grilled chickenIt's a glorious weekend afternoon. You've grilled dinner for the family, and the air is infused with the blessed aroma of roasted bird meat. That cheap rose is really working for you. Everyone sits down at the table and that's when you hear it. Those words that will kill your grilling buzz: "Ew, I don't like that black stuff on my chicken!"

Grill marks. They're up there with "my food is touching other food" and "what are those little green things."

So fine. Obviously this is no time to jump out of your seat and whip up some safe macaroni and cheese for your sensitive flower. You really can grill meat without getting grill marks. Here's how.

Clean your grill: Let's just start with the obvious -- grill marks can come from the burnt gunk that already lives on your grill. Scrape it down, then wash thoroughly. You'll reduce those marks a lot, but they may not go completely away.

Cook further from the flame: If your grill has two levels use the upper, cooler one. Or cook your kid's meat on the outer edges of the grill. Her food will take longer to cook thoroughly, but the farther away from the flame the less likely you'll get grill marks and little burnt bits.

Grill with skin on, then remove: We grownups know that the skin is the best part of grilled chicken but kids often don't like it anyway. So what I do is grill that drumstick, peel off the skin and eat it myself (awesome!), and then hand the leg over to Junior. Everyone's happy. Obviously this won't work with pork and beef, but you could also do it with whole fish.

Cook it plain. Many toddlers and little kids prefer this anyway, but if you're marinating your meat in herbs or brushing with barbecue sauce just reserve a few pieces that get nothing but a little salt and pepper. Sauces and herbs create those little bits that turn black.

Wrap it up: Just avoid the whole issue by cooking your child's food in foil. For best results you'll still want to cook the food on lower heat -- or you could line that foil on the inside with parchment paper.

Or you could just do what my parents always did: Ignore my whining and tell me "this is what we're having for dinner."

Do your kids hate grill marks on their food?