If you’re a lover of the outdoors and want to explore a new way of cooking, using a charcoal grill is an excellent option. Not only is it a great way to cook your food, but it also provides a unique flavor and texture that can’t be achieved with gas grills. However, if you’re new to charcoal grilling, it can be a bit intimidating, but with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be grilling like a pro in no time. In this article, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to use a charcoal grill. Once you’ve mastered the art of cooking over fire, or charcoal, you will see why there is no debate in gas vs charcoal.
Choosing the Right Charcoal Grill
Before we dive into the details of how to use a charcoal grill, it’s essential to choose the right one. There are many different types of charcoal grills available, but the two most common are the kettle grill and the ceramic grill. The kettle grill is the most popular type and is often the most affordable. It’s also versatile and easy to use, making it a great choice for beginners. On the other hand, the ceramic grill is more expensive, but it’s excellent for cooking low and slow, making it perfect for smoking meats.
Personally, I still use my Chargriller Akron the most, as it provides me with a great cook, and is easy to use without having to babysit it all day on those long cooks. I like the ease of use, and you can’t beat the price.
If you are looking to spend more money, you simply cannot go wrong with the Big Green Egg Brand of grills. They are the best in the world for a reason. The heat retention is amazing, and they hold up extremely well over the course of time.
Some Tools You Will Need For Grilling
- Metal Spatula
- Smoking Wood
- Instant Read Thermometer
Preparing the Grill
Before you start grilling, you need to prepare your charcoal grill. Begin by removing the cooking grate and cleaning the grill grates with a grill brush. Then, take the ash pan out and dispose of any leftover ash from the previous cookout. Add fresh charcoal to the charcoal chimney, which is a metal cylinder with a handle. Once the charcoal is lit, it will heat up and turn white, which means it’s ready to use.
Lighting the Charcoal, when grilling
There are several ways to light charcoal, but one of the easiest and most effective methods is to use a chimney starter. Fill the chimney starter with charcoal, then light a few pieces of newspaper and place them in the bottom of the chimney. After about 20-30 minutes, the charcoal will be ready to use. Once the charcoal is hot, carefully pour it into the grill, spreading it out evenly.
Lighting the Charcoal, when smoking
When using your charcoal grill as a smoker, you want to slowly and carefully bring your grill up to the desired cooking temperature. This is best done by adding charcoal to your grill, and lighting a few coals at a time. I do this by using a fire starting bundle, and letting it catch. After a few minute, you can close up your smoker, set your vents, and slowly bring the temperature up. This will help you from getting the temperature too hot at the beginning, which makes it nearly impossible to bring those temperatures back down after the fire is already going too strong.
Adjusting the Vents
Adjusting the vents on your charcoal grill is essential to control the temperature. Most charcoal grills have two vents – one on the bottom and one on the top. To raise the temperature, open the vents wide. To lower the temperature, close the vents slightly. Keep in mind that the more air that flows into the grill, the hotter it will get.
Once the charcoal is hot, and the grill is heated, you’re ready to start grilling. Begin by placing your food on the cooking grate, making sure to leave space between each piece of food. If you’re cooking meat, use tongs to turn it over every few minutes, making sure to cook it evenly on both sides. Remember, the higher the heat, the faster the food will cook. If you’re cooking vegetables or other delicate foods, it’s best to use indirect heat by pushing the coals to one side of the grill.
If you are using your grill as a smoker, you will need to set the grill up as an indirect cooker. This is easily done with a smoking stone, or by moving the hot coals to one side of the chamber. This will allow the grill to act more like an oven, and circulate the heat evenly around whatever you are cooking. The most important thing when smoking meat is temperature control, so always be extra cautious and take a slow approach to heating up your smoker. I like to smoke my meat at 250 degrees.
In order to accurately measure your temperature of the cooking grate, it’s best to use thermometer that can be placed inside the grill. Most of the time, the thermometers that are attached to your grill can be off by as much as 50 degrees or more. Placing a thermometer probe on the cooking surface will make you much more consistent with your different cooks.
Temperature of your food
Food safety is important when it comes to cooking anything, especially grilling. It’s hard if not impossible to tell the done-ness of your meat by just looking at it on your grill, it’s Smokey, sometimes dark outside, and who wants to cut into it and risk messing up the cook?
The hands down best way to check your food for being done is by using a meat thermometer that you can jab right into the meat, and it tells you instantly the internal temp, taking the guessing game out of whether or not your food is safe to eat. I use an instant read thermometer like this.
Cleaning the Grill
After you’re finished cooking, it’s essential to clean the grill. Start by removing the cooking grate and letting it cool. Then, use a grill brush to clean the grates, making sure to remove any leftover food or debris. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe down the inside of the lid and the outside of the grill. Finally, dispose of any leftover charcoal and ash and store your grill in a dry, covered area.
There you have it, a not so intimidating guide to using a charcoal grill. Once you’ve grilled a few steaks on yours, there will be no going back to gas or electric. Be careful though, once you fire this grill up, your neighbors may begin coming over and lingering for scraps to hit the ground!