How to charcoal grill: 9 tips and tricks


This year, give yourself a new challenge. Learn to master the charcoal grill instead of using the old gas model.

While there’s a lot to love about learning how to properly charcoal grill, there are a few things you’ll need to know to get started safely.

Read on and learn the ins and outs of using a charcoal grill, how to cook everything from steaks and burgers to veggies, and some common mistakes to avoid.

Be sure to combine this guide with our help BBQ Tips A summertime cookout that will make your guests think you’ve been doing it for years.

1. Use the chimney method to light it

A man uses the chimney method to light a charcoal grill

This is the grill lighting method used by Michael Haas, RD, and one of its founders angry bbq, preferred because of the ease of it.

You will need to pick up a chimney switch, and then you will be only two steps away from lighting the grill:

  • Load the chimney starter with your favorite charcoal.
  • Put some paper under the chimney at the bottom of the grill.
  • Light the paper.

And that’s it. Heat rises from the paper, shining the coals along the way.

Haas recommends giving the charcoal 10 to 15 minutes to fully ignite.

Then, once they turn white, you’re ready to toss the coals into the grill.

2. Preheat the grill quickly

You need to allow more time when working with the charcoal grill. This is where learning how to make your own air vents comes in.

“The more air, the hotter the fire,” explains Janet Kimszal, RDN. radioactive root. “Be sure to open the ventilation holes on the grill to keep air flowing into the fire.”

“Most charcoal grills have a bottom vent and a top vent,” Haas adds.

He explains that the bottom is the vent that controls the most airflow, so it keeps “the bottom vent fully open and the top vent half open when I want to heat up the grill quickly.”

3. Maintain a constant temperature

You want consistent heat for the best grilling results, and that also comes down to your vents.

“Once I reach the desired temperature, I start closing the bottom vent a little bit so the grill temperature remains constant,” Haas says.

4. Take note of the items

“Wind and outside ambient temperature will also reduce the heat from the coals, which can make cooking take longer,” Haas explains.

“I always plan an extra 30 minutes into my grilling schedule if I’m using a charcoal grill,” he adds.

5. Use two-zone cooking

This sounds complicated, but you’ll master it quickly: Place the lit charcoal on one side of the grill so that “one side of the grill is hot while the other side is low,” says Haas.

Kimszal says, “Foods that cook quickly should be placed directly over the coals.” This may include pork chops or chops Ginger Soy Flank Steak.

While “foods that cook longer can be put on the charcoal side, so they get indirect heat,” she adds. Try this method with Grilled Romaine and Walnut Salad.

Charcoal grilling mistakes you should avoid

Close-up of a burger and other foods on a charcoal grill

These mistakes are common but easy to avoid. Make sure to avoid them for a better grilling experience.

6. Do not open the lid too often

“Open the lid just to add your food or to check the progress of cooking,” Haas warns. If you keep raising it, “you will lose a lot of heat when you open the grill lid, and it will take time to bring the grill back to temperature.”

7. Rush the process

Remember, you’ll need extra time for a charcoal grill – but the result is worth it!

If you’ve lifted the lid a few times, keep adding more minutes to the cooking time.

8. Skimming coals

Haas says you can easily use the vents to raise or lower the temperature of your charcoal grill—as long as you have enough charcoal.

Just because you’re aiming for a low, slow method doesn’t mean you can use less charcoal.

9. Leave the old ashes in the grill

You’ll want to remove the old ash before attempting to light new charcoal blocks or briquettes. Kimszal explains that there can be “too much ash in the grill to ignite the coals.”

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