Don’t: Heat Both Sides Of Your Grill To The Same Temperature
With gas grills, you have the option to customize the temperature on each side with the simple twist of a dial. The way you do this with charcoal, though, is by distributing at least 75 percent of the coals to one side, creating two different temperature zones. This allows you to cook different foods at different speeds and gives you more options for letting your food rest over little to no heat while you get everything else set up prior to eating.
Not Enough Charcoal In The Grill
Perhaps the most common reason some charcoal grills dont get hot enough is that theres not enough charcoal. You can use wood charcoal or briquettes, but they both need to have a substantial amount in the grill. Its important to have enough charcoal layered in the grill for even, reliable heating.
One way to know if theres enough charcoal is if you can see the bottom. You should never be able to see the metal underside of the grill beneath the charcoal. However, different meals require different amounts of charcoal.
Mistake #: You’re Using Too Much Direct Heat
The Thinking:Me Like Meat. Me Like Fire. Me Like Big Meat With Big Fire. The bigger the fire, the better the searing and charring and the tastier the meat.
The Reality: Your fire is too hot and your steak starts to burn on the outside before it’s even begun to hit medium rare in the center. You desperately look around for a place to move it to but your entire grill is as hot as the eighth level of hell.
The Fix: Build yourself a two-zone fire. On a coal grill, this means evenly distributing the coals under only half of the grill, leaving the other half either empty or covered with a very, very thin layer of coals. In a gas grill this means lighting the burners on one side, leaving the other side off or on very low heat. With two zones you have much more control over your cooking. Place meat and vegetables over the hot side for fast searing, or shift them over to the cooler side for more gently cooking. With your meat on the cool side of the grill and the grill covered, you can even create an oven-like setting inside for grill-roasting large cuts of meat like prime rib or a leg of lamb.
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Keep A Lid On To Keep Heat In
One of the key rules for how to cook on a charcoal grill effectively is you must use your lid. According to Dan Cooper, Head Grill Master at Weber , keeping your barbecues lid on will: ‘Help to cook your food through more effectively, regulate the airflow to eliminate the risk of flair ups that could blacken food, and infuse all the wonderful barbecue flavors into whatever youre cooking.’
You should always use your lid when grilling as it creates more of an oven for even cooking. ‘Unless your sole purpose is for searing over hot coals,’ says BBQ master and marketing manager at Masterbuilt , Ben Forte. ‘In which case leaving the lid off exposes the coals to more oxygen and creates more heat.’
Bear in mind that you will burn through your coal quicker without a lid on your charcoal grill.
Add More Lighter Fluid:
Using extra lighter fluid can speed up preheating time because it allows the fire starter material to burn off much faster than it normally would without using too much lighter fluid. In addition, once you apply lighter fluid, close the lid quickly so that plenty of hot air gets trapped inside, accelerating the process even more quickly.
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Does Adding More Charcoal Make The Grill Hotter
Adding more charcoal to already lit charcoal does indeed raise the temperature in the cookbox. But doing so also produces a lot of smoke, so you will probably have to open the vents or lid if the smoke buildup is getting out of control.
If you have charcoal thats cooling down, you can add fresh charcoal in a chimney starter, and once its lit, dump it around the existing coals, spread, and mix them with the existing charcoal.
Why Does My Fire Keep Going Out On My Grill
If your fire keeps going out, chances are there isnt enough air ventilation going on. Fire needs oxygen to stay lit and hot. Without sufficient air, the coals will eventually die out.
So make sure the vents underneath your grill are open. Another thing to focus on is to not use damp coals or wood.
Damp coals might lit up but they wont stay lit for longer. So make sure the charcoal is bone dry.
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Grilling Mistakes You Don’t Have To Make
Ah, summer. That special time of year when those good spatula-wielding folks who only cook for one season out of the year dust off the old grill to burn a few steaks and serve up some medium-rare chicken. Okay, perhaps I’m being unfair here. There are plenty of amazing backyard cooks who take a structured, scientific approach to good grilling and reap the flavorful rewards because of it, but there are just as many who think that all it takes to put together a successful backyard cookout is the ability to buy some steaks and light a fire.
I’ve been to enough cookouts in my time to recognize the warning signs of tough, sooty, or downright dangerous meat to come. Here are some of the most common mistakes beginning grillers make and how to avoid them.
