Grilling is an exciting, tasty way to cook a meal any time of the year. The smell of a charcoal grill on fire will get you and the neighbors salivating and ready to feast in style.
Unlike gas grills and electric smokers, charcoal grills can be quite difficult to use. But, they deliver more deliciousness to your barbecue. Are you wondering how to use charcoal to prepare super delicious meals?
You should first look for the best charcoal grill and get the necessary tool you need for grilling. Then, start your charcoal grill, and lay your coals inside it to cook.
Finally, prepare your fast-cooking foods like hot dogs, hamburgers and most vegetables over an open grill.
If you’re dealing with food that cooks slowly such as chicken or roasts, cover them and keep a close eye every few minutes.
That’s just a quick sneak preview! Keep reading this ultimate guide to the end and learn the best way on how to use a charcoal grill.
Steps on How to Use a Charcoal Grill
Here are our easy steps on how to use a charcoal grill:
Choose a Suitable Charcoal Grill
Of course, the first step should be to choose an ideal charcoal grill for your needs. You may already have one but you might want to upgrade it. Whichever the case, there are a few considerations to have in mind:
Charcoal grills come in plenty of shapes. Those with round kettle shapes are the most common, though you may also find rectangular, square, and barrel-style grills.
Any shape is ideal for the task. But, you can go for one that will suit your storage space, cooking style, and even your yard.
Area of the Cooking Surface
These appliances come in all sizes. Therefore, it is essential to buy one with sufficient space for your cooking needs.
Ease of Cleaning
Charcoal grilling is often a messy task. Choose models that offer simple options like ash containers for an easy cleanup process.
Charcoal grills are available at different prices. You may find a nice charcoal grill with a better performance from as low as $100. If you want a pretty fancy charcoal grill, be sure to spend up to the $1000 mark. Ultimately, choose a unit that fits your budget.
Get the Necessary Grilling Tools and Accessories
The next thing is to invest in fun gadgets and accessories to get the job done with perfection. One good thing about using a charcoal grill is that there’s a lot you can do with a few simple charcoal grilling tools .
Basic Tools for Charcoal Grilling
- Tongs and Spatula: Have a spatula and several tongs to help you flip burgers, grilling corn, and rotating sausages. Make sure they have extra-long handles to keep your hands away from the heat.
- Grill wire brush: The best wire brush will make cleaning the grill very easy. Before you start grilling, make sure you have one ready for a cleanup task.
- Chimney starter: If it’s your first time using a charcoal grill, chimney starters are excellent. They make starting fire super easy and fast.
- Meat thermometer: Providing the right temperatures on your proteins is vital. A good and easy-to-read thermometer will help you with that.
Advanced Grilling Accessories
- Electric starter: If you’re an enthusiastic griller, this gadget comes in handy. A great electric charcoal starter helps fire up your grill in seconds and it’s also fun to use.
- Grilling planks: These will help you add more flavor to your food. You can look for wood planks to grill fish and vegetables. Besides, you can use different planks such as maple or cedar to highlight your ingredients.
- Grilling basket: Finding a heavy-duty basket is an excellent add-on to your grill gear. It easily traps ingredients that could often fall through the grill grates in the basket.
- Grill Light: This will help illuminate your grilling upon sunset. It’s a great tool for those looking to grill late at night during summers.
Decide the Type of Charcoal to Use
There are several types of charcoal designed to meet different needs concerning heat and flavor profiles. Here are the popular types of charcoal for grilling you can find out there:
These are bits of charcoal made from compressed sawdust and other kinds of wood material. They burn consistently and for an extended period, making them great for all your charcoal grilling tasks.
Besides, charcoal briquettes are highly affordable with a 16-pound bag costing about $10. And you can easily find them at the supermarkets and reliable stores all year round.
However, this fuel produces plenty of ash which you must clean after grilling. Plus, it doesn’t add a lot of charred flavors most grillers tend to look for.
Lump charcoal or hardwood charcoal is typically made from pure wood. So, it’s known to add excellent flavor to your grilled food. For this reason, many pro grillers prefer this type of charcoal.
It also burns pretty fast than the briquettes, though it delivers less ash and waste. In addition, hardwood charcoal is expensive than briquettes with a 15-pound bag costing about $14.
A Mix of Hardwood and Briquettes
For a better and flavorful grilling process, you can combine cheap briquettes and hardwood charcoal. This enables you to reduce costs and fasten your grilling process while enjoying the smoky flavor of your meals.
Get Your Charcoal Ready
Here, you’ll need to prepare your grill for cooking by doing the following:
Place your charcoal inside the charcoal chimney.
Most grills and chimneys require about 3 pounds of charcoal to get full. You can also use the fill line your grill or chimney has as a guide.
Primarily, a charcoal chimney refers to the metallic cylinder fitted with a grate at the bottom. It also has holes on the sides and a handle.
Place your charcoal inside it and light the fire efficiently and safely. After that, pour the charcoal briquettes inside the grill once ready.
Light your charcoal grill
There are different methods you can use to light the coals in your grill:
When it comes to firing up a charcoal grill, most people prefer using lighter fluid. Pour your preferred charcoal into the grill’s base and make them form a mound.
Then sprinkle the lighter fluid evenly over the charcoal. Allow it to seep into them for around 20 seconds. After that, strike a match and toss it into the grill, lighting up the charcoal.
