In the heat of the summer, we all enjoy a poolside barbecue, spending time with family and friends, hosting parties and reunions, and even relaxing outside with a romantic dinner for two. Nothing is better than the tangy, smoked flavor of barbecued food on a hot summer day–especially when it’s with company. If the tantalizing scent of grilling appeals to you, you might be in the market for a charcoal grill this season. There are many different ways on how to use a charcoal grill. Here’s what you need to know.


Seven Steps To Start Grilling

Grilling with a charcoal grill is relatively simple, especially if you are paying close attention to the food and grill in hand. Here are some simple steps you can take to begin enticing the neighbors with your top chef grilling skills:


The first thing you need to do is find a place for your grill. It should be far away from any items that might be burnt or melted by the heat of the charcoal fire. You may want to consider keeping the grill away from the walls of your house, or even over top of cherished patches of grass. Another thing to keep in mind is keeping the grill away from small children and animals–It’s always better to be cautious to avoid burns.


If your grill is used, or you’ve been testing out your grilling skills to no success, you’ll want to clean out any ashes or partially burnt pieces from the grill. The grill should be completely clean with no charcoal debris. This debris can cause the flavor to turn charred and burnt, a side effect that may damage your grilling street cred.


It’s time to start the grilling! If you haven’t bought charcoal, now would be the time to do so! Once you have your charcoal in hand, place it into the your grill. The best place to pile the charcoal is into the center of the grill. When placed in the center, the charcoal can optimally heat anything that you are cooking.


Now it’s time to light that baby on fire! Well…almost! If you haven’t bought easy to light charcoal with lighter fluid infused(a great option for first time grillers), this could be a difficult step. Charcoal lighting fluid can make this step significantly easier. If you have some, point the fluid onto the charcoal. Once finished, take the fluid away from the grill to avoid the heat. This is an important step to take before lighting the grill as the fluid mixed with heat could cause a fire.


It is now time to light the charcoal. Using a lighter (the best lighters for this are the ones with a long step so you’ll avoid burning your hands), very carefully apply the flame to the charcoal. It may take a couple of minutes for the charcoal to start burning well. If you need to, once the charcoal is hot, you can use a tool to spread it around a bit to keep the flame.


The charcoal should be ready for grilling once the edges of it start to get white. This usually takes about 20 minutes. While your grill is heating up, you can prepare the food you are planning to cook. During this step, be sure to keep the lid on the grill so that the charcoal will heat up to the temperature required.


Using an oven mitt, carefully place the grill grate over the hot coals and close the grill cover. During this step, you can also coat the grate with oil using a basting brush. This will help keep food from sticking. Many people also use aluminum foil; however, this could cause the flavor to be slightly diminished. Once the grill is heated up and the grate is ready, you can place your meat or veggies onto the grate over top of the coals. Be sure to place the thickest meats over the center of the grate, where the fire should be the hottest.


How To Use A Charcoal Grill

The Tips You Need For That Smoky Flavor!

As aforementioned, setting up a charcoal grill can be easy and fun. Perhaps this is why charcoal grilling is easy to learn–however, it can be difficult to master. After you’ve learned the basics to charcoal grilling, you can start applying different techniques to get different flavors and juicer food. If you’re looking for some tips to become the ultimate grill master, here are some ideas:

  • TIP ONE: Smokey wood flavor

When we think of grilling (especially with charcoal), we generally think of a smoky barbecue flavor that encrusts the outside of poultry, a juicy New York Strip, and even the edges of corn on the cob. While there are many barbecue sauces that you can buy that claim to infuse this flavor, you can actually use your charcoal grill to obtain just that.

The great thing about charcoal grills is that they are versatile. To add a wood smoked flavor, you can add wood chips to the charcoal or even replace the charcoal entirely with wood chips. Some types of wood to look for include hickory, mesquite, and fruitwood. Hickory will give you that traditional slightly sweet but rich flavor that pairs great with chicken or beef. Mesquite wood will also give you a super strong flavor that goes great with Texan-style rubs and barbecue sauces. If you’re looking for a lighter slightly fruity taste, Fruitwood like Apple or Cherry may give your delicate foods a little bit more flavor.

An added tip? You can add more of a smoky flavor with larger wood chunks combined with Charcoal. By combining the two together, your flavor will be infused with both the smoky charcoal traditional flavors and a wood-smoked barbecue flavor.

