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Charcoal Grilling: The Basics

by Pre Brands June 13, 2019

Charcoal Grilling: The Basics

The charcoal grill offers a smoky quality to the flavor of food, which is why it is preferred by many grillers over the gas grill. However, there is some maintenance involved with getting the grill lit and keeping the charcoal hot. It can be a time-consuming task that may turn off someone just trying to grill up a couple of burgers for dinner but once you get the hang of the technique, it's worth it. 

Charcoal grills allow any grill master to have control over the temperature of the grill which makes it an excellent option for smoking or slow cooking ribs or chicken legs. Two Zone grilling can be done easily also because you create your own heat source with the coals. Steaks and burgers are great picks to grill with two zone cooking because they take less time and can rest on the cool side. 

A steak rubbed with sweet and smoky spices or a burger with a spicy Mexican flavored rub are perfect accomplices to a charcoal grill. Set aside some time and start experimenting. 


Step 1: Clean your grill.

No one likes to walk into a summer party, go over to the grill, set their eyes on a juicy cheeseburger and then realize it is surrounded by grill utensils that were left out in the winter and a rusty grill grate. Take a grill brush and go to town. Then wipe the grate with some high heat oil before you start grilling.


Step 2: Light your coals. 

charcoal chimney sitting in the bottom of a grill

We recommend using a chimney to light a charcoal grill. For low heat cooking, fill the chimney 1/4 of the way, for medium heat fill 1/2 of the way, and for high heat, cooking fill 3/4 of the way. Do not fill completely. 

Take the grate off your grill and put a small pile of about 5-6 pieces of charcoal in the center of the bottom of your grill. Cover this pile with lighter fluid and light with a long lighter.

Once the small pile is lit, place the chimney over the pile. This will start the rest of the charcoal in the chimney. When the top pieces in the chimney turn ashy, it is hot and ready. 

Dump the hot charcoal in your grill. If you want to do a two-zone cooking method, move the charcoal to one side at this point. Replace your grate.


Step 3: Plan for cooking. 

Put the lid on your grill once you have your charcoal lit. Use the vent on the top of your grill to control the temperature. Keep some hot charcoal lit in the chimney if you need to make your grill hotter later on. If you are making burgers or steaks, this is probably not necessary because the cooking time is a lot faster. 


Step 4: Cook and eat.

Steak with grill marks on a plate.

Two Zone Grilling

We recommend using the two-zone method when grilling. Grill your steaks or burgers on the hot side of the grill and then move to the cool side to rest. Always use a meat thermometer to test doneness. Check out our cooking chart for time suggestions and temperatures for the perfect medium rare (or rare or medium well). Enjoy what you grilled. It took some effort so savor the flavor a little extra.

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