Rookie Mistakes To Avoid When Grilling Over Charcoal
Keep these in mind the next time you host a barbecue or cookout.
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.
The Minion Method Isn’t For Me
I know many people swear by another charcoal burn strategy, called the minion method. This slow-and-low technique calls for you to add lit coals over a larger amount of unlit briquettes. I’ve tried it, and haven’t had much success, personally.
Perhaps I need more practice or should tweak my fuel amounts. Whatever the reason, my minion charcoal fires tend to run away from me. Either they grow too hot, or falter and burn out. Regardless, I find the snake method more reliable, even if it takes more work up front.
Light one end of the snake so it’ll burn like a fuse, low and slow.
Whats The Difference Between A Charcoal Grill And A Gas Grill
The first place to begin when thinking about cooking with charcoal is considering how much different it is as a fuel than gas. Charcoal/wood is the O.G. fuel type but over the years gas has surpassed charcoal in worldwide popularityespecially in America where two out of three people own a gas grill . This doesnt mean that gas grills are superior. Both gas and charcoal grills have their pros and cons: gas grills typically offer convenience – they get hot quickly without having to mess with starting a fire, whereas charcoal grills offer distinct & deep flavors gas cannot create. Its estimated about 1 in 5 Americans own both a charcoal and gas grill, so many folks seem to value having both options when it comes to grilling. Either way, lets look at why, as a fuel, charcoal is so much different than gas.
Recommended Reading: What Temp Do You Cook Pork Chops On The Grill
How To Use A Charcoal Grill
This article was co-authored by Fabricio Ferraz. Fabricio Ferraz is the Co-Owner and Operator of Hire a Cleaning. Hire a Cleaning is a family owned and operated business that has been serving San Francisco, California homes for over 10 years.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 63,859 times.
Grilling is a fun, tasty way to prepare a meal year round. Charcoal grills arent as easy to use as gas grills, but they give food even more flavor. Make things easier by starting with a charcoal chimney, then lay your prepared coals in your grill. Quick-cooking foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, and many vegetables can be cooked over an open grill. If youre working with slower-cooking foods like bone-in chicken or roasts, cover them up and check on them from time to time.
How To Start A Charcoal Grill
Traditional briquettes are inexpensive, light easily and burn long and steady. If you want a more intense, smoky flavor, go with hardwood charcoal . These are blazingly hot but burn out faster.
Before you even light your grill, make sure to open to vents. The fire will need oxygen to keep going. After the charcoals are placed in the barbecue, you can control the internal cooking temperature by adjusting the vents: wider vents means hotter flames and more oxygen, while smaller vents means a cooler cooking temperature. Never close them all the way or the flames will go out.
Recommended Reading: What Temperature To Grill Pork Chops
Do I Open The Vents Or Close Them When Lighting Charcoal
As we said above, fire needs oxygen to burn. So, open the lid, lid vent and vents on the bottom of the grill to let in air to fuel the flames. This will help oxygen reach the coals once theyre lit so they can burn hotter. Once theyre fully lit, you can adjust the vent opening to control the cooking temperature.
Treat The Meat To A Spice Rub
Taste of Home
Trust us: You want to add the spice rub. Like making the marinade, it’s simple to prep, just tossing some ingredients together in a bowl. Here, we use the remaining ½ cup sugar, plus salt and seasonings.
Take the ribs out of the fridge. Drain and discard the marinade from the 13×9. Pat the ribs dry . Rub the spice mixture over all sides of the ribs, patting with your fingertips to encourage it to adhere.
Test Kitchen Tip: When it comes to ribs, some people only use a marinade. Some people only use spice rub. We like to do both! Marinading adds layers of flavor that penetrate deep into the meat, while the spice rub adds flavor to the surface of the meat. When the grill sears the ribs, the spicy, crackling exterior of the meat makes a delicious contrast to the tender, succulent meat inside.
