A Beginner’s Guide to Using a Charcoal Grill

Whether you’re new to grilling or you’re making the transition from gas or electric grills, charcoal grilling is a great way to get that smoky flavor you know and love. Charcoal grills have a variety of benefits, including portability, simplicity and higher heat temperatures. You can also customize your heating areas with careful arrangement of your charcoal. 

Charcoal In-Ground Post 22-SC01C-G6

Pictured: Charcoal In-Ground Post 22-SC01C-G6

When using any grill, it’s important to take some safety measures first before lighting the coals and throwing on the burgers. With a little preparation and patience, your next barbecue will be the talk of the neighborhood.

Safety First

Every grill needs to be set away from standing structures and low-hanging trees to avoid sparks or flames from catching. Nothing ruins a barbecue faster than the fire department showing up. Your charcoal BBQ grill should:

  • not be lit indoors or in a garage
  • not be lit within 10 feet of any structure, trees or flora
  • be on a stable, solid base or flat ground
  • be lit with long matches or grill lighters

When lighting your charcoal grill, be sure you’re not wearing loose-fitting or flowy clothing that can catch on fire or get caught on the grill. 

Charcoal Lift-A-Fire 3334

Pictured: Charcoal Lift-A-Fire 3334

The Charcoal

You can light your charcoal in one of two ways: using a charcoal chimney or using lighter fluid.

A charcoal chimney is one of the easiest ways to get your coals going and it cuts down on the chemical smell of lighter fluid. Simply place newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and fill the chimney with charcoal briquettes. Light the newspaper with a match or grill lighter or use a fire starter to help the newspaper catch. Wait until the coals are gray and ashy, and carefully dump them onto the bottom grate of the charcoal grill. 

Using tongs, arrange the charcoal to your desired cooking zones.

If you’re using lighter fluid, place the charcoal briquettes on the grate at the bottom of your grill, arranging them according to your preferred cooking zones. Soak them with about a cup of lighter fluid, using the nozzle of the bottle to coat the briquettes evenly. Wait about five minutes for the lighter fluid to set in and then use a long match or grill lighter to light the briquettes. 

Replace the grill grates and let them get nice and hot for 10-15 minutes before placing anything on them. Before grilling, take a paper towel, soak it in cooking oil and, using a pair of tongs, brush the paper towel along the grates to oil them properly. This will help keep the food from sticking. Likewise, you can also lightly oil your meat before placing it on the grill.

Fire Magic Charcoal and Smoker Grill

Pictured: Fire Magic Charcoal and Smoker Grill

Cooking Zones

One of the benefits of charcoal BBQ grills is that you can set up your own cooking zones for direct and indirect heat. For really hot, direct heat zones, pile lots of charcoal together for searing the perfect cut of steak or chicken.

Indirect heat is used to continue to cook your meat without burning it. After the initial sear, move the meat into the indirect heat zone. This should have a few coals beneath it to keep it cooking.

If your charcoal grill has a lid, use it for thick grilling items, such as pork chops, thick steaks, and chicken breasts. If you’re grilling vegetables, bread or thinly sliced meats, keep the lid off while you cook and keep an eye on the temperature gauge.

Use the vents on the sides of the grill to make things hotter inside, or close them to keep things cooler. The drawing in of oxygen from the vents will make temperatures rise.

Your standard temps will be:

  • 250°-300° is low
  • 350°-400° is medium
  • 400°-500° is high
  • 500°-600° is very high

You can usually test these temps by holding your hand one to two inches above the cooking grate. If you can’t hold your hand there for even one second, it’s really high heat; one to two seconds is high; three to four seconds is medium; and five to seven seconds is low. 

You should be able to sustain your cooking heat for up to 45 minutes without covering the grill, and up to an hour with a grill cover.

Cleaning 

Once the grill has cooled, dump out the ash at the bottom before your next grilling session. The ash can clog up the vents in the bottom and get into the food.

Scrub down the grates of the grill well using a bristled wire brush to get built-up grease and cooked-on food off. This will help your food cook evenly and prevent it from burning. You can also do this task after you grill while the grates are still hot. Some argue it’s actually easier to remove food and grease while the grates are hot. 

Final Word

For more information about Hansen Wholesale gourmet grills, please call 1-800-201-1193. Our expert staff loves talking to our customers and can help you choose the most suitable grill for your outdoor space at the best price!  

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