How Much Charcoal Should I Use
The answer to this lies in what you are cooking, how much you are cooking and how hot you want the grill.
If you need high heat, youll want a full chimney. If you want lower heat, then theres no need to fill the chimney all the way and wait for the heat of all those coals to dissipate. Below are some guidelines. These numbers are based on the capacity of a standard charcoal chimney, available at most hardware stores, which holds about 100 briquets.
- High heat450°F to 550°F1 full chimney
- Medium heat350°F to 450°F½ to ¾ full chimney
- Low heat250°F to 350°F¼ full chimney
Keep in mind, maximum temperature and the length of the cook depend on how you spread out the coals. If you spread the lit coals in a thin layer across a larger area, temperatures will be lower and the heat will dissipate faster. If your layer is deeper and the coals are more concentrated, temperatures will be higher and stay hot longer.
Reviews Of The Best Charcoal Grills
There arent many of us who can resist the lure of a charcoal grill, the incredible aromas, and the knockout flavors it produces. Theres something primal about cooking with fire in this way, even when it takes a little time. Or perhaps because it takes time.
With charcoal grills, its about process, and its the art, skill, and technique involved as much as the delicious results that keep us coming back for more.
So for your ultimate grilling pleasure, here is our shortlist compiled after years of grilling and weeks of research, looking for the best charcoal grill.
- Slow to light and come up to cooking temperature
- Tripod legs can be a little unstable. No safety concern, but could be more rigid
- The Infra-red moniker isnt as good as that on propane grills
Accessories And Additional Features
Dampers, vents, drawers for charcoal, cover, side tables, temperature probe holes, ash catchers and more are the bells and whistles of charcoal grills. There are tons of grilling accessories available. Some you wont need, some you wont want to live without.
Think about your own habits. Hate mess? Get an ash catcher. A little OCD about temperature? Be sure theres a temperature probe hole. Like everything at hand? Pick a model with a built-in side table. Lets look at some of the accessories we at FoodFireFriends recommend for charcoal grilling before you go.
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Lump Or Briquettes: Which Is The Best Charcoal
In Consumer Reports’ charcoal face-off, our experts answer this burning question
Once upon a time, shopping for charcoal was easy. Your only choice was whether you wanted to buy your briquettes presoaked in lighter fluid.
Today, charcoal giant Kingsford offers nearly a dozen varieties of briquettesand it’s facing plenty of competition from premium brands, too, most notably those selling lump charcoal.
Lump charcoal, the favored fuel of many grilling purists, promises hotter, longer burn times than standard charcoal briquettes. Some people also prefer lump coals more natural composition: Though briquettes are made primarily of sawdust, lump charcoal is simply charred wood.
But is lump charcoal really worth its premium price? We asked BBQ expert Meathead Goldwyn, owner of Amazing Ribs, and co-author of “Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue.” Then we pitted the leading brand of briquettes against more premium and pricey lump charcoal in our labs.
Kingsford Briquets and Big Green Egg hardwood charcoal were each tested in two types of grillsa traditional Weber Kettle and a Big Green Egg Kamado-style. Here’s what we learned.
Know The Difference Between Direct Vs Indirect Heat
Another way of controlling how quickly your food cooks is by understanding the difference between direct and indirect heat. A certain amount of coals will produce a certain temperature, but your food will cook faster if it is situated directly above those coals as opposed to away from them. This fact leads us to our next tip…
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What Is Healthier Gas Or Charcoal Grill
But when you ask health experts, the answer is clear: Gas grilling wither either propane or natural gas is healthier than charcoal for your body and the environment. Its better to grill on a gas grill because its easier to control the temperature, says Schneider. Mother Earth also prefers gas grills over charcoal.
Grill Over The Right Temperature
Charcoal grills take 20 to 30 minutes to properly warm up. Once you distribute your coals, cover the grill and let the grates heat up. But without those fancy knobs on a gas grill, how will you know what temperature you’re working with? Hold your hand about six inches above the grate. If you can leave it there for six or seven seconds, it’s medium heat. Four to five seconds is medium-high. And if you can only keep it there for one or two seconds? You’ve reached high heat, baby!
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Best Charcoal Grills Of 2021 According To Experts
Select is editorially independent. Our editors selected these deals and items because we think you will enjoy them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time.
The first thing someone looking to buy a new grill might notice is the sheer number of seemingly great options available. But whats ideal for one grill masters backyard might not be for another especially given that grills tend to come in three main styles: pellet grills, charcoal grills and gas grills.