Also Check: Do Weber Natural Gas Grills Have Regulators
Season Steaks With Salt And Pepper
When it comes to seasoning a steak, you don’t have to get too complicated about it. There are all kinds of spice rubs and seasoning mixes out there, but a perfect steak really doesn’t need much more than Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Kosher salt is the best kind of salt for seasoning a steak because its coarse crystals will really grab onto the meat. Season generously. When it comes to pepper, everyone’s tastes are a little different. But even a little bit of freshly ground black pepper will spice up a steak and also give it a slight crunch. But please be sure to use freshly ground black pepper and not the powdery stuff that goes in pepper shakers.
Seasoning a steak is one of those topics someone could write a whole article about, and in fact, we have. For a little more depth, check out this article on seasoning a steak.
Youre Going To Need A Two
Building zones is essential for larger or bone-in items to ensure even cooking and to avoid flare-ups. Steaks like rib eye contain a lot of fat, and the rendering during grilling can cause fires if you arent careful. If flare-ups are not contained, they can leave a patchwork of unappetizing, bitter black marks on food.
The simplest way to build fire zones in a charcoal grill is to have two sides: one with charcoal and one without. You can do this on a gas grill by lighting one side and not the other.
To cook large cuts evenly, sear on the hotter side before moving the meat to the cooler side. Close the lid and adjust the vent for heat control. The meat will finish cooking over indirect heat. This grilling method uses the same culinary concept as cooking a steak in a pan before placing it in the oven.
Don’t Miss: Do Weber Natural Gas Grills Have Regulators
How To Season A Charcoal Grill
Among cooked foods, there might not be many things that can top the savory richness of a grilled and smoked meal. Lean cut beef or pork optimally grilled and seasoned with sauces of your liking even these words are enough to get our taste buds going.
Seasoning is really important for grilled or any food for that matter to enhance its flavor. But when its about charcoal-grilled food, you might have to season more than just the food. You should also season the charcoal grill you are using. Yes, you read that right and hear us out on that.
How To Add More Charcoal To The Fire
If you’re still in a grilling frenzy but the briquettes are losing steam, don’t add unlit charcoal to the grill. This can produce a lot of acrid-tasting smoke and a quick rise in temperature, which may burn the food already on the grill. Instead, light a few more briquettes in your chimney and add them to the direct heat side of the grill to keep you going.
Read Also: What Temperature To Grill Pork Chops
What About Using Lighter Fluid
According to the experts, this is the least recommended of the three charcoal grill starting methods. Not only can it be dangerous, but it can also affect the taste of your food if not executed properly.
According to the Snider brothers, “many brands of lighter fluid are known to contain harmful chemical compounds that don’t break down easily,” which means they may end up in your food and potentially even making your food taste bad. For the same reason, they also suggest avoiding instant-light charcoal.
Should this be your only option, though, Groark reassures that, “As long as you allow to burn off to that amber glow, you will taste nothing but that classic charcoal flavor.”
1. Arrange charcoal on the grill. Place your charcoal in your preferred arrangement.
2. Douse the middle of the pile in lighter fluid. Use approximately 1/4 cup of lighter fluid per pound of charcoal.
3. Light with a long lighter. Let the lighter fluid soak in for about 30 seconds first and back up when lighting in case of a flare-up.
4. Let the charcoal burn until it is grayish-white. This should take about 15 minutes.
Warning: Never pour lighter fluid on hot or burning coals, even if there’s no visible flame.
Prep Food Before Grilling
Once your grill is ready to go, it’s time to set up your food. It’s helpful to have all of your meats and veggies prepped before you get to the grill, rather than doing it as you cook. Slice vegetables, make burger patties and marinate chicken inside, then bring them outside. Casserole dishes are great for transport, since their high sides stop food from sliding off.
If you’re bringing food out from your kitchen, don’t forget a clean plate to put the finished product on, as well as clean tongs. It’s important not to use a utensil to remove or serve cooked meat if you’ve used it with raw meat.
Don’t forget any other grill accessories you might want nearby, like corn cob holders or a meat thermometer. Be sure to keep paper towels within reach for any unexpected messes. If your grill has a side burner, a trivet for holding hot saucepans will come in handy.
