How to Use a Charcoal Grill – Helpful Grilling Tips for You to Know
Do you have a charcoal grill but are still hesitant about using it? No worries, we’re here to help. The thought of using a charcoal grill may be intimidating, but with these helpful tips, you’ll be a barbecue grilling pro in no time!
In this article, we'll go over preheating instructions and how to properly light a charcoal grill using the right coals. We will also talk about how to cook with it and give you ideas on what heat you should be cooking certain foods on. Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to clean your grill afterward to make sure it is well maintained. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this great read!
Preheating - How to Light a Charcoal Grill
Choosing Right Coal
Grilling with charcoal may seem complex, but it really isn’t once you get the hang of it! If you're new to grilling, we recommend that you start out using charcoal briquettes. They usually heat more evenly and will likely give you better cooking results. However, if you’re more experienced, go ahead and give lump charcoals a try! They typically burn hotter than briquettes but be aware that they sometimes come unevenly charred.
How Much to Use
If you find yourself unsure of how much charcoal to use, do not fret. A good rule of thumb is to fill it with about three pounds of coal. However, if you want to be exact, check to see if your grill has a maximum fill line. This will tell you precisely how much coal to use. If you do not see this on your grill, your manual is a good place to look.
Arranging the Coals
Typically, you would think to dump the coals in the center of the grill and spread them out evenly across the bottom of the grate. This is fine if you're grilling foods that do not burn easily, such as hot dogs. However, if you're grilling foods that take longer to cook all the way through, you’ll want to build a two-zone fire. Arrange all the coals on one half of the grill's bottom grate and leave the other side empty. Use the side with coal for high-heat cooking and the other side for lower-temperature cooking. When grilling, sear the food on the hot zone, then move it over to the cooler zone. This will help it to cook all the way through without burning.
To know how to arrange the coals, you'll want to be aware of the difference between direct and indirect cooking.
Direct vs. Indirect Grilling
As you prepare to grill your food, it’s important to know what kind of grilling method to use.
Direct grilling is when your food is cooked directly over heat. Generally, you’ll want to do this with foods that take about twenty-five minutes or less to cook (such as burgers and hot dogs). Make sure that the food is turned halfway through cooking so that each of the sides has time to fully cook.
Indirect grilling is a bit different because the foods aren’t cooked directly over the heat. When using a charcoal grill, the hot coals are spread throughout the grill with a drip pan in between them. The food is then placed in the center of the grill rack. Indirect heat is ideal for foods that take longer to cook (such as roasts and ribs).
Lighting the Charcoal
The easiest way to get the charcoal going is by using a charcoal chimney starter. Stuff newspaper at the bottom of the chimney and then fill it with charcoal. Then, remove the top grate from the grill, put the chimney inside, and light the newspaper. You can do this by using matches or lighter fluid. The charcoal should burn for about fifteen minutes, or until it is covered with grey ash. After this is done, take the top grate of your grill off, hold the chimney, and pour the coals into your grill. Don’t forget to wear grill gloves, as things get fiery hot!
How to Cook with a Charcoal Grill
As mentioned before, it’s important to consider what kind of food you will be cooking. There are different ways to arrange the coals, so make sure that you think about this before starting.
Cooking with High Heat
Steaks and vegetables are perfect to cook on high heat. This is the best way to get a perfect sear on the outside and a juicy inside. Keep in mind that it takes about eight minutes for the charcoal to get to high heat.
Cooking with Medium Heat
There are many things that cook best on medium heat. This includes hot dogs, fish, and poultry that needs time to cook all the way through. Coals usually take about thirty minutes to get to medium heat, so understand that cooking on medium heat is a much longer process.
Monitoring the Temperature
It’s important throughout this process to check how hot your food and grill are getting. To avoid burning your food, use a grill thermometer to monitor the temperature of your grill. If you don’t have one, however, you can use a meat thermometer and place it in one of the top vents. Use the thermometer for your food as well to check its temperature. A safe rule to follow is to grill your food until it reaches 165 degrees to avoid food poisoning.
How to Put out a Charcoal Grill
When you finish grilling, don’t let the charcoals slowly die out. Instead, quickly cut off the oxygen supply. This will prevent the hot coals from burning more than they need to. To do this, sweep the coals into a heatproof can (such as a metal garbage bin) and make sure to cover it fully with a lid. The flames will quickly disappear since the air supply has been directly cut off.
Reusing the Charcoal
Once your charcoal has cooled, you can reuse it for next time. Not only does this save you money, but it’s also better for the environment! To do this, fill the chimney starter halfway with fresh, new coals. Top the rest off with your used charcoal and shake to let any loose ash out. You’re now ready to fire up the grill again!
How to Clean the Grill After Using
Make sure to clean your grill right after cooking, while it is still hot. Use a stiff-wire grill brush to remove any extra food remnants left on your grill. Once you do this, lightly wipe it off with a paper towel to ensure that it is nice and clean. To keep your grill in good condition, it’s recommended that you do this after each use.
As mentioned above, there are ways to use coals a second time. However, if there are any ashes or embers that need to be thrown away, place them in a metal can with water and allow them to sit overnight before discarding.
We hope that this helped ease your fear of using a charcoal grill. If you have your own, now you know how to use it better. If not, you should consider buying one. It is a great grill to purchase at a reasonable price, is easy to carry with you, and cooks food with a smoke flavor that few can resist. Now go enjoy your barbecue meal!