Award-Winning Chef Reveals the One Mistake ‘A Lot’ of People Make While Grilling

by Josh Lanier

We’re in peak grilling season, and apparently, most of us are doing it wrong. That’s according to award-winning chef Elizabeth Karmel, who literally wrote the book on grilling and barbecuing.

Karmel, who is better known as “The Original Grill Girl,” said she often has people come up to her saying “Oh my god, you’ve changed my whole life,” after fixing one simple mistake they’re making at the grill.

“Oiling the cooking grates instead of oiling the food,” Karmel told News Nation Now. “This is a rampant grilling mistake that lots of people make. But I’ll tell you why it doesn’t make sense and why it doesn’t work.”

She said even some chefs make this mistake, and they go on to tell amateur grillers to do it.

“If you oil the food and not the grates, that is going to take care of 60% of your problems,” she said. “That is the biggest myth I want to debunk, always.”

Karmel explained that you will preserve the flavor of whatever it is you’re cooking and keep it from drying out. Nearly everyone has had a burger that tastes more like charcoal than beef. Karmel says this method can help keep that from happening.

But don’t just take her word for it. She has an experiment she tells amateurs to try on their own grills to prove it. Take two slices of eggplant and oil one but leave the other alone. Put them both on the grill at the same time.

“The slice you didn’t oil is going to slowly dehydrate… it’ll be like a piece of cardboard,” she says. “The other one, you’re going to see all the juices in that cross-section of the eggplant, you’re going to see them steaming and bubbling underneath the surface, and the outside is caramelizing.”

Why Oiling the Grill is Wrong

Elizabeth Karmel isn’t the only evangelist of oiling the food, not the grill. Meathead Goldwyn of writes that oiling a hot grill will likely ruin your food, according to The Huffington Post. The reason is that once the hot grill reaches the oil’s smoke point, the oil will carbonize and burn. That layer of carbon and smoke will cause the food to stick to the grill and taint the flavor of your dinner.

In his book, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, Goldwyn suggests putting “a light coat of oil on the food, which is refrigerator temp ― the food rarely heats up beyond 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, as it warms, it becomes runny and drips off, but by then the food is less sticky.”

He also suggests using mayonnaise instead of traditional oil because it’s less likely to drip off. And despite what you might think, he says he doesn’t affect the flavor of whatever you’re grilling.

“Oil burns very quickly, and it’s sticky when it burns,” Karmel said. “So if you oil the grates and not the food, you’re effectively gluing your food” to the grill.

“If you oil the food, it keeps all of the juices inside the food, it promotes caramelization, and it also helps to prevent sticking. So it’s win-win.”