Grills are built with speed, convenience, price and quality in mind, but when it comes to flavor, its hard to beat a charcoal-fired grill, according to Chris Lilly, a world championship pitmaster and spokesperson for Kingsford. When fat renders from meat slowly simmering over the fire, the juices hit the hot coals and create a charred moisture, he said. This directly affects grilled food flavor that you cant replicate in any other grill type. Food over fire equals flavor and charcoal maximizes the grilled taste in foods.
Best Overall Charcoal Grill
- Extremely versatile with cooking methods
- Size an issue if grilling for a crowd
- Built-in thermometer isn’t accurate enough to use
When you talk about charcoal grilling, you start with Webers kettle. The brand continues to represent the ideal mix of performance and price. Its customary porcelain-enameled steel body is sturdy enough to lock heat in and light enough to tow around without throwing out your back. Its construction is such that moving parts, screws and levers are kept to a bare minimum, which means it lasts much, much longer than other grills under $200.
This is the slightly suped-up version of the classic Weber kettle, and if you’re going to be charcoal grilling often, the one you want. The biggest difference between the original and the premium versions is the latter’s ash catch, which makes cleanup significantly quicker and more tidy. Another bonus of investing in Weber kettles is the vast collection of aftermarket accessories you can get for one.
Using the grill, the ovoid shape shape is immediately useful. Using a rectangular grill, the edges of the grill are usually off-limits to most food, because when you close the angled lid it brushes up against the food, and the edges are typically cooler. The Weber’s dome lid doesn’t have these issues. The shape also allows you to get creative with your coal placement and with what you’re cooking. Consider the snake charcoal placement method for low-and-slow smoking, or a more traditional two-zone setup.
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Best Charcoal Briquette For Marathon Grilling Or Smoking
These no-nonsense briquettes are made out of 100% natural hardwood with zero added chemicals. They are some of the least expensive charcoal briquettes on this list, yet, even though their price is low they dont sacrifice quality, burning hot and consistently for an extended amount of time. They also include a minimal amount of filler, not just adding ingredients to lower the cost of production. They can burn steadily for up to 3 hours, so feel free to extend that BBQ. A bonus feature of these charcoal briquettes is there new and improved packaging which is recyclable, resealable, and water-proof.
Their briquettes are larger than the other ones on this list so you dont have to use as many when you grill. However, they have no design enhancements to make lighting easier, so it can be a bit harder to get them lit and started. This product is best suited for capable grillers who throw a lot of long BBQs at home.
Best Digital: Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill
Can be used for smoking
Expensive for a charcoal grill
If you want the delicious taste of charcoal-grilled food along with the high-tech features usually reserved for gas grills, the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker is quite the innovation. This charcoal grill has Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing you to control its temperature and cook time right from your phone , and it even has a fan inside that regulates the grill’s temperature, helping it reach up to 700 degrees in as little as 13 minutes.
This high-tech model offers 560 square inches of cooking space, and its reversible cast iron grates can be used for both smoking and searing. Plus, there’s a gravity-fed charcoal hopper on the side of the unit, and it can hold up to 10 pounds of lump charcoal or 16 pounds of briquettes, allowing you to cook all day without ever adding more fuel.
Dimensions: 24.65 x 54.13 x 51.97 inches | TotalCooking Area: 560 square inches
If you’re looking for an affordable, all-around great charcoal grill, the Weber Original Kettle Premium 22-Inch Charcoal Grill should be your go-to choice. Our reviewer thought it worked well for all skill levels. If you want to spend a little less, you can downsize to Weber’s 18-Inch Kettle Grill and still experience the brand’s quality.
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How To Light A Charcoal Grill
Grilling is another ridiculously easy method for cooking a delicious steak, especially during warmer periods when everybody tends to spend time out of the house and take the suns energy while preparing his/her favorite steak. Everything sounds good till now but what about knowing how to light a grill in the right way? One easy-to-do thing here, that perhaps some of us might neglect, is related to the right and less dangerous or less crazy way for preparing the charcoal grill.
Sometimes our impatience makes us think that dousing a lighter fluid for having a flaming, is the only method to get faster the fire for grilling. Youll soon understand that a more simple way of lighting the grill is also the proper one.
Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
FOGO Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal is made from solid Central American Hardwoods. Every bag contains only hand-selected pieces so you know that you are getting the very best charcoal around.
FOGO lights up quickly, your grill can be ready in as little as 15 minutes. It burns very hot, produces very little ash, and lasts longer. It is an all-natural charcoal without added ingredients and will infuse your food with exquisite flavors, making your grilling experience truly enjoyable.
When you use FOGO, the first thing you will notice is the mild and distinct fragrance that gives great aroma and flavor to your food. Steaks and any other meats come out juicy and perfectly cooked.
FOGO comes with mostly large pieces that burn hotter and longer to quickly seal in the moisture and flavor of the meat. The bag contains little to almost no dust and chips of charcoal. Some consumers, however, are turned off by the size inconsistencies.
