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 Grill Marks News Letter

Charcoal Grilling Tips

Written by Hannah Taylor

April 6th 2021

With summer just around the corner, we've compiled a list of charcoal grilling tips to help you get started! 

When it comes to grilling, charcoal grills tend to require a little more attention to details than a gas grill. Once you’ve mastered charcoal grilling, you should boast about being something of an expert yourself. Without further adieu, here are some tips to help get you started.


1.         Don’t use lighter fluid. I cannot emphasize this enough, lighter fluid will give any food you cook a chemical flavor. Instead, opt for a chimney starter, chimney starters are widely available and make for a considerably easier time lighting your charcoal. With a match or lighter and some newspaper, you’ll get your charcoal ready to start cooking within around 15-20 minutes. Weber offers an excellent rapidstart chimney starter, which is excellent for beginners as well as seasoned grillers.


2.        While many people use briquettes (a popular brand being Kingsford), hardwood lump charcoal lights faster, and tends to have a woodier, smoky flavor. This is because hardwood lump charcoal doesn’t contain the binding agent that briquettes have.  Preserve any unburnt charcoal for the next time you grill.


3.        When it comes to the amount of charcoal to use, it all comes down to the temperature you’re targeting. For high heat grilling, 450-550 F (this temperature is more for hamburgers and steaks), you’ll want a full chimney. For medium heat, 350-450 F (good for seafood, veggies, chicken wings and thighs), you’ll want about ½ a chimney. These foods also lend themselves well for indirect cooking. And for low heat, 250-350 F (perfect for ribs, roasts, and smoking), you’ll only need about ¼ of a chimney. You will have to add charcoal as you go to reach your optimal length of smoking time.


   4.         If you’re looking to add that signature smoky flavor, consider adding hardwood chunks to your lump charcoal.  While chunks are good for throwing directly onto charcoal, you also have the option of wood chips. These are good for putting into a smoking basket.  You can soak the chips first for about 20 minutes to help them burn longer (although its an open debate on whether that truly helps or not.)



5.       For larger cuts of meat, such as a roast, indirect cooking is the way to go. Pour the hot coals from your chimney into one side of your grill to create two separate cooking zones. You’ll then put the meat on the side without the coals, this will allow you to cook at a lower temperature for a longer duration of time. You can also sear meat on the direct heat side, and on the indirect side cook vegetables.  Indirect grilling is also a great way to cook sausage and fish.

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