  • TIP TWO: How To Direct-Heat Grill

If you’re looking for a fast way to cook your thinner cuts of meat or simpler foods, direct-heat grilling is a great option. basically, you’ll cook your meat over a single and even layer of charcoal.

Firstly, you’ll want to light your coals using the aforementioned lighting method. For higher heat, use more charcoal (approximately 100 briquets. Then, spread out the coals in an even layer using tongs or a spatula. You can do this right over top of the lower grill grate. When spreading, be sure to leave a small section without coals. This is for the occasional flare-up or cool zone if your grill gets too hot. When your grill gets to the 450-550 degree range and the charcoals start to get white, place your food on top of the coals. This method will cook food much faster and will give your food a direct smoky flavor.

  • TIP THREE: Building a Two-Zone Fire

A two-zone fire is probably the most versatile way of cooking on a charcoal grill. Once mastered, this will be your go-to method of grilling. A two-zone fire entails differently positioned charcoals: One side will be for high-heat, direct searing, and the other side will be for lower-temperatures and safe zones for food.

First, light the coals. You can place a few coals under the grate and some on top of the grate for optimal heat. After lighting the coals, spread out the coals on top of the grate to one side. You’ll want to cover about 50% of the grate using a spatula or tongs. If the coals are fully heated, be sure to wear an oven mitt for safety purposes. The side of the grill opposite of the coals should be completely free of coals both underneath and on top of the grate. When your coals are ready, you can either directly cook on the higher heat side, or cook on the lower heat side. For good color, grill marks, and caramelization, the higher-heated side will be best. the coal-free side will allow for indirect cooking of more fragile fruits and veggies.


Things You Need To Avoid While Grilling

While learning how to grill, there are many mistakes you can make that you’ll want to avoid. Some of these mistakes are very easy to fix and will directly change how your food turns out after the grilling process.

  • MISTAKE ONE: Not Cleaning the Grill Grates

Charcoal grills require a bit more maintenance than a gas grill. With this maintenance comes required cleaning in order to be sure that the grill functions and cooks the way it needs to. Dirty grills are still safe to use, you should always give both public and private charcoal grills a quick cleaning before use. This step will prevent any bacteria or old, charred remains from transferring to your new meal. To clean the grill grate, use a stiff wire brush. An extra tip? by taking this step, you’ll create stronger grill marks.

  • MISTAKE TWO: Impatience

It’s very important to be patient while waiting for the grill to heat up. If you jump the gun and add the food before the grill is fully heated, the food can stick to the grate. Your flavors may also suffer the consequences as the wood/charcoal isn’t heated enough to infuse flavors into food. You’ll know that your grill is ready when the charcoal looks grey and ashy.

  • MISTAKE THREE: Using the Wrong Heat Source

Before adding charcoal to the grill, consider what your cooking. If you’re cooking a thinner cut of meat, a direct heat on the grate may be better for cooking the food–both the outside and inside will get done around the same time. However, if you have a thicker cut of meat or are grilling a more fragile food like corn on the cob, the direct heat may cook the outside too much before the meat is actually done. Larger foods like ribs or a whole chicken are best cooked over indirect heat.

  • MISTAKE FOUR: Not Using the Vents

The great thing about charcoal grills is that that have vents typically found on the hood or bottom of the grilling unit. These vents allow air flow, which will keep the charcoal from burning and will allow better control of temperature. If you forget to open or close the vents, the charcoal could burn out before food is finished cooking, or the charcoal may burn too hot and potentially burn your food. Neither of these mistakes can be affording in a great grilling experience.

  • MISTAKE FIVE: Checking Out the Food While Cooking

While grilling, you may be tempted to lift the lid off of the grill to check the food. While the excitement is understandable and certainly warranted, when the lid is lifted, it feeds oxygen to the fire. Because it is a charcoal grill, this extra oxygen will cause the fire to burn even hotter, which may mean charred food. While it’s okay to check the food, be careful not to check too often to avoid burning.


Summer is a great season for grilling on a charcoal grill: learning how to grill on a charcoal grill can be simple and easy to learn and will allow hours of entertainment as you try to master the skill. While grilling this season, take in some of these tips and things to avoid for the optimal grilling experience while you experiment with the grilling process. If all of these tips appealed to you, you may be in the market for considering a charcoal grill.

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