06/27/2013 03:07 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2013

My Top 5 Tips to Avoid Your Own BBQ Disaster


We have all been there. We set about throwing an amazing BBQ for friends and family. We order some great steaks or chops from the local butcher, prepare our secret BBQ sauce, prepare delicious salads and sides to accompany the feast, pack the cooler with ice cold beer and have every last detail in order. Everything is perfect, that is, until the actual BBQ'ing begins. Whether it's the dreaded empty propane tank, or the distracted chef turning steaks into hockey pucks, a BBQ dinner can go from great to hurry up honey, call for pizza in a heartbeat. Here are a few great tips to help you get through your next BBQ outing unscathed.

• Have a Plan
Take the time to sort out your menu, write a detailed grocery list, and, whatever you do, don't forget to check the propane! Remember, when you fail to plan, plan to fail.

• Manage the Heat
Just because your BBQ can reach face-melting temperatures doesn't mean you have to cook everything at full blast. Contrary to popular belief, thicker cuts or items you wish to eat more well done require a lower heat to achieve the desired "doneness." Cooking a two inch thick pork chop on high will result in a blackened outside and raw center.

• Respect the Fat
Fat provides a great deal of flavor to just about everything, and I would never tell you to avoid it, but we do have to be mindful of how it behaves on an open flame. Steaks with a delicious fat cap and great marbling can taste wonderful, but as the fat renders down, it drips onto the burners and creates flare up, leaving an undesirable taste on your steak. Keep that in mind when cooking chicken with the skin on or marinating anything with an oil-based marinade.

• Watch Out For Sugar
Much like fat, sugar can be great, but it can also cause you grief. Now you're probably thinking that you aren't going to coat your steak or chicken in sugar before you cook it, but consider for a moment just how much sugar can be found in your standard BBQ sauce or marinade. I can tell you it's way more than you think. Now I'm not suggesting you avoid BBQ sauce -- it's just about finding the right time to apply it. I prefer to apply it as my steak or chops approach their desired temperature, smearing it on prior to its last flip, allowing the sugars to caramelize, but not burn completely. Remember, caramelized sugars take delicious, but burnt sugar tastes bitter.

• It's More Than Just a Steak Maker
Popular opinion might lead you to believe that your BBQ is only good for grilling steaks, chops and burgers. That couldn't be further from the truth. I have made cornbread on the grill, even made flatbread pizzas. The key is in understanding how the heat behaves. With the lid open your BBQ isn't much more than a steak maker, but if you consider that when the lid is closed it can behave just like your oven, then you can begin to understand the options you have. Use the top shelf to cook with less direct heat. Turn one burner off and rely on the oven heat, rather than the direct heat from the bottom. This takes a little practice, but as you gain confidence the possibilities of what you can prepare will grow exponentially.

Follow these simple tips to hone your BBQ'ing skills and you will be a master of the "Q" before you know it!

If you like what you read here and want some delicious recipes to get you started, head to to get started!