Add Fuel As Needed Or Every Half Hour
Since charcoal takes a little while to light and become nice orange and white coals, you need to plan ahead when it comes to adding fuel. You dont want to wait until the coals are almost gone to put more briquettes in, as the temperature will probably drop more than you want, and youll almost be starting from scratch again.
Instead, plan on adding a handful or two of briquettes or lumps every thirty minutes or so. How many you add depends on the temperature and how much longer your food needs to cook, but the important part is getting them in before you need them, not after.
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How To Start A Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid
Did you know its possible to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? While nothing besides lighter fluid will provide the necessary heat, this method of starting your charcoal does not include any chemicals or odors.
There are three main methods that people use to start charcoal grills without lighter fluids. The first two involve creating fires or embers before adding them to the grill as Blackstone Grill, while the third replaces the need for fire.
Why Wont My Grill Get Hot Enough
Problems with gas flow can keep a gas grill from getting hot enough. First, make sure theres plenty of gas in the tank-the diminished gas flow from a nearly empty tank wont supply the burners with enough gas to heat properly. If the tanks full but gas wont flow freely to the burners, reset the pressure regulator.
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There Are Lots Of Different Types Of Charcoal And It Can Be Confusing While The Charcoal You Use Doesnt Really Impact The Flavor It Does Affect The Heat Produced And How Long The Coals Stay Hot But When It Comes Right Down To It Charcoal Is Available In Two Basic Forms Lump Charcoal And Briquettes
Lump charcoal, a favorite among grilling purists, has a more natural composition. Its usually made from cherry, coconut shells, mesquite and tamarind. Because its not compressed like briquettes, it tends to burn hotter and faster. Its also less ashy. Its difficult to layer lump charcoal evenly, so grillers tend to use lump charcoal for low and slow BBQ, like pork, ribs and brisket.
Briquettes are made primarily of sawdust, with binding ingredients added to form their pillow shape. The uniform size of briquettes gives you a standard unit of fuel, making it easier to regulate a more precise fire. Briquettes burn a little less hot than lump charcoal and experts tend to use briquettes for foods that require less cooking time, like steak or fish.
One way to get some of the benefits of lump charcoal without the drawbacks is to build a mixed fire: some briquettes and some lump. This will help you get a hotter fire for searing and still maintain more consistent heat for longer-cooking times.
The charcoal you choose primarily impacts the intensity and evenness of your heat. Whichever type you decide on, use a quality charcoal, like our centercut lump charcoal. It burns cleanly and is uniform in size and quality for dependable results every time.
Basics Of Heat & Charcoal
Charcoal is pretty amazing stuff that dates back millennia. Wood is transformed into charcoal through pyrolysis, a contained burn with little to no oxygen. Whats left will burn very hot and typically very clean when re-ignited.
In a controlled environment with air blown into the mix, charcoal runs as high as a couple thousand degrees Fahrenheit. In an open grill the burn temp is about 1000, radiant heat is running about 700. Distance diminishes the temperature very rapidly.
So your goal in cooking with charcoal is to find the right mix of volume of burning coals, distance from the food to be cooked and duration of time for the cooking process. You can basically think of distance as two broad choices for cooking direct or indirect heat.
Direct cooking, or grilling, you fire up the heat to a very high level and sear your food directly over the top.
Indirect usually has the heat to the side, or beneath a shield, with heat circulating naturally around the food via convection. That is very simply put, we will look at the nuances within the categories and approaches to get there.
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Why Charcoal Grills Dont Get Hot
The problem is the grill is not heating up like it did before something isnt right. One of my co-workers told me to look at the little vent holes in the bottom side of the lid and make sure they arent clogged up with grease or debris. Sure enough, mine are almost completely covered with grease build up!
Since cleaning them out, my charcoal seems to be burning hotter now than before, yet my food doesnt seem to be cooking any better. What gives?
The reason your vents were clogged with grease is because your charcoal was almost out and you didnt bother to check it. The vents control oxygen flow and they can only do that when theres a proper supply of fresh air entering the grill. When theres no air, theres not enough oxygen to feed the flame and all you get is yellow smoke coming from your barbecue. Also, once cooked off, this charcoaled smoke gets deposited on your food giving it an unpleasant taste one reason why I dont recommend cooking with briquettes.
Now that your vent holes are clear, make sure your fuel pan has plenty of charcoal in it before lighting the chimney starter. If you run out while grilling, add more fuel before the charcoal burns up and deposits black soot on your food. A dirty fire pan will also cause lower heat output.
