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Getting Great Grill Marks: What Not To Do

Have trouble getting great grill marks on your meat that the chefs on TV make look so easy to get? They make it look easy and you can get frustrated trying to duplicate them. For years I did not even try I blew them off as a presentation only thing, sometimes I would get them sometimes I wouldn’t, sometimes it would burn to a crisp and even weirder I would get them just right and they would disappear by the time the food was fully cooked.

filet with great grill marks

Over the last couple of years through trial and error I have learned why my grill marks would not turn out consistent. So if you want to get more consistent grill marks here is a list what NOT to do.

To get great grill marks Do Not

Pry it up: When food hits the hot grills grates it will stick almost instantly. The grill marks forming are the grills way of letting the food go. I will lightly tap one side of the food to see if it moves freely before committing to move it. Note: something coated in a marinade, bbq sauce or sugary rub may never release from the grates, it will just stick and burn.

Marinades: Marinades destroy grill marks even if they are wiped off of the food. When they cook out it can dissolve the grill marks from the inside out. Also if not fully wiped off the whole surface can burn.

Leave the Food in the same spot when rotating: If your first set of grill marks turn out perfect and the second set are weak this is your problem. When you turn your meat to that 45-degree angle move it to a new spot on the grill. Here is the thing, When you first throw your meat on the grates are very hot and they cool as your meat is cooking. So moving it to a spot that has not cooled makes for consistent marks both ways.

Sugary rubs or marinades: If your rub contains sugar, the entire surface can burn in the process of trying to get grill marks.

Keep the grill on high no matter what: Fatty cuts of meat and chicken with skin require the heat to be turned down. Even though this only takes a few minutes the fat will begin to render and flare-ups will occur. Get the grill good and hot, and turn it down right before placing fatty meats on the grates.

Turn it back over: If you have perfect grill marks on the first side never flip it back to that side while it’s on the grill. Concentrate on getting the perfect marks on the first side of the food and if looks perfect don’t even worry about the other side, finish cooking it with the other side down.

Sauce first: If saucing any food on your grill wait until the last few minutes of cooking. Even when applying a sauce at the end of the cooking process is can destroy those grill marks.

porterhouse with great grill marks

Now that I can consistently get great grill marks I no longer believe that it is just for presentation. When you grill that perfect steak and it looks perfect as well, I think that it tastes better.

Suggested Reading: How to grill the perfect steak.

Grilling Grate Oiler Brush



Is a Certified Food Safety Professional, KCBS member and has over 10 years experience in the food service industry.

“I have experienced some of the best food this country has to offer and nothing is better than the food that comes off my grill!”

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