How to Become an Expert Charcoal Grilling

There’s something undeniably charming, inherent, and perhaps primal about cooking outdoors on a charcoal grill. And it’s not just the smoky flavor that appeals to us, it’s the whole process: pouring and stacking charcoal briquettes, striking a match to create a fire, waiting (impatiently) for the briquettes to turn gray, And finally the sight and sound of crisp meat, simply put, cooking on a charcoal grill is irresistible.

So, with outdoor grilling season upon us, I thought I’d share eight tips for getting the most out of your charcoal grill this summer.

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Buy Smart.

The most important thing you can do is think about what you want to cook and how you want to cook it. If you just want to grill a few hot dogs and hamburgers at the campsite, there’s no point in leaving. Buy an inexpensive grill and use some common sense in preparing this meal. If you’re still there, but want to move on to, say, grilling seafood or smoking, you’ll need a grill that’s capable of taking you where you want to go.

The most important thing to cook more delicious food on any grill is that you need the ability to control the heat source. For charcoal grills, this means plenty of room for fuel and either the means to add more charcoal quickly, the means to raise and lower the cooking surface, or a grill body that lets you cook charcoal indirectly. Allows moving up to one side.

Remove the ashes

Before adding new charcoal, remove the cooking grate and charcoal grate to gain access to the very bottom of the grill. Remove any remaining ash from the last time you grilled. This is important because a thick layer of ash can block the air holes and prevent the grill from maintaining an even cooking temperature.

And it’s best to put old ashes in a tightly covered metal bucket, just in case there are any smoldering embers, which could potentially start a fire. If ash dust has become wet and stuck to the bottom of the grill, scrape it off with a garden trowel.

Clean the cooking grate.

No one wants to hear this, but to keep your grill looking and working at its best, it’s important to clean the cooking grate after each use.

As soon as the grate is cool enough to handle, remove it from the grill and place it in a shallow tub of warm, soapy water. Let the grate soak for 20 minutes or more, then clean both sides with a nonabrasive, soapy scrubbing pad. I prefer synthetic pads over wire brushes because they don’t leave metal flakes behind.

Although not as effective as soaking, you can clean the grate using a long-handled grill brush. But again, use a nylon bristle brush or a bristle-less stainless steel grill brush, not a wire brush.

How to Become an Expert Charcoal Grilling

Light the charcoal.

There are two basic ways to light charcoal briquettes: the traditional method or the fireplace starter. Both techniques work well, but the charcoal from the fireplace gets ready to cook a little quicker. Regardless of which method you use, open all vents before striking the match to allow for adequate airflow.

For the traditional method, remove the cooking grate and place the briquettes on the charcoal grate. If you’re cooking burgers, hot dogs, fish, and vegetables, 20 or more briquettes are usually enough. Double that amount if you’re subbing for steaks and chips.

Cover the briquettes in a pyramid shape, sprinkle on some lighter fluid, and then immediately light the briquettes. Warning: Never spray lighter fluid on burning coals. Wait until the briquettes are mostly brown, which should take 10 or 15 minutes, then spread them out in an even layer.

If using a fireplace starter, start by tearing three or four sheets of newspaper into 2- to 3-inch-wide strips. (Narrow strips burn more quickly than large sheets of paper.) Crumple the strips loosely and stuff them into the cavity at the bottom of the chimney. Place the fireplace on the charcoal grate and insert the charcoal briquettes into the upper chamber of the fireplace. Fill it halfway if grilling burgers and dogs, and fill it all the way if grilling steaks.

Strike a match and light the newspaper. As the newspaper burns, and air flows up and through the chimney, the fire will quickly spread through the charcoal. Charcoal is ready when the bracts at the top of the chimney begin to turn gray. Place on an oven clay, and then carefully lift the chimney and pour the hot coals onto the coal grate. Spread them out and you’re ready to start grilling.

Charcoal briquettes are designed to burn for about an hour. If you want to cook longer than that, add more briquettes to the fire. Just make sure to add them while the coals are still hot.

Oil up the grate

After the charcoal is ready, set the cooking grate on the grill and then wait about five minutes for the grate to heat up. If you put food on a cold grate, it will stick. And then, before placing the food on the grate, wipe the surface of the cooking grate with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. This will also prevent the food from sticking. Hold the oil-soaked paper with tongs to avoid burning your fingers.

Direct vs Direct Grilling

Direct grilling is when there is an even layer of hot briquettes covering the entire charcoal grate. This method is popular because it creates a large cooking surface for many foods, and it maintains a consistent temperature for a long time.

For indirect grilling (also known as two-zone cooking), only half of the charcoal grate is covered with hot coals, leaving the other half bare. As a result, you have a high-temperature area for searing meat quickly, and a slightly cooler area for slow cooking.

Controlling flare-ups

Fiery, dreaded flare-ups are the bane of every backyard chef. And while it may be impossible to completely avoid flare-ups, there are ways to dramatically reduce them:

  1. Keep the grate clean of all sticky sauces, burnt food residue, and caked grease. All can contribute to flare-ups.
  2. Trim excess fat from steaks and chips.
  3. Avoid using oily marinades and sauces.
  4. Keep the lid open when grilling fatty foods.
  5. Protect the grill from strong winds, which can blow through the cooking grate, causing flare-ups.
  6. Do not overcrowd the grill with food. That way, if a flare-up happens, you’ll see it quickly and be able to move or pick up the food.
  7. Do not spray water on the fire; You can get burned by hot, greasy splashes. Also, water will wet the hot briquettes, lower the cooking temperature and, in extreme cases, extinguish the coals.
How to Become an Expert Charcoal Grilling

Smoked meat

If your grill has a tight-fitting lid or lid, you can use it to gently sear meat and fish. Traditional charcoal grilling is done at high temperatures in the 450º to 550º F range. But to give meat and fish a rich, smoky flavor, the grill only needs to be 200º to 250º F.

To maintain a low temperature, you only need a handful of briquettes. Once the briquettes are ready, push them aside and place a foil pan of water next to them. As the water heats, it evaporates the moisture in the air inside the grill, which helps maintain the temperature and prevents the food from drying out.

And to add a subtle wood-smoke flavor to meat or fish, soak hickory or mesquite chips in water for about 20 minutes. Then spread a thin layer of saturated chips directly over the hot coals. And when smoking food, make sure to keep the lid closed and the vents partially open.

Reuse the briquettes.

Often when you’re done grilling, the charcoal briquettes still have plenty left over. If neglected, they will simply burn to ashes. However, if you close the lid and close all the vents immediately after cooking, the briquettes will suffocate and suffocate due to lack of air.

Then, the next time you’re ready to grill, simply tap the charcoal grate with a BBQ tool. All the ash will fall, revealing smaller, but still perfectly good charcoal briquettes ready to fire once again.

Is charcoal grilling better?

Simply put, charcoal is faster and hotter than gas. But it’s important to note that searing isn’t everything. Most things you do on the grill don’t require ridiculously high temperatures. On the opposite end of the spectrum, charcoal also beats gas.

Is it unhealthy to grill with charcoal?

Do not burn or burn meat, poultry, or fish. Searing, burning, or grilling meat, poultry, and fish at high temperatures causes the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These HCAs can damage a person’s genes, increasing the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer.

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