How To Charcoal Grill The Best Way

How To Charcoal Grill The Best Way

Best Charcoal Grilling Practices

Summer is coming, and with it, grilling season. Let's learn how to charcoal grill. Gas grills are quite popular these days - maybe you even enjoy grilling using gas. But, try as you might, there is only one way to get true char-broiled flavor - grilling over a charcoal fire.

This seems simple, right?

Just grab some charcoal, throw some meat over the hot coals, and let it go, right?

No, there is an actual art to cooking over charcoal.

How should I prepare my coals? How do I prepare certain foods over a charcoal fire? Join me as I discuss these topics and more related to grilling using charcoal.

Things You'll Need to Get Started

  • charcoal of your choice
  • lighter fluid (if you decide not to go with self-starting charcoal)
  • aluminum foil to line the bottom of your grill
  • cooking spray
  • two sets of tongs
  • matches or a long-neck grill lighter

Of course, you'll need the meat of your choice. Let's start off with beef and/or pork.

Next, let's talk about the charcoal of your choice.

First, you have the option of choosing between charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal.

Charcoal briquettes are basically what you'll find at any retail store. You can choose between briquettes that are self-starting or briquettes that require lighter fluid to get going.

Charcoal Briquettes

Because of the ease of self-starting briquettes, this is usually the option I go with. Also, if you aren't careful, too much lighter fluid can result in a chemical taste in your food.

You might also be asking why you might need two sets of tongs. One is for raw meat; the other is for cooked meat.

Now that you've got the necessary ingredients, let's get ready to actually fire up the grill.

Next, for easy cleaning, I recommend placing a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the grill.

Then, placing your charcoal in a pyramid-shaped pile in the middle of the grill.

If you are using self-starter coals, then just strike a match!

If using traditional coals, then lightly spray lighter fluid on the bricks. Wait for the liquid to soak in at least one minute. You can light the fire from each side of the pile, or you can just throw a match on the pile.

Coals should light and be allowed to burn for at least twenty minutes. You'll know your coals are ready when there is no smoke. Take a pair of grilling tongs and spread the coals evenly on the grilling surface. Wait for any flames to die down before placing food on the grill.

Allow Coals To Burn At Least 20 Minutes

If your grill is new, there is no need to clean the surface, but you will want to somehow grease the cooking surface.

You can do this one of two ways - you can spray the grill surface with cooking spray or you can take a brush and lightly coat the cooking grid with oil.

If your grill is dirty, you can use a wire grill brush to clean the surface (the heat will kill any bacteria present). Either way, be sure to coat your cooking surface with an oil or spray. This will make clean-up a lot quicker and easier.

Let's talk about controlling the temperature of your grill. Grills aren't like conventional cooking ranges in the fact that you can't manually control the cooking temperature.

This is where you have to learn how to use the vents on the top and bottom of your grill. Always start your grill with both the top and bottom vents open.

If your fire is too hot, close the vents on the bottom of your grill. This will cut the oxygen supply to the fire.

However, don't keep the vents closed too long or you may lose your fire altogether. If you need more heat, reverse these steps - close the top vents and open the bottom vents.

You Can Always Open The Lid

If all else fails, you can always open the lid. This will help with direct cooking; however, if you are cooking indirectly, you may have to adjust the vents periodically.

Speaking of indirect cooking - just in case you are new to grilling, indirect cooking is placing food to the side of the heat source (rather than directly above the fire) in order to cook food slowly.

Often, larger pieces of poultry, ribs, pork loins, and roasts are cooked in this fashion. You will want to cook "low and slow" so that these meats can cook throughout but not dry out during the cooking process.

It may take several hours to cook your food using this method. Keep your lid closed to ensure proper cooking temperature is maintained at all times.

Burgers and hot dogs can be cooked using the direct method (directly over the fire). These particular foods should be ready to eat within 20 to 30 minutes.

Grilling Boneless Poultry, Seafood, and Thin Steaks on the Charcoal Grill

You will need (much is the same as the list above):

  • charcoal of your choice
  • lighter fluid
  • aluminum foil
  • cooking spray
  • two sets of tongs
  • matches or a long-neck grill lighter
  • meat of your choice
  • grill basket
  • grill thermometer or meat thermometer

When grilling fish, boneless poultry, thin steaks, and other types of seafood, aim for cooking with high temperatures at a short period of time. (This is also known as direct grilling.) Cooking these particular foods for longer than 30 minutes generally tends to result in dry meat.

The key to making sure your food is safely cooked is to use a grill thermometer. Place the grill thermometer in the top vents. If you don't have a grill thermometer, you can do the same with a conventional meat thermometer.

You want to stay within the given cooking time and temperature ranges to ensure your meat is cooked safely. (Look at the packaging of the meat to find the proper temperature. Most beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees and poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.)

Keep in mind that larger, bone-in foods will need to cook longer than thirty minutes. Just monitor their temperatures throughout the cooking process.

Grilling seafood on the grill is easy and quick also. You won't need a thermometer to know if your seafood is ready. Shrimp, lobster and other shellfish will be opaque and pearly in color.

However, if you are grilling fish, be sure to cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. You can also cook the seafood in the mesh grill basket, placing them at a safe distance from the fire.

Lamb, pork tenderloins, and pork roasts should all reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees as well.

It is highly important that you don't judge the readiness of your beef, pork, and poultry solely by its appearance (this is especially important with direct cook items such as burgers and thin steaks).

Use the meat thermometer and be sure that you have met the cooking time requirement for the particular food you are grilling.

Cleaning Your Grill

Previously I mentioned using the grill brush and fire method of cleaning your grill. However, it is always best to clean your grill after each use to ensure the maximum benefit from your grill.

Surprisingly, you will want to do this while your grill is still warm. Close all vents to your grill. Use the wire grill brush to remove any stuck-on food.

Another great cleaning technique is to lay paper towels on the cooking grid and spray with a mixture of soapy water. Allow this to soak into the cooking grid, then wipe down once the grill is cool enough.

If you placed aluminum foil at the base of the grill before cooking, you can just roll the used charcoal into the foil and throw it away.

If you did not place foil at the base of your grill, take cooking tongs and place them in water in order to ensure the embers are completely out. Then throw them in the garbage.

Never leave old ash and leftover charcoal in the grill. When mixed with water, charcoal ash has an acidic reaction and will cause your grill to rust much faster than if you remove the ashes after every use.

I recommend purchasing a grill cover. Using the grill cover will further extend the life of your grill. Keep your grill covered in a cool, dry place between uses.

Your charcoal should also be stored properly. All varieties of charcoal should be stored in a cool, dry place, but extra care should be taken when self-starting charcoal is involved.

Once you have finished using self-starting charcoal, be sure to reseal the bag tightly with either clips or tape. The burning compounds will evaporate if the bag is left open, so be sure that there is no air getting into the bag.

With summer coming, we all need to get our grills ready to go! Hopefully with these tips you will venture into cooking on the charcoal grill.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use a charcoal grill?

What's the secret to keeping food from sticking to the grill?

How do you keep a charcoal grill hot?

There really is no better taste than fresh, charbroiled meat from the grill. I hope you enjoyed learning about grilling with charcoal. Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments! Happy grilling!

Each Share Saves a Steak From Being Cooked Well Done