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Kicking back with some friends on a sunny day with a grilled feast? Summer perfection. Chowing down on charred veggies and overdone steak in the pouring rain? Less fun. We can’t promise good weather (sorry), but we can help you become the ultimate grill master with these genius tips from LongHorn Steakhouse executive chef Josh Evans. Let’s get fired up. 

RELATED: 21 BBQ Side Dishes That Are Better Than the Main Event

Grilled corn
LongHorn Steakhouse

Not Getting the Grill Hot Enough

You wouldn’t put a cake in the oven before it was preheated, would you? Same rules apply for barbecue. “A hot grill is the key to a perfect sear and evenly cooked food,” Evans tells us. For best results, preheat to approximately 500 degrees before you put anything on it. Most grills have a temperature gauge on the hood, but if yours doesn’t, you can nab one from the hardware store.

Grilling meat on the BBQ
Twenty20

Always Keeping the Lid Closed

It’s totally fine to shut the lid for low and slow cooking (like for whole chickens or extra-thick steaks), but for high-temperature grilling, Evans recommends keeping it open. That’s so that you can keep an eye on the meat, manage flare-ups and get those oh-so-pretty grill marks.

Selection of BBQ condiments
Magone/Getty Images

Using Rubs and Marinades Interchangeably

Turns out that not all seasoning is created equal. According to Evans, a wet marinade is best for thin steaks (the extra moisture tenderizes the meat), while a dry rub is great for higher-quality, thicker-cut steaks. Mind blown.

Grilled steak and asparagus
LongHorn Steakhouse

Cutting Into Your Steak to See If It’s Done

This one’s a big grilling no-no. That’s because cutting into your steak means you’ll lose those delicious, flavor-packed juices. Here’s the fix: Use a meat thermometer to gauge whether your meat is cooked through. For steak that’s cooked medium-rare, Evans recommends a temperature of 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grill brush cleaning the grates
mcrosno/Getty Images

Not Cleaning Your Grill

Hey, we’ve all done it. You get so excited about tucking into that burger that you forget to properly clean up. “Before each cookout, use a wire brush to scrape off any buildup, and fully heat the grill before brushing it clean,” says Evans. Not only is a dirty grill, um, dirty, but it will also prevent you from getting a good sear.

Grilled vegetables kebabs
zi3000/Getty Images

Skimping on Seasoning

“Don’t be afraid to boldly season,” says Evans. “A lot of herbs and spices fall through the grill grates during the grilling process.” And if you’re using a dry rub (see above), then be sure to pat that seasoning into both sides of the meat. Go on, don’t be shy.

Table filled with summer foods
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Forgetting to Oil Your Grill Before Using It

The trick to getting barbecued foods onto the plate and not stuck to the grates is a well-oiled grill. Using a neutral flavored oil (think canola) and an oven mitt, grip a hand towel that’s been lightly dipped in oil (a little goes a long way) with a pair of tongs and carefully run it up and down the grates while the grill is just warming up, advises Evans. Tip: Start at the top of the grill and pull the towel toward you so that you don’t burn your arm.

Steak on the grill
Twenty20

Paying Too Much Attention to the Outside of Your Steak

Of course you want to dish up an Insta-worthy BBQ feast, but remember that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. “When you’re first starting to perfect your grill craft, focus on the temperature of the grill and of the meat. The outside isn’t always an indicator of the inside, so be sure you keep your meat thermometer handy,” says Evans. And don’t worry too much about those grill marks—you can get a good sear and perfectly cooked meat without 'em.

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