How To Use A Charcoal Grill: An In-Depth Guide


How to Use A Charcoal Grill

In a nutshell, here’s how start a charcoal grill step-by-step:

  • To light a charcoal grill, put an adequate amount of charcoal in there. Heap the charcoal into a cone or pyramid shape.
  • Pour the lighter fluid on the charcoal cone, pouring a sufficient amount in the middle and around the edges. Use about a quarter cup of the liquid for every pound of charcoal. Allow the fluid to stay on the coals for about 30 seconds.
  • We recommend using a long match to ignite the charcoal at the base on two of the sides.
  • Allow the charcoal to burn until every coal is white on the surface.
  • Then use a tool with a long handle and spread the charcoal equally across the grate.
  • Shut the lid and wait for five minutes.
  • Then open the cover, and place the cooking grate over the coal. Place the food on the barbecue and begin cooking.

The best method to use to light your charcoal grill is a charcoal chimney or a similar tool. A charcoal chimney uses newspaper as an alternative to lighter fluid.

How to Use A Charcoal Grill
A charcoal chimney – handy if you don’t want to use lighter fluid.

By doing away with the use of a fuel product, you also do away with any added petroleum flavor that could remain in your food. You merely place several sheets of wrinkled newspaper in the base of the chimney and place charcoal on top of them. Ignite it, and wait about 10 minutes to add the charcoal.

Another alternative way to light a charcoal grill is to use an electric charcoal fire starter. What you do is to put it on the barbecue between two layers of charcoal. It will supply sufficient heat to get the charcoal to change color and develop some white ash. After that you can take the electric charcoal fire starter out and allow the charcoal’s temperature to rise.

Both of the methods above allow the charcoals to burn until they develop a grayish surface before you start cooking. By doing so, you make sure that any pastes or preservatives are burned off. It is better not to purchase self-lighting charcoal since it contains preservatives that work like lighter fluid. Additionally self-lighting charcoal can add off-flavors in addition to chemicals to your food if they fail to burn off completely.

Remember though: every time you are using fire, there is a potential for an injury to you and any person nearby. It should also be emphasized that fire can rapidly get out of control when you do not use common sense.

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For those without an electric charcoal fire starter or charcoal chimney on hand, you might want to learn how to make use of lighter fluid in a safe manner. Fuel-based lighter fluid is not the only alternative though. There are bio-fuel lighter fluids that are made from plant-based alcohols and oils that you may want to research.

Never add lighter fluid to burning coals. Even though there is no flame, the temperature will make the lighter fluid vaporize, and this can cause an explosion.

Use great care with lighter fluid and other explosive fuels. And never lean over the grill when lighting it with combustible liquids. Don’t believe us? Just head over to YouTube and search for ‘grill explosion’…

Charcoal Grilling Tips And Techniques

Using a charcoal grill can to some extent be more complicated than using an electric or a gas barbecue, especially if the person grilling is a novice. Here are some tips and techniques to get the best results when using a charcoal grill.

Ignite the coals for about 30 minutes before of cooking and if you are using lighter fluid, make sure that the flames have gone out completely before putting the meat on the grill. Otherwise, you could get the nasty taste of fuel in your meat. At this point, the charcoal is supposed to be mostly an ash-gray color with a little bit of bright red glow underneath.

Only put charcoal on the base of one side of your charcoal grill. After that, place some mesquite or hickory wood chips on top of the hot charcoal to add more flavor. Lay the meat on the side of the barbecue away from the charcoal and keep the lid shut.

Chimney starters are a necessity for charcoal grilling because they can heat up to 100 charcoal briquettes in 20 minutes by using nothing but a match and one sheet of newspaper. No need for lighter fluid anymore! Using a chimney starter means that there will be no risk of explosions or petroleum tasting food. The most recommended chimney starters are the 6-quart models.

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You cannot regulate the heat of a charcoal grill with a knob as you would with a gas grill. However, you can manage the heat on your grill by controlling the oxygen flow. You can do this by adjusting the vents to let in more or less oxygen.

More air will generate more heat. Be sure the bottom of the grill is not overfilled with cinders. Otherwise ash can block the vents.

To be considered an expert of charcoal grilling incorporate wood! Whether you are planning on high or low-temperature grilling, or you just want to add a little smoky note to the food, wood is the way to go. Mesquite and Hickory in addition to fruitwoods such as cherry and apple are some favorites of grill masters. For roasting and smoking, use large pieces of dried wood.

You can also just add a few wood chips over your hot charcoal for grilling, however, be sure to soak the wood chips in water first. Hardwood charcoal usually burns out quicker than briquettes, but it gives your meat a delicious, smoky taste.

How To Keep A Charcoal Grill Going For Hours

Cooking meat over a charcoal grill involves cooking slow and low. In other words: the heat is supposed to be held stable at a low temperature for a long time.

A pack of charcoal that is enough to load a home grill will typically be exhausted in less than two hours if it is not attended. However, two hours is not enough time to grill especially thick pieces of meat. That’s why knowing how to keep the grill going for hours is vital to being successful at grilling.

How do you keep a charcoal grill going for hours on end? To keep the grill going, close it and regulate the vents to oxygenate the fire. Keeping the vents halfway closed will make the coal last longer.

Keeping the vents open completely on the other hand will generate the maximum amount of heat, whereas gradually closing the vents will lessen the airflow to the charcoal and lower the temperature thus making it burn slower. So the charcoal will last longer if you close the vents halfway.

Keep checking on the grill once an hour and add charcoal as required to keep the fire going and maintain the heat needed for whatever you’re cooking.

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Never add lighter fluid after you have placed the food on the barbecue. Keep adding briquettes, a small number of them at a time. They will ignite from the heat of the charcoal already burning in the grill.

How To Know When A Charcoal Grill Is Ready

Your charcoal grill is ready when the charcoal turns white. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s already time to begin cooking. You should wait until the charcoal has been burned to a uniform white before the meat is placed on the grates.

Whenever the charcoal turns white, it’s only hot on the outer layer and only warm on the inside. It is advisable to delay the cooking until no less than two-thirds of the charcoal turns white, and the charcoal has stopped smoking.

Using a grill tool to spread the charcoal around is essential. Spreading the briquettes out in the grill will make the heat in your grill be more even. While grilling, it’s good to keep an eye on to the temperature.

Also, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food. You will prevent over or undercooking by doing it.

How To Clean A Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills need some maintenance and cleaning to ensure that they will be able to function and cook your food well. Cleaning should be done on all racks, whether personal barbecues in your backyard, in campsites, or public parks. Even though community outdoor cookers are perfectly harmless to use, clean them before putting any food on them.

  • It’s good to warm the grill, and use a stiff wire brush to scour away any debris from the barbecue. Scrubbing not only removes food debris but also cleans the grates hence improving food hygiene.
  • Before you light the outdoor cooker, you should open all the vents. Opening the vents is essential because fire requires oxygen.
  • After the grill has been cleaned, the briquettes are put in the grill.
  • And remember what we told you about keeping the fire burning: the temperature can be controlled by regulating the vents; more open vents mean more oxygen hence hotter flames. Vents that are open to a lesser degree mean cooler temperatures. At no time should you close all of the vents because the fire can die.

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