Once the coals turn white-hot, spread them around the grill’s base and get started.
Lighter fluid tends to be dangerous and if you’re using a charcoal chimney, it’s not the best choice .
Choosey grillers are often sensitive to the flavor lighter fluid gives. Therefore, most of them opt for fluid-free methods of firing a charcoal grill. And one of these methods involves using the chimney starter.
Here, crumple a piece of newspaper. Then dip it into a bowl with vegetable oil. Stuff it at the base of the chimney below its grate. Stick a long igniter or match in one of the holes to ignite the paper.
Allow the flames to move towards the coals and burn until the coals turn white. This may last for about 20 minutes. Once ready, lift the grill grates and pour the burning coals into the grill. You should start grilling in no time!
Electric charcoal starter
An electric charcoal starter can be a great option when lighting your grill. To use it, assemble your charcoal into a mound at the base of your grill.
Then light your coal with a switch of a button on the gadget. It’ll help the charcoal catch fire fast and start grilling in just a few minutes.
Strike-able fire starters
These are fire-starting sticks that ignite like a match stick and burn to light your charcoal. If you want to use them, create a well inside the coal.
Then strike the fire starter and allow it to perform its job. Once the coals become white-hot, spread them inside your grill as required.
Divide Your Coals into Two Zones for Fast-cooking and Slower-cooking foods
Not all foods have the same cooking speeds. And you’re not definitely going to cook only one type of food.
So, push the hot coals to one side. This zone will be hotter, hence suitable for direct heat cooking or grilling fast-cooking foods. Such foods include hot dogs, vegetables, sausages, shrimp, and hamburgers.
The other side with no charcoal will still be hot but not scorching hot. This zone of indirect heat is great for grilling foods that take more than 20 minutes to cook.
These food types could be tough or larger cuts of meat. Some of them include bone-in chicken, pork loin, roasts, and more. This zone will allow your food to cook well without burning. It can also help keep the food you grill warm.
Clean the Grill Grate
Before getting underway with charcoal grilling, it’s essential to clean the grates. Wrap a clean rag around one end of a spatula, long metal spoon, or stick to form a ball.
Dip it in a bowl of water until it soaks wet. After that, start moving it back and forth over the hot grill grate to get rid of old food, grease, or other debris. Continue dipping the rug in water as needed to keep it wet for better cleansing.
Using a wet rag to clean the grill grate is safe and easier. Some people prefer using a stiff wire brush to clean the grate before heating it. Unfortunately, this could leave small metal particles which may contaminate your food.
After cleaning the grill grate, spray vegetable or canola oil over the surface. These will form a quick coat of oil and prevent your food from sticking on the grate. It’ll also add flavor to the grate and food.
Wait for about a minute before putting your food on the hot grill. Place the foods in their respective cooking zones.
If you’re dealing with slower-cooking foods, you may want to cover the grill using the lid. This helps increase the amount of indirect heat, allowing the foods to cook thoroughly.
As for fast-cooking foods, there’s no need to cover the grill.
Be sure to add new charcoal after every half to one hour if you’re handling foods that take a longer time to cook.
Adjust the dampers or vents on the grill to regulate the heat. Open them to increase the heat as oxygen supply increases and close to cook your food at a lower temperature.
Monitor the cooking temperature of your food using an easy-to-read thermometer. If the food attains the apt temperature, take it off the grill. This ensures that your food stays safe for eating.
As you cook, turn your food once, usually halfway through cooking. This helps prevent your food from overcooking and ensures excellent results.
Close Your Grill and Clean It
After you finish cooking, close the grill and allow it to cool down. When it gets cool and safe to touch, scoop out the ashes and pour them into a metallic basin or bucket. Then keep them soaked in water overnight for disposal.
Using a grill brush, brush off any debris and food particles on the grates. By then, if you notice that the grates are quite grimy, give them a thorough clean using hot water and dish soap after soaking them.
Also, remember to clean the interior parts. Use steel wool or wire brush, dish soap, and warm water to remove any stuck-on mess and rinse. Wipe the exterior with warm water and soap to give your grill a shiny look.
That said, we believe that you now know how to use a charcoal grill. Be sure to read through the steps above if you miss out on something.
They are easy to follow, and you can rest assured to cook delicious meals without a hustle. Happy charcoal grilling!
How long do you let the charcoal burn before cooking?
You should wait for about 5 to 10 minutes for the charcoal to burn before you start grilling.
How do you use a charcoal grill for beginners?
First, add charcoal to your grill and light it. Cover the grill with the lid. Let the coals burn for at least 5 to 10 minutes, and open it.
Separate the coals into two zones for fast-cooking and slower-cooking foods. Then clean the grill grate with a damp clean rag, place your foods, and start grilling.
Do you leave the lid open or closed when heating charcoal?
The lid should remain open when placing and lighting the coals. When the coals become well-lit, close the lid to allow it to trap more heat.
How do you use a charcoal grill?
Pour coals at the base to form a mound and light them. Close the lid upon the coal catching fire and wait for around 5 to 10 minutes before opening it and create two zones for fast-cooking and slower-cooking foods.
Clean the grates and start grilling your foods. Open and close the vents to regulate heat and use a thermometer to monitor the ideal temperature for cooking your food. After cooking and the grill cools down, clean its parts thoroughly before storing.