While cooking on a charcoal grill can be slightly more complicated than using a gas or electric grill, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Whether you’re looking to master the charcoal grill for its high heat, versatile cooking, incredible flavor or juicier meats, there are methods to the madness when it comes to using it – and it definitely requires more effort. We’re going to take you through our tips to help you master your charcoal grill, so you can confidently enjoy its many benefits in no time.
Use a Chimney Starter
There are a few reasons a chimney starter should be included with your other grilling accessories. One large benefit is that it eliminates the need for lighter fluid on your charcoal, so you can buy natural briquettes that don’t pose any health risks when cooking over an open flame.
Danilo Alfaro of The Spruce Eats tells us more about why it’s important to use a chimney starter for your charcoal grill:
“Chimney starters are a must for charcoal grilling. They will light up to 100 charcoal briquets and get them red hot within 20 minutes, using nothing but a match and a single sheet of newspaper. No more lighter fluid! That means no more exploding lighter fluid or food that tastes like kerosene. The best chimney starters are the 6-quart models, and you can find them at hardware stores and home stores everywhere.”
Don’t Pour the Coals into Your Grill Before They’re Ready
It’s incredibly important to wait until your coals are fully grey before pouring them out of the chimney and into the grill base. By waiting until your coals are fully grey, it will be much easier to control the temperature of the charcoal, giving you more say over how your food is cooked.
Max Bonem of FoodandWine.com explains more on why this step is so necessary in order to master your charcoal grill:
“This is very important and while we know you and your guests are probably hungry, a bit of patience here will really pay off in the end. The problem here is that if you don’t wait and you add the charcoal to the grill while some of it is still black, you’ll have way more difficulty controlling the temperature. The black charcoal will continue heating and suddenly the way you’ve distributed your charcoal in the grill will no longer match the temperatures. Seriously, let your chimney do its thing and let those coals get nice and gray before you do anything crazy.”
Make Sure You’re Using the Right Type of Heat
It’s important to remember that cooking food directly over hot charcoal is not unlike cooking over high heat on a gas grill. Therefore, you need to think about what foods you are cooking when placing them in your charcoal grill. If you are not using the best heat source for the job, it’s extremely likely that you’ll either undercook, overcook or burn your meal.
Kelli Foster of TheKitchn.com gives her advice on how to ensure your food is perfectly cooked every time:
“Follow this tip: Before adding the charcoal to the grill, consider what you’re cooking. This will determine whether direct, indirect, or a mix of both is the best option for you, and whether to spread the charcoal over the whole grill or just a portion. Foods like burgers, hot dogs, steak, and chicken breast all benefit from direct heat since they have a relatively quick cook time, while larger foods with a longer cook time (like whole chicken, pork loin, and ribs) are best cooked over indirect heat.”
If you’re looking for more recipe inspiration or you want to see where you can enjoy the benefits of a charcoal grill at your favourite restaurant, check out our list of all restaurants to compare food menus.