Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons You Had a Cook Out Fail

Today is another first for Big Wayner’s BBQ Blog.  I have been toying with the idea of having guest bloggers on occasion.  Today I’m pleased to bring you today’s post courtesy of my very first guest blogger, Cyndi Allison!

Top Ten Reasons You Had a Cook Out Fail

Cook Out Fail -- Don't Let This Happen to You

Cook Out Fail — Don’t Let This Happen to You

I see the freight train coming, but I usually don’t yell, “Jump off the tracks.”

Everyone has to learn when it comes to grilling, and being the backseat cook out driver can be more annoying than just kicking back and having a good time even when the food is awful.

Sure. If someone does ask (and they do pretty often since I’m a barbecue and grill writer), I will give pointers and help out. And, I always pitch in on clean up, because there is no glory in that, and someone has to do it. The cleaner uppers get invited back. Trust me on that.

After years of grilling, having teen boys, and teaching at a college, I have a pretty good idea of where the major grilling fails come into play. So, here is my top 10 list. If you have sinned as such, don’t feel bad. You are in good (or big) company, but most grilling problems can be fixed pretty easily.

Top 10 Grilling Fails

1.  Cheap Grill

Yes. It can be the grill and NOT you. I can handle most any grill, but some of the low end grills are too shallow or have other issues and are just hard to manage. I’m not saying spend big bucks. You can get a Weber Smokey Joe tailgater for $25 or so on sale, and that will do you proud and last for years for small cook outs.

2.  Lighter Fluid Flood

You may get the charcoal started eventually if you keep adding lighter fluid (or maybe not), but the food will taste like . . . lighter fluid. Buy a $12 chimney starter. It makes a huge difference. Or, you can buy some of the new starter paraffin cubes. Lighter fluid and instant light charcoal are way overrated and often lead to fails.

3.  Massive Amounts of Fuel

You can fill that grill up to the grate with charcoal or crank that gas grill up to high, but very few people really can handle high heat grilling. It’s a high end skill. Use less charcoal. Don’t max out the gas rate. Otherwise, you have burned food that is raw inside.

Don't Try This At Home...  At Least Not Like This!

Don’t Try This At Home… At Least Not Like This!

4.  One Big Ball of Fire

Offset is a simple and means that you have higher heat on one side and lower on the other. With charcoal, just put coals over to one side. On gas, use part of the burners but leave an area that is lower or off to let food grill off to the correct doneness.

5.  Gotta Have Grill Marks

The fancy food photographs have raised the bar and ruined a lot of grillers. You do NOT need to have grill marks to have great grilled food. I can mark the food, but I have been doing this a long time. Unless you are publishing a cookbook, don’t worry about perfect grill lines on every piece of food on the grill.

6.  Cold Meat

Throw cold meat on hot grates… what do you get? Stuck meat. Thaw your meat and let it rest 20 minutes or so before tossing it on the grill.

7.  Getting Too Fancy

Far better (and cheaper) to nail hot dogs than to wreck steak or lobster. If you’re new to grilling, try something easy like hot dogs, brats, or thinner burgers. You don’t learn Bach before you learn the basic notes. Don’t try the hardest grill recipe the first time you crank up your new grill.

8.  Bad Food

If you get the low end steak, you will still have low end steak when it comes off the grill. There are ways to grill the cheap cuts, but be sure you know how to do so. Again, it’s better to do something simple and do it right than try to upscale and serve up shoe leather.

9,  Bad Hygiene

Check the food safety rules on grilling. I’m very laid back. But, I was at one cook out where the griller was turning the meat with his fingers. He dropped some food on the ground, picked it up and blew it, and put it back on. That’s pretty over the top. Other things like putting the grilled meat back on the same plate where the raw meat was resting and with raw meat juice on there can also cause a world of hurt and many visits to the bathroom. Keep it clean.

10.  Bad Company

One thing that will wreck a party for sure is if the host is in a heap bad mood. That just puts a damper on everyone. If things do go wrong, order in pizza. No shame in that. Guests will likely pitch in to pay (especially if you’re in the college crowd). No one is perfect. Practice up and treat again when you can. It is the thought that counts. If you roll with it and keep a sense of humor, everyone else will too (or your real friends will).

Be a Happy Host

Be a Happy Host

Those are the problems that I see most often when folks are grilling out. Most problems really are minor though can result in a total grill meal fail. The main thing is: Don’t give up. Learn from any mistakes. Get back on that horse and ride it. You will be a fabulous griller before you know it. It really just takes practice.


I want to thank my guest blogger for today, Cyndi Allison.  Cyndi has been involved with grilling and smoking barbecue for over 35 years.  She is a college instructor, freelance writer, and overall barbecue and grilling expert.  Cyndi is the mastermind behind the website Yes You Can Grill as well as the author at the blog Barbecue Master.

  • http://www.nibblemethis.com Chris

    LMAO Cyndi! Tonight my 12 y/o was grilling hotdogs for him and his 23 y/o brother. The older son was teasing the younger about his obsession about lining up the marks with each turn. My 12 y/o said “I can’t help it, it’s my OCD!” If only he’d be that OCD about keeping his room clean, ha ha.