Charcoal Grilling Basics

Grilling season is here! Set your grill up and grill along with us all season! If you’re new to grilling, make sure you are making the most out of your grill this summer by following these tips.

First, start with a clean grill to prevent flare-ups and sticking. Clean grills make better grill marks, as well!

Start your charcoal about 30 minutes before you intend to cook. Once it’s warm, you can use a stiff wire brush to clean off the cooking area.

To help light charcoal grills, invest in a charcoal chimney.

Charcoal Chimney

Lighting your charcoal with chemicals such as lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, or mineral spirits adds chemicals to both the smell and the taste of the meat. Stay away from easy lighting charcoal, as well. It’s soaked with chemicals.

We know you prefer the flavor of the meat, the grill, and your spices.

Open up the vents on the charcoal chimney wide and stuff the lower section with newspaper. Add your charcoal to the top section and light the newspaper below.

Give it about 5 minutes. Then, using a glove, pick up the chimney by the handle and shake, so the unlit charcoal on top will filter down to the bottom to be lit by the heat of the burning newspaper.

You’re ready to grill when the charcoal turns white.

Burnt Coals

Make sure to set the chimney down on a non-flammable surface after you dump the coals, and keep it away from children until it cools.

Charcoal Grill Cooking

Next, remember that controlling the temperature on the grill will be the key to success.

You can grill pretty much anything you can think of, from pizza to grilled cheese, steaks to whole chickens, but everything should be cooked at a specific temperature range, not just on high.

Grill Skewers Grilled Veggies Grilled Shrimp Grilled Chicken Legs

Thin cuts of meat, like burgers, pork, lamb, and beef, should be cooked hot and fast to avoid drying them out. Fish, chicken, vegetables, and other delicate items should cook at medium. Larger, thicker, denser cuts of meat, such as whole chickens, will cook at lower temperatures.

If you are grilling with rubs, marinades or sauces, remember that sugar burns at 265 degrees F. Your grill temperature will need to be below 265 when using sauces, marinades, or rubs that contain sugar. If the grill temperature rises above 265 while cooking, the outside of your meat will scorch and blacken.

You should also have a meat thermometer. It’s a bad idea to cut into meat on the grill to determine whether it’s done since it will dry out the meat. You can find a valuable meat temperature chart here.

Remember that cooking at lower temps will take longer, but the meat will be juicier and more flavorful when cooked at the right temperature.

Are you still deciding between charcoal and gas? Check out the most detailed comparison here.

Check back with us throughout grilling season, as we provide tips, recipes, and our own grilling experiences!

Send us your grilling recipes, tips, and pictures in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you!