Add Food Directly Over Coals
Whether you use charcoal, kiln dried wood or both, place your meat directly over the coals to achieve the hottest cooking temperature. If you place your meat to the left or right side of the grate where its not directly over the fire it probably wont get hot enough to sear the exterior. By placing your meat directly over the fire, you can avoid the headaches associated with low grilling temperatures.
Dont let your grilling activities suffer because of low heat. Invest in a Primo Oval All-in-One today for all your grilling and smoking needs.
Leroy Hite is the founder and CEO of Cutting Edge Firewood, an ultra-premium firewood and cooking wood company located in Atlanta, Georgia. Leroy’s mission is to give people the experience of the perfect fire because some of lifes best memories are made in the warmth of a fires glow. He founded Cutting Edge Firewood in 2013 with a goal to provide unmatched quality wood and unparalleled customer service nationwide. The company offers premium kiln-dried firewood, cooking wood, and pizza wood in a wide variety of species and cuts to customers around the country.
At Cutting Edge, we love a great fire. Wood burning fires are not only our passion, but also essential when it comes to gathering with friends, fighting off the winter chill and cooking the perfect pizza. Our unmatched Cutting Edge Kiln Dried Firewood, unparalleled delivery service, and local firewood showroom provide you with an unequaled fire experience.
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Remove Ash To Keep The Oxygen Flowing
As mentioned before, allowing a good air flow around your grill is essential for how to keep a charcoal grill hot. So when it comes to how to clean a BBQ, Dan Cooper advises: ‘Its important to always keep your barbecue free and clear of spent ash and charcoal as this helps to increase the flow of oxygen about the fuel, allowing it to stay hot.’
You may even find part burned pieces of charcoal which can be used again!
Sweeping away ash debris will help air flow
Use Vents To Control Airflow
This is probably the most common way of adjusting the level of heat in your charcoal grill. Coals require oxygen to combust. The more oxygen available, the more they burn. And the hotter your grill gets.
Charcoal grills suit their units with vents to help you easily control the amount of oxygen flowing in. This is a good thing because it gives you control over how hot your grill can get.
When you want to cool the grill down, you just close the vents to block the entry of oxygen.
BUT which vents should you close?
Charcoal grills usually feature top and bottom vents:
The bottom vents are known as intake dampers and are tasked with providing airflow to the coals.
If you adjust this lower vent opening, youll control how much oxygen enters the grill and youll be able to cool down your grill.
But closing this completely will completely cut off your grill oxygen supply and the fire will just burn out.
The top vents are known as exhaust dampers and act as a chimney . In so doing, they tend to such air through your grill, and leaving them open will encourage airflow through the system.
That said, you cant keep this vent unless you want carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gases to build up within your grill and starve your fire off the oxygen they need to keep burning.
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Rookie Mistakes To Avoid When Grilling Over Charcoal
While there may still be some argument about it, most people in the know agree that food grilled over charcoal tastes better than food grilled over gas. Yes, gas grilling is quicker and more convenient, but when it’s the weekend and you have all the time you need, charcoal is truly the way to go. For those of us who grew up gas grilling, though, grilling over charcoal can take some getting used to and a little trial and error. Here are five common rookie mistakes that we all make when grilling over charcoal and how to best avoid them.
Old Charcoal Doesnt Burn Well
You can use charcoal a couple of times if its not covered in ashes and debris. However, trying to get too many uses out of the same batch of wood charcoal or briquettes will result in a lukewarm grill. Itll get slightly hotter than the exterior temperature, but it wont stay hot enough to cook anything inside of it.
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Are Your Dampers Open
The answer to why wont my charcoal grill get hot might be a simple one. Most charcoal grills are designed with dampers on the bottom of the grill and on the top lid. These dampers are there to help you control airflow through your cooker.
When youre preheating a charcoal grill, its crucial to keep your dampers wide open. This way, maximum oxygen can be fed to the coals while they ignite and heat up into a fire. If your grill wont get hot initially, make sure the dampers are open wide.
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Dont Block Dampers With Charcoal Or Wood
Use caution when adding charcoal or wood to your grill to ensure that you dont accidentally block the dampers. As previously mentioned, most charcoal grills have a damper at the bottom. Because this damper is located around the fuel compartment, charcoal or wood may obstruct it. Therefore, you should position your charcoal or wood away from the damper. Ideally, there should be at least 1 inch of space between the charcoal or wood and the damper. If its any closer to the damper, it may obstruct airflow, resulting in a lower grilling temperature.