Skip to main content

The top 7 grilling mistakes, according to a Pitmaster and Food Network champion

This Master of ‘Cue shares what not to do when lighting up the grill this summer

Erica Roby Headshot
Dorothy Beam Photography

As one of the country’s leading female pitmasters, Erica Roby is an absolute goddess when it comes to all things barbecue. You may know her as the season 2 winner of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl,” which earned her the official title “Master of ‘Cue.” In May 2022, Erica also competed at the world-famous Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest. Though it was only her second time competing at this prestigious event, she tied for first place in the brisket category and fourth in the rib division, a journey that was filmed for Food Network’s “BBQ USA.”

After her time on “BBQ Brawl,” Erica decided to document the world of barbecue in her award-winning digital series, “The Pit Stop with Blue Smoke Blaire.” In the hit show, Erica travels the United States in her RV, interviewing everyone’s favorite food personalities and highlighting the passion, struggles, and dreams of pitmasters around America.

As she travels the country, Erica is committed to spreading love through barbecue and works together with Operation BBQ Relief to provide meals to those in need. She also spends her time guest lecturing America’s youth, spreading inspiration to pick up tongs and find joy through food and culinary passion. Last year, Blue Smoke Blaire’s Barbecue Academy opened its doors to teach the new generation of pitmasters the art of BBQ.

We are thrilled to highlight such an impressive woman who is not only a culinary powerhouse and grilling expert but also has a tremendous passion and heart for spreading so much goodness and inspiration as she travels the country.

Knowing that 96% of Americans are planning to fire up their grills this summer, Roby shared with us the top grilling tips and seven mistakes to avoid a culinary catastrophe.

Starting with complex recipes

Man grilling

“Instead of trying to create a complex grilled recipe right out of the gate, start with straightforward dishes like burgers, steaks and kabobs to build confidence while you familiarize yourself with your grill,” says Roby.

It’s best to start with simple dishes. One of the beautiful things about grilled dishes is that they needn’t be complex to be delicious.

Not understanding your grill’s heat zones

Kabobs on the grill
PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

Roby says, “Learn the difference between indirect and direct heat and how to use them to control cooking food on your grill. You’ll want to use a combination of both zones, as cooking solely on high heat can burn the exterior before the interior is properly cooked. A go-to method is to start searing your beef on direct heat and then move to indirect heat to finish cooking without burning.”

Creating heat zones can be done on either gas or charcoal grills. On a gas grill, simply turn on one set of burners, leaving the other side for indirect heat. For charcoal grilling, you can create the same effect by simply placing the coals underneath one side of the grill grate.

Too much or little seasoning

Babyback ribs cooking on a grill
Mat Hayward/Adobe Stock / Adobe Stock

“Over-seasoning can mask the natural flavors of beef, and under-seasoning can result in bland meat. The trick? Use a generous amount of salt and pepper. For thicker cuts of meat, you may need to season more heavily than you think is necessary to ensure the seasoning penetrates beyond the surface,” says Roby.

Flipping too quickly and frequently

Person grilling sausages / Pexels

Roby says, “Let your meat develop a sear and nice crust before flipping. Overflipping can prevent the formation of a proper sear, affecting both texture and flavor. You’ll know your meat is ready when it releases easily from the grill, and generally, meat should only be flipped once during grilling.”

Guessing when your food is ready

Male chef grilling and barbequing in garden. Barbecue outdoor garden party. Handsome man preparing barbecue meat. Concept of eating and cooking outdoor during summer time.
Volodymyr / Adobe Stock

“Invest in a meat thermometer to avoid this common mistake. It will be your go-to tool to make sure you don’t under or over cook your meat. Chef tip: take your meat off the grill a few degrees below your target temperature and let it rest. After a few minutes, your meat should come up to your target temperature, but make sure by checking the temperature at the center of the cut,” says Roby.

Overcrowding your grill

Kabobs on the grill
Evan Wise / Unsplash

Roby advises, “Avoid overcrowding your grill by giving each piece of food enough space to cook evenly. Cook in batches if needed.”

Food needs room to cook, no matter what method you’re using. Whether you’re cooking in a pan, in the oven, or on the grill, make sure there is enough room for air to circulate around your ingredients.

Pressing down on your meat

Beer and grill

“Pressing down on your burgers or steaks while cooking will force the juices out of your meat, making it drier. Instead, let the beef cook undisturbed to keep those flavorful juices inside. The only time you should press is when initially forming your patties, and even then, just lightly,” says Roby.

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
Don’t skip this step for summer barbecues: How to clean your grill’s exterior
Know how to clean the outside of a grill so your burgers don't disappoint
Male chef grilling and barbequing in garden. Barbecue outdoor garden party. Handsome man preparing barbecue meat. Concept of eating and cooking outdoor during summer time.

Even if you don't like cooking, you'll jump to man a grill to show off your barbeque skills. But what about the cleanup after? Scraping off the food is the easy part, but when was the last time you cleaned the rest of the grill? If you have no idea, to the point you aren't sure if you ever have, put the tongs down and listen. Here's how to clean the outside of a grill so it lasts more than a few summers.
How to clean the outside of a grill

It doesn't matter what kind of grill you have; you need to know how to clean the outside of it, and you actually need to do it.
What you'll need

Read more
This is the best wood for grilling and smoking, according to an expert
Curious about what wood to use for the best tasting food from your grill? Here's what a pro says
Steak on the grill

When it comes to grilling and smoking foods, it's hard to beat old-fashioned firewood for both a heat source and flavor. But did you know that different types of wood will actually bring different flavors to your cooking? Today we will look at the best wood for grilling and the differences between some of the most popular woods to cook with.
The warm glow and crackle of a true wood fire is borderline irresistible, but the stuff in your woodpile may not be the best choice for cooking with. We will explore some favorite wood types you can use to grill and smoke a steak that can be used in almost any smoker or charcoal grill.

What kind of wood is best for grilling?

Read more
The best cheese for burgers: Our top 7 favorites
Blue cheese? On a burger? Trust us, it's delicious.

Unless you're an insane person (or avoid dairy for dietary or ethical reasons—you get a pass), you turn your hamburgers into cheeseburgers. Cheese truly does make everything better, and burgers are perhaps the best example of this. But which cheeses should you select when it comes time to light the grill and crack open some cold ones? We've got the answers.

Ah, classic cheddar. This trusty staple is certainly the most popular cheese for most backyard burgers. And while cheddar may be the typical choice, it's far from mundane. This hard cheese has a crumbly texture, an easily melty consistency, and a slightly tangy, nutty flavor that works beautifully on a burger.
Monterey and Pepper Jack

Read more