The Most Common Grilling Mistake (And How To Avoid It)

A cheese expert's tip to make a good thing even better.

Though many folks are intimidated by grilling, as long as you follow some basic safety and etiquette rules, it's a more of a passive, approachable activity than newcomers might think. You don't want to fiddle with the food too much, or flip the meat too many times—for much of the cook time, the smoke and heat must be left alone to do their thing. Beyond that, though, there's one mistake a lot of backyard home cooks make, and it's one of the easiest to avoid.

Jimmy Kennedy, professional fisherman and test kitchen chef for Cabot Creamery, has a lot of thoughts about grilling, and a lot of great ideas for how to maximize the joy of it. Naturally, many of his tips involve adding cheese to everything.

"You play around with it," Kennedy says of his role as an expert dairy experimenter. "You figure out a way to incorporate cheese into recipes where you don't normally. Even the ones that do use [cheese]—there's so many varieties."

When asked about the number-one mistake people make with cheese at their backyard barbecues, Kennedy could name one right away. It's not exactly a mistake, but rather a lost opportunity.

"When people don't really melt the cheese on the burger," he says. "It's not that big a faux pas, and I get why that happens: You can overcook the food."

People tend to lay slices of cheese atop their burgers right at the end of the grilling process. The ambient heat of the burgers once they're pulled off the grill isn't enough to fully melt the slice so that it drapes over the edges of the meat in that delectable way we associate with the best burgers. Instead, the cheese stays slightly firm, square, and room temp. Still good, but not as much of a sensory experience as it could be.

Thankfully, there's a simple solve for this, and it's one that doesn't require any special equipment or technique.

"You can get a dome lid, but you can also use a cast iron pan," Kennedy explains. By adding one of these tools to your grilling setup, you can get a better end result.

Simply take the lid or the cast iron pan and use it to cover your burgers once the cheese is added; you don't even have to fully surround the meat with either tool, just as long as there's something partially trapping the heat above the burgers.

"Any covering, just so you have a little bit of a cover, and the cheese will melt," Kennedy says. Once you've built this habit into your grill game, "there's really no wrong way to use [cheese]." Don't we know it.