How To Top Up Fuel During A Long Cook
Theres a reason why every good grill-master is never far from their grill during a cook. It needs watching!
Unlike gas, a charcoal fire has the potential to fizzle out if not topped up regularly. I dont want to scare you, but after following all the advice weve given here and setting up a beautiful grill, the last thing you want to do is let the fire go out!
Its not just that it will delay chow time. Worse, it will mess with the quality of your food, which, partially cooked, will cool down and then be cooked again. Dont let it happen!
The single most reliable sign your charcoal needs topping up:
The grill temperature is dropping, and opening vents to increase the heat doesnt work. Then its almost a surety youve run out of fuel.
In many grills, you can simply open the lid to check on the fuel. But some grills have the fuel hidden away beneath deflector plates , meaning you need to remove the food, grates and deflectors before you can visually see the charcoal.
So opening vents and seeing if the temperature rises is the best and only way to check without much effort.
You always need to stay ahead of the fire. If the cooks been going a while, just start a new chimney of coals so youre ready to top up the grill before the heat drops off.
No chimney? Add small amounts of new fuel and tuck them in with the old.
Dumping a load on top of an existing fire will only temporarily reduce the heat until the new coals light and establish.
What Do I Recommend
I highly recommend methods 1 or 2. They are foolproof and fast. And when youve got a big cook ahead of you and a hungry hoard to feed, you need quick and easy.
A charcoal chimney will last you for years, making it an easy investment when compared to time saved starting up your grill.
And also, when you grill as much as I do, a Looftlighter pays for itself in saved costs compared to firelighters in 12 to 15 months. Plus its a cool looking toy to have and use
How Do Grill Vents Help Regulate Temperature
Your charcoal grills vents help control temperature by regulating the flow of air both in and out of the grill. Oxygen is what feeds your charcoal too much and it will flare up, too little and it will extinguish.
Your grill should have two sets of vents one set at the top , and the other set at the bottom.
These two sets of vents work together by air flowing in through the bottom set, called the intake damper, and then out through the top set, called the exhaust damper.
Both of these are really important, as its the intake damper that actually feeds your grill with the fuel it needs, while the exhaust damper not only aids airflow but also allows smoke and excess heat to escape from the grill chamber.
Its important that you allow both of these sets to work together to allow good airflow through your grill, but also to control the internal temperature of your grill. They need to work in tandem, and one cant work without the other.
In fact, if you learn to master your vents properly, you can even turn your grill into a smoker.
Recommended Reading: How To Keep Mice Out Of Bbq Grill
How To Troubleshoot A Charcoal Grill
Although a charcoal grill takes longer to heat up than an electric grill, purists prefer them because they feel that charcoal provides a tastier, smokier flavor. Charcoal grills are also less expensive, but like all grills, they can experience various problems over their life span. If your charcoal grill is not getting hot enough or you are encountering problems with it starting, there are several ways to troubleshoot and solve the issue.
How To Keep Charcoal Grill At 225f
When it comes to smoked meats, 225 is the magic numberwell, 225°F, that is. That’s the sweet spot of your grill, the temperature that, with a little finessing and some patience, yields tender, juicy, pulls-apart-without-even-trying barbecued meat. The problem is, most backyard barbecuers breeze past that special temperature zone, creating meat that’s scorched and tough rather than tender and smoky.
And it’s no wonder. When you’re using a charcoal grill, the temperature can easily fluctuate over the hours that it takes to slow-smoke your meat to tenderness. But never fear: There are a few simple tricks to maintaining your grill at the ideal temperaturehere’s how to keep your charcoal grill at a perfect 225°F.
Don’t Miss: How To Grill Boneless Chicken Breast
Additional Ways To Light The Grill
If this method has not been working, you can also do a charcoal grill start with a chimney starter, as described by Food & Wine. Pack the bottom of the grill with newspaper and place the charcoal right on top of it. Light the bottom and the flames will work their way into the charcoal. Do not put on the charcoal grates until the coals have turned white.
There is a third way to arrange the coals in your grill with three heating zones. Place a double-thick layer on the side farthest from you this will be the hot zone. Rake out the rest in the middle in a single layer to serve as a moderate zone and leave the last third empty as the cool zone. This can allow you to shift around the food as you are cooking. If something cooks faster, you can keep it on one of the other parts.
When You See Flames Up Top Pour Out The Coals
After about 10 minutes, you will see the coals starting to glow through the vents and flames starting to flicker over the top layer of coals. Pour them out into a pile and wait until the coals are mostly covered in ash and gray in color. Then spread the coals out. The entire process takes approximately 15 minutes.
Read Also: How To Grill Boneless Chicken Breast
How To Use Vents
Charcoal grills often come with a small vent on the top of the lid and the bottom of the grill. It’s not just for decoration or letting all those delicious cooking smells out and about to tease your neighbors. These vents are there to control how much oxygen gets to your coals, in turn controlling how hot or cool your grill will run. Too little oxygen , and your flames may die out. Too much oxygen and you might have a flare-up. Adjust the vents so you have a perfect balance of air movement and control your heat.
Related:10 Ways to Make the Best Grilled Salmon
Does A Charcoal Grill Go Out By Itself
Charcoal grills can be put out simply by closing the lids and vents on your grill, cutting off all oxygen to the coals. It will then take up to 2 days for the coals to fully cool down, but this method of allowing it to rest is far safer than trying to use water to extinguish it.
Don’t Miss: How To Cook Frozen Turkey Burgers On George Foreman
How Long Does A Charcoal Grill Stay Hot Enough For Cooking
Its important to know how to build a proper charcoal fire, but its just as important for the coals to hold their heat long enough to cook your food. This is a particular concern if you like to host long afternoon barbecues, as we do. How long does a charcoal grill stay hot once the coals are lit? Lets take a look.
Close The Vents Fully To Extinguish The Flames
Once you have finished grilling and want to extinguish the charcoal, then you need to close the grill lid and also shut both vents completely.
If you find that you need help regulating your vents, then an automatic BBQ temperature controller is a great tool to help maintain consistent cooking heat levels.
Also Check: How To Clean Weber Gas Grill Burner Tubes
What To Grill On High Heat
It takes about 5 to 10 minutes for the coals to get to high heat . Steaks, burgers and dense vegetables like corn on the cob and onions can handle high heat.
Grilling on high heat is the best way to get that perfect sear on the outside while keeping the inside juicy. To increase the temperature, open the vents to let in more oxygen. To decrease the temperature, close the vents but not completely, or the fire will go out.
Controlling Heat On A Charcoal Grill
For the sake of continuity were going to use a kettle style grill as the basis for approaching charcoal cooking. It is a very versatile unit that allows for many types of cooking. This is not unique to kettles, there are many great products in the market that will cook in different ways, however kettle styles are in use by many folks, and certainly known or used in the past by a large majority of you. As a result, it makes a relatable standard by which to contrast, compare and complete cooking goals.
Recommended Reading: How To Grill Frozen Salmon In Foil
Cover The Outdoor Metal Container Tightly
Once you have poured all of your cooled-off charcoal into the designated pit, make sure that you cover this pit very tightly so that no animals can get to it or even children, for that matter. Also, always keep in mind that when these ashes are still hot enough, they can actually burn you if mishandled and even cause damage to your skin which may require medical attention.
The 2 Zones: Radiants Vs Convection
So in our new cooking environment we want to create 2 zones: One where we are producing direct, radiant heat and the other where we have no heat source but allow our food to be exposed to indirect convection heat.The temperature in this zone is much more moderate than over high heat, allowing the fats and collagen to render without causing the proteins to shrivel up. We can then bring it a juicy and tender state before giving it its finish over direct high heat.
Recommended Reading: How Long To Cook Pork Chops On Propane Grill
Indirect Grilling On Your Smoker
While you can use your charcoal grill as a smoker, Napoleon also has the Apollo Series Charcoal Grill & Water Smoker. Setting this BBQ up for indirect heat is virtually the same as setting up a charcoal kettle grill, just use one of the three techniques above, however, the Apollo is a stacking grill with many chambers so that you can smoke many different foods at once. There is an optional water pan that you can place above the coals, this is used to help manage temperatures and catch drips. When setting up your smoker for indirect heat, using the two-zone or snake technique is ideal, especially when you are looking at a smoke time of 8 to 16 hours. Place food on any of the stackable layers and make sure that the doors are closed and latches are latched. Even though your food is on a much higher level, heat still rises ensure better convection by placing your food over the side of the smoker that doesnt have charcoal. Dont forget your favorite flavor of wood chips.
Snake Arrangement Indirect Heating Setup
In this set up you would need to change your charcoal grill into a smoker. That means you save a good 500 dollars that you would have otherwise spent on a good smoker. In this method, you need to layout the charcoal properly in the grates. So what does it involve? In this setup a wall of briquettes is built that lean over one another. It resembles dominos but instead of nocking each other over, there lighting each other on fire.
Light up one of the ends and the fire gradually burns down the charcoal till it gets to the other end. This method works perfectly with almost all types of round grills. This set up allows you to maintain the temperatures for very long hours without any issues.
The longer the snake that has been created and arranged, the longer it burns. You can choose to put wood on the snakes that add a unique flavor to your food. If you can use a charcoal chimney starter to get it firing it will result in better and faster results. You can put a tray filled with some water that will maintain the temperature and the humidity.
Once all this is set up close the lid and open the lower vent fully and the upper one partially. Once the right temperature is achieved you can put the meat right at the center of the grate. Make sure you dont put your food over heated charcoal or else the food will get burnt and chances are that flames may rise due to the grease and oil in most meats.
Don’t Miss: Grill Frozen Salmon
How To Light A Charcoal Grill
Taste of Home
Just like there are different charcoals to choose from, there are plenty of methods for lighting a grill to choose from, too, including many different charcoal starters.
Color is a great indication of how hot the coals are. Aim for white to glowing red for cooking .
You can also tell if the grill is ready by hovering your hand about four inches over the coals. If you can comfortably hold it there for more than five seconds, your coals still need to heat up. If you can keep your hand hovering for about two or three seconds, thats the sweet spot for grilling.
Also when youre lighting your grilland cooking and cooling it downbe sure to follow these grill safety tips.
Douse The Charcoal With Water
A lot of people use water to put out their charcoal, but doing so can actually cause too much smoke damage as opposed to just trying to smother the flames. To douse the charcoal, simply take a large bucket or tub and fill it all up with water. Then pour as much as you can over the embers. Do this until all water extinguishes them completely. Leave them for about 15 minutes to fully cool down before removing them from the grill grate or ash pan. Place in an outdoor metal container made specifically to hold ashes like a metal garbage bin receptacle or an old metal paint can, or another bucket.
Don’t Miss: How Long To Grill A Pork Tenderloin
Start A Fire Without Breaking A Sweat Or Burning Dinner
One thing we routinely find in our testing of charcoal grills is that the resultshow your food turns outare largely dependent on the skill of the user, who has to be ready to adjust dampers, monitor cooking temperatures, and handle coals to get outstanding results.
Kamado and pellet grills don’t require the same hands-on approach.
But despite all the oversight, charcoal grill enthusiasts think it’s well worth the effort. Smoke is a byproduct of combustion, and the smoke from burning gas and charcoal are different,” says Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, a celebrated grilling expert and judge on the professional barbecue circuit, on his website, Amazingribs.com. “Charcoal makes more smoke than gas, with a broader range of tasty flavor molecules, because it’s burning complex organic molecules. In other words, the smoke from charcoal makes food taste better.
Below you’ll find our video tutorial on how to cook on a charcoal grill, as well as step by step directions. If you’re still looking to learn more about all kinds of grills, start with our grill buying guide. CR Members can also jump right to our ratings of charcoal grills.
Why Are My Coals Not Burning
Youre Smothering It. Another possible reason your charcoal isnt staying lit is that its being smothered. Without a sufficient amount of air, the charcoal will die out after being lit. Ensure your smoker is properly ventilated, and make sure you add cooking wood or smoking chunks at the right time.
Don’t Miss: How Long Do You Grill Pork Tenderloin
How To Use A Weber Charcoal Chimney
For all of the grilling recipes posted on this website, I have used my standard Weber Charcoal Chimney.
The purpose of the chimney is to light the charcoals and to provide a means of keeping the coals in proximity while being lit.
When using the Weber Performer I fill my chimney either ¼, ½, ¾ or totally full depending on the application.
I then sit the chimney over the flame port and light it for about 2 minutes.
There is no need to go longer than this. If you stick to 2 minutes you will be able to extend the life of your propane tank.
The goal is just to get a few coals lit and then the others will light afterwards. If you dont have a Weber Performer you can either use an olive oil soaked paper towel or some newspaper.
Its the same principle. Just put the paper towel or newspaper underneath of the chimney. . Use a match to light it.
After a few minutes the coals will ignite. Another question that pops up is when to dump the coals out of the chimney?