Good preparation techniques will set you on the road to a great BBQ. Meat, fish, vegetables and other aspects of the meal all require special handling.

The optimal BBQ, like any meal, always uses fresh ingredients. Frozen meat can be thawed (in the refrigerator, never by being left out on the counter), but it never fully returns to its original state. For the best taste, buy the meat as shortly before you BBQ as possible. Ditto vegetables, and especially any fish that’s part of your recipe.

Develop your own unique rubs. The blend of spices that enhance your meal is one aspect that makes your BBQ unlike that of anyone else. Hundreds of recipes are available online, but experiment to find the one that suits you best. Then prepare the rub before you even take the meat out of the refrigerator.

If you plan to use a sauce on the meat before or during cooking, prepare it in advance as well. For those you slather on at the end, wait until the meat is near ready if you can. For meat smokers that take a half a day to finish, that’s easy. For a charcoal grill that only lasts ten minutes, there’s no reason to wait.

Also before you take the meat out of cold storage, clean the area.

Give yourself plenty of room to work on a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized area. Any cutting boards, counters and so forth should not only be cleaned well, but disinfected too. That wet sponge or cloth you just used to wipe off the counter has enough bacteria in it to turn any meal into a regrettable episode.

Meat is especially prone to bacterial infection, so wipe the counter with a diluted bleach solution, then thoroughly rinse with purified water before laying anything out.

A good cut of beef will have some marbling throughout and on the exterior. ‘Marbling’ is the pattern of veins of fat that thread through the meat, but it also sometimes refers to the layer of fat on the outside. But keep it to the right thickness in order to add flavor but not overwhelm. A 1/4 inch around the edge is plenty for pork or beef. Slice off any excess.

Some BBQ chefs like to prepare hamburger patties, chicken parts and other components outside near the grill. Bad idea. Invasive insects, absorption of volatile organic molecules given off by nearby trees, and other problems are much more likely outside than in. Stick to the kitchen for preparation where you have a clean, protected environment in which to work.

Some thicker cuts will benefit from a bit of forking. Stabbing the slice will open up holes that allow spices, sauce, melting fat and other compounds to enter the interior more easily. But don’t overdo it. Too much exposure of the interior leads to excessive drying during cooking. Sealing in the juices is a natural and needed process for a good BBQ.

For anything more than a quick burger or hot dog, planning your BBQ is essential to achieve great results.