Lighting up a charcoal grill and removing the ash regularly might scare plenty of people away. There are several simple basic rules that are a good idea to follow so that cooking on a charcoal grill is easy, pleasant and successful. Nobody is born a grilling master which is why you should learn few tricks that will make cooking on a charcoal grill more pleasant to you.
The structure of a charcoal grill is very simple, in most models there are several important elements such as the lid, the air vents, the grates, the ash tray and the ash catcher. Properly using all those tools guarantees you with success in cooking. If you’re considering buying a new grill then you should definitely check out best charcoal grills buyer's guide.
Let me start with the issue of starting a grill, for that purpose read the how to light a charcoal grill guide where I comprehensively described several most popular, simplest and most effective methods. You will learn in that article about the easiest and fastest way to get charcoal burning ( in about 15 minutes ) without even getting your hands dirty during that task.
If you have already read the guide on how to easily get a charcoal grill burning or you believe that you don’t need it, you can move on to the next step.
How to Light a Charcoal Grill
The most popular mistakes you should avoid
What and How to Cook on a Charcoal grill
Remember one thing, you have to adjust the temperature and the cooking method to the food you’re cooking. Thick slabs of meat (ribs or a beef roast) that require more than 20-30 minutes should be cooked at a low temperature using the indirect method in order to create warm areas.
Much smaller thin pieces like steaks, hamburgers or chicken wings should be cooked in a higher temperature directly over the source of heat ( direct heat ).
How to Control Temperature on Charcoal grill
For beginners, the temperature control in a charcoal grill might be quite a difficult task. It is a good idea to learn several rules that will help you master your grill, especially the temperature inside the grill.
The main role in heat control in a charcoal grill is played by oxygen and air vents. Oxygen is required to burn the charcoal, it is your friend and an enemy if you use it improperly.
Limited amount of oxygen lowers the temperature and causes the charcoal to burn slower, analogously higher amount of oxygen contributes to a significant rise of temperature and makes the charcoal burn faster. What to do, then?
You have to properly use the air vents. By properly opening or closing the air vents you make the temperature inside the grill rise or drop. In most cases the air vents are located on the top and the bottom of the grill ( sometimes on the sides ). So let’s move on to several examples of how it really works.
How to lower the temperature inside a charcoal grill ?
All you have to do is close the air vents almost all the way. Remember to leave them open at least a little, oxygen is required to burn the charcoal, if you close the air vents all the way, then pretty soon the fie will die. Depending on how much you close the air vents, you lower the temperature inside the grill and extend the charcoal burning time.
How to increase the temperature inside a charcoal grill ?
A very simple task, the opposite of what you do to lower the temperature which means you have to open the air vents all the way and let a lot of oxygen in. In such conditions, the charcoal will burn much faster, generating much higher temperature.
What to do if you need the highest possible temperature ?
A simple task – add much more charcoal directly on top of the burning charcoal and leave the air vents open all the way. The second method is to use a special charcoal chimney starter, which allows to burn a large amount of charcoal evenly within 15 minutes.
Problem with flare-ups in a charcoal grill ?
Flare-ups occur when grease from food drips directly onto hot charcoal. The most common mistake people make is using water to extinguish flare-ups. It is a bad idea as extinguishing with water causes the ash to fly up, which results in some of the ash landing on your food.
If you want to successfully prevent flare-ups then cook on the grill using two heat areas or leave at least a little free space on the cooking surface. When flare-ups do occur, just move the food away from the flames onto the free space, once the flames die out you can move the food back to the same spot.
How to Smoke Meat on a Charcoal grill
Smoking on a charcoal grill is an easy task, you need at least a mid-size grill so that you can split the grill’s space into areas. If you are experienced with cooking food using the indirect method, it is even better for you. See how it looks step by step.
Before you start, there are plenty of methods of indirect cooking, which is why I suggest you read that guide. You will find out how to properly divide the grill’s space into different areas.
Now all that is left for you to do is control the temperature and once in a while add some charcoal in order to maintain a fixed, low temperature ( like once in an hour ). Try to open the lid as rarely as possible, preferably only when you want to add more charcoal or wood chips.
The bigger the charcoal grill, the better for you. You really should buy a digital thermometer that will allow you to evaluate the temperature inside the meat.
What Charcoal to Use?
You have two types to choose from, Lump Charcoal vs. Briquettes – which to pick ? You can read about it in detail but let me briefly present the upsides and downsides of both types of charcoal.
Personally, I use both types depending on what I want to cook.
Post-season maintenance – very important topic
If you wish for your grill to last for many years, look and work very well then you have to ensure the proper maintenance of the grill.
Obviously, a grill’s durability depends to a large extent on the quality of the materials it was made of, but there are methods today that successfully extend a grill’s lifespan.
After the end of season, before you put the grill away in the garage or any other place, remember about one very important thing.
Grill cover – Buy a cover in the right size so that it fits your grill. A cover is made of special materials that protect your grill from many harmful external factors such as rain, sun, dust, freezing rain, snow etc.
If you’re planning to hide your grill in the garage for a long time then it’s a good idea to think about cleaning it before doing so. For that purpose, comprehensively clean the entire grill, and then dry it very well. It is very important, as dampness causes rust to appear.
A grill that is properly protected like this will be safe and instantly ready for cooking when you need it.
Charcoal Grill Tips & Techniques
Below I present different kinds of tips and info that will surely come in handy during cooking and help you master a charcoal grill better.