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Pinty Portable Folding Charcoal Grill
Not everyone has more than enough space to house the three previous charcoal grills on this list. So if youre looking for a tabletop grill, then consider this one. It gives you 250 square inches of cooking surface, it comes with adjustable vents, and it has an extra-thick and easy-to-clean enamel grill.
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22
Best charcoal grill
Reasons to avoid
The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22-inch has a grate thats big enough for a whole mess of hamburger patties. However, because its easy to adjust the heat by opening and closing the vents in the bottom and in the lid, this grill is remarkably versatile and can definitely go beyond burgers and brats. It can turn out a perfectly seared medium-rare porterhouse or thoroughly-cooked chicken with a crispy golden-brown skin. The grate is hinged on both sides so its easy to add more briquets if youre having a party and turning out hot dogs throughout the evening.
Extras include a thermometer in the lid and hooks for hanging up your tools. A heat shield underneath the lid handle makes it easy to lift without singeing your hand, and the lid rests on the side of the grill while you flip the steaks or baste the ribs. Underneath the kettle, theres a big bucket called an ash catcher you use a lever to sweep the ashes into it and then its easy to remove and empty without leaving a trail of ashes along the way. The only thing missing are side tables for holding a platter.
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Lump Wood Vs Briquets
Today, briquets and lump wood are the two most common types of charcoal available in the US. But its not that simpleyou can now find self-lighting briquets, original briquets, and all-natural briquets along with bags of various types of lump woods, which are either mixed or advertised as a single variety of wood such as mesquite. This bewildering array of options has ignited a white-hot ideological debate at the heart of American grilling. Choosing between lump wood and briquets can send even the most sensible barbecue fanatic into a diatribe.
Lump wood charcoal is just that: Its lumps of wood turned into charcoal. You can actually make lump wood charcoal in your backyard if youre so inclined. To many people, lump woods simplicity is its primary advantage: It contains no vegetable oil or starch binder, nothing you cant seejust good hardwood char, which carries a lot of flavor and produces minimal ash. But the problem with lump wood is that it isnt uniform. Because no two pieces of lump wood have the same shape, no two pieces of lump wood ever burn the same. From bag to baghandful to handful, evenyour temperature and cooking time can vary wildly.
Which form of charcoal is better, depends on who you ask. Doug Hanthorn of The Naked Whiz champions lump wood because its 100 percent pure, and his sites forums host some serious lump wood fanatics.
Whats The Best Charcoal For Griling
Few other methods of cooking can match grilling with charcoal when it comes to taste, especially if you love that smoky flavor. While most people put a lot of thought into choosing their grill, theyre considerably less picky when it comes to the fuel source and often just grab the first bag of charcoal they see on the shelf at their local store. This is a mistake, as charcoal plays a bigger role in the flavor of your food than the grill itself.
There are two types of charcoal: lump and briquettes, and each offer its own benefits.
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Expert Grill Heavy Duty 24
This is a box-shaped charcoal grill that gives you a total of 372 square inches of cooking space. As you can see in the image below, it comes with parts that youll truly love.
One, it has a lid cover with a big handle. On both sides of the lid cover are dampers. Theres also a built-in temperature gauge. It comes with 2 wheels and two thick feet to give you both stability and mobility.
Theres also a utensil hook, a warming rack, and a side shelf.
What The Pro Says
“For me, cooking is all about control,” says Goldwyn, “which is why I prefer cooking on briquettes.” Goldwyn notes that each briquette represents a precise unit of potential heat, whereas lump coal, which varies in size, is harder to control when you’re attempting to regulate a precise fire.
“There’s also the issue of smoke,” he adds. “Charcoal is placed in a tank and the wood compounds are converted to char. Since some pieces of lump hardwood are much bigger than charcoal briquettes, the center of a piece of lump coal might still be unconverted wood.” Goldwyn notes that when that center ignites, it produces a smokey flavor that many people appreciate. But he doesn’t. “I’d always rather get my heat from the charcoal and my flavor from wood chunks, so I know exactly what’s going into my fire.”
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Why Grill With Charcoal
There are many reasons to choose to grill with a charcoal grill instead of a gas grill. A charcoal grill is generally more affordable than a gas grill. Plus charcoal offers more versatility when it comes to cooking. Using charcoal means you have full control over the hotter and cooler areas on your grill and allows you to use both direct and indirect heat when grilling your favorite meats and vegetables. This means you could just as easily sear a ribeye steak as you could slowly cook a whole chicken. Many grilling aficionados prefer the flavor of charcoal over a propane grill and claim that it produces a better and smokier flavor and renders juicier meat.