Read more: How to buy the best grill
Also Check: How To Clean Porcelain Grill Grates Char Broil
Brush The Steaks With Melted Butter
Finally, it’s common practice to brush some oil onto steaks right before grilling them. Doing so prevents the steaks from sticking to the grill and provides a bit of moisture. This is all well and good, but do you know what tastes even better than oil? Butter. So we always brush some melted butter onto my steaks before we grill them.â
Clarified butter works best because it has a higher smoke point than whole butter, but if you don’t have time, whole butter is fine. Alternately, use a combination of melted butter and oil. Just brush it lightlyâthe steak shouldn’t be dripping with oil when it hits the grill, or it could start a grease fire.â
What To Do With Your Propane Tank
Please note that you should never store propane gas tanks indoors. Luckily, these big, metal tanks are more than able to withstand sub-zero temperatures. As a general precaution, remember to keep all fuel sources out of reach of children and pets during winter storage. If youre using natural gas, be sure to close off your gas line while your grill is in storage.
Don’t Miss: Ler On Traeger
Adding Food To The Grill Too Soon
Grilling takes patience especially as its heating up. When you jump the gun and add food before the grill is fully preheated, its very likely to stick to the grates, and it can impart off-flavors on the food if youre cooking with briquettes.
Follow this tip: The grill needs to get good and hot before any food is added. After lighting the grill, cover it with the lid and let the charcoal heat up for at least 15 minutes. Youll know its ready when it looks gray and ashy.
How To Prevent Flare
Though occasional flames are quite impressive, the reality is that too much fire is a great way to ruin your food. The outside of your food will be burnt, the inside raw, and an unpleasant layer of soot will be left all over your grilled food. Flare-ups are usually caused by fat dripping into the coals. Trimming excess fat can help lessen flare-ups, but you also risk losing delicious flavor . If you’re finding you are getting a lot of flare-ups, try moving your food to a cooler spot on the grill or closing the lid and vents to choke it out completely.
Read Also: Should The Grill Be Open Or Closed
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.
A Cold Steak Is A Tough Steak
The reason we don’t want to cook chilled steaks is simple. A cold steak takes longer to cook, whether you use a pan, a grill or the broiler. The key to a perfect steak is cooking it at a high temperature for a short amount of time. The colder the steak is when it hits the grill, the longer it will take to cook it. And the more time it spends over the heat, the tougher it gets.
So just remember that a cold steak equals a tough steak. Taking the meat out of the fridge for a few minutes beforehand helps your steak stay tender and juicy.
Some people recommend leaving the meat out at room temperature for as long as an hour. The problem here is that you start to approach the territory of food safety hazard. Also, you would ideally like the interior of the meat to be a bit cool when it hits the grill. This helps you to achieve that perfect medium rare steak. If you leave the steak out for too long, the whole steak gets warm and you give yourself less margin for error. It’s better to undercook a steak than to overcook one.
Don’t Miss: How To Keep Rats Away From Grill
How To Light A Bbq
Follow our simple steps to get the best out of your charcoal barbecue. Learn how to light the BBQ safely, ways to arrange your coals and when to start cooking.
When the summer months start to roll in, theres no better way to celebrate than by gathering your family and friends for a barbecue. If youre unsure about how to light the charcoals or worried about burning your kebabs to a crisp, then read our tips on starting a barbecue and how to tell when the coals are ready for cooking.
Weve got all the advice you need to get your barbecue off to a sizzling start
If You Dont Have A Chimney Arrange Your Charcoal In A Stack
Push balls of newspaper or natural firelighters between the charcoals.Light the paper and firelighters, and allow the flames to catch and get going in their own time. Then let them die down again all youre going to achieve with flames is burnt food. You need ashen coals to cook on.
When a few coals have been lit, the rest will catch on their own, so dont hurry them along by adding more firelighters. If the heat is starting to die down as you barbecue, add coals to the outside of the barbecue and leave them to flame up and die down before cooking over them.
Recommended Reading: Can All Propane Grills Be Converted To Natural Gas
Choose Your Cooking Method & How To Configure Your Coals
Back in the dark days when I didnt grill much, Id just dump a bag of briquettes on the grate, light it, close the lid, and hope for the best.
I expect the food tasted OK, but I can promise youll get a far superior result if you take a moment to familiarize yourself with the different ways to arrange coals and understand why this is important.
There are four popular ways to set up your charcoal grill which will give you four different ways to cook your food.