Not letting your meat rest

Ledbury Reporter: Let your meat rest for 10 or more minutes before slicing so the juices don't spill out. Credit: Getty ImagesLet your meat rest for 10 or more minutes before slicing so the juices don't spill out. Credit: Getty Images

While the phrase "hot off the grill" evokes all kinds of memories of tasty summer BBQs, in practice you need to let meat rest after it's been cooked. According to Chef J. Kenji López-Alt at The Food Lab, this is because the muscle fibres in meat tense up while they're being cooked.

The hottest outside fibres tense up so much they push moisture to the middle of the food. Cut the meat too early and that moisture just dribbles out onto the plate. Let the meat rest in a warm place, and the fibres relax and more evenly distribute that moisture in your food—rather than on your plate. Proper resting can take 10 minute or more depending on what you're cooking, so plan ahead!

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