How To Cook On A Charcoal Grill in 5 Quick Steps

A charcoal grill is a wood-burning cooking apparatus that heats up the cooking surface by burning wood, charcoal, or gas. The heat is transferred to a plate that may be directly on the coals, or above and below the plate with an indirect heat source.

Charcoal grilling can be a lot of fun and it has many advantages over other forms of grilling. There are many different types of charcoal but it's normally made from hardwood such as apple, cherry, pecan, oak, and mesquite. Hardwoods have natural oils in them which produce more smoke than briquettes made from softwoods like pine because they burn longer without needing constant feeding.

There are many benefits to grilling with charcoal over gas. Charcoal-fired grills are more flavorful and provide better grill marks than their gas counterparts. They also don't have a flame that can blow out at any time, which is a hazard for people who cook in enclosed spaces like porches or screened-in porches. With this in mind, here are some tips for how to cook on a charcoal grill

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How to cook on a charcoal grill

Step 1: Preheat your grill

Before you get started, it is important to preheat the grill. If your grill is not fully heated, try to start at a low heat setting. If your grill is already hot, try to start your fire at a medium heat level. If this is not possible, then you may want to wait until the surface of the coals has cooled down a bit before attempting to light the charcoal.

Step 2: Choose your food

It is important to remember that the fewer pieces of food you cook, the more tender they will be and the quicker they will cook. If there are any tough pieces of meat like chicken or ribs, choose smaller sections that fit on your grill. Chicken quarters, riblets, or breasts are ideal as there is less chance of overcooking them.

Step 3: Prep your food

The next step is to rinse your food and pat it dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels before placing it on the grill. This removes excess moisture so that it doesn't drip onto the coals and cause flare-ups.

It is also important to oil your food before putting it on the grill. This helps with the browning, flavor, and moistness of the food.

Step 4: Grill your food

Once you place your food on the grill, it's important to not leave it as it will burn! Try to flip your food every couple of minutes so that it cooks evenly and doesn't burn.

The last step is to make sure that you don't place any utensils or foil directly on the coals, as they will get too hot and there is a risk of ignition. Instead, place them on a plate or in a bowl above the coals.

Step 5: Clean up

Once your food is done cooking, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes. This allows it to cool down before being cut and placed on a serving platter. This will also allow the juices to settle back into the meat so that they don't flow away while you are cutting them. Make sure you clean up any remaining debris from the grill including ashes and grease after you are done cooking if you have a charcoal grill. If not, be sure to keep an eye on your grill so that you don't forget.


How to start a charcoal grill fire in windy conditions

  1. Make sure your grill and fire are well away from any object that will fall over and begin cooking on your fire instead of yours!
  2. Build the small chimney above your grill and fill it with lump charcoal or briquettes. Fill the bottom of the chimney about half full with newspaper so that it can catch any ash falling from the top layer of coals. Poke a little hole in the newspaper and light it on fire as well.
  3. After 10 minutes, fill the bottom of the chimney with charcoal and let it burn until it is all lit up again. (It shouldn't take more than 20 minutes).
  4. Turn the fire down to a medium hot setting and wait for about 5 minutes for coals to heat up again as you prepare your food, then bring your grill up to temperature. Remember not to put any utensils on the grill until ready!
  5. When it's time, place your food on a plate and wait for about 5-10 minutes before adding the plate of wood chips or briquettes below the plate of coals so that you don't get carbon monoxide poisoning from them!


Charcoal grilling tips and techniques

There are many different brands of charcoal grills, some are very simple with only a few controls and others have temperature controls and even have timers to automatically shut off your grill when they sense there is no more fuel. The more modern ones even have electronic ignitions so that you don't even need to light them with a match anymore!

If you are new to cooking on a charcoal grill, then it is important that you first decide what type of grill you actually want so that your choice will be based on the type of grilling experience you want or need. Some great senses for what to look for in a charcoal grill are:

Indirect vs. Direct Flame

  • Indirect grilling has the food sitting on a plate above the coals with a drip pan or water bath below that catches the drippings. This ensures that you won't be getting flare-ups and will help to keep your grill clean. It also keeps your charcoal from burning too quickly so that you don't run out of heat before all of your food is cooked. Direct grilling puts your food directly over the charcoal for a more intense and high-heat cooking experience. These types of grills require you to be ready to move them around or switch them with others as they are cooking to make sure that they are evenly cooked.
  • Direct grilling is ideal for fast-cooking foods like hotdogs or burgers, but not so much for cooking larger pieces of meat that take longer to cook. You may have to use a lower heat setting when you are grilling directly over the coals. The higher heat is ideal for quick searing and caramelization, but some foods require a lower temperature in order to cook properly without burning.


High vs. Low Heat Settings

  • A high setting is ideal for searing your meat and giving it that wonderful smoky flavor. A low heat setting can be used to keep your food from burning, especially if you are grilling larger cuts of meat that need more time to cook. High heat, direct grilling is ideal for fast cooking, while a low heat, the indirect grill is great for slow cooking or smoking.
  • One of the best ways to make sure that your food is cooked evenly on the inside and out is by using a two-zone set up where you have a very hot zone (directly over the coals) and a cooler zone (indirectly above the coals). This way your food will cook evenly on all sides and it will keep the coals clean. If you are not sure what type of grill to get, then consider the following:

Charcoal Grills Explained

The main function of a charcoal grill is to provide a high temperature, direct flame over the coals. The last thing you want is direct flame rising off your grill, as this can reach temperatures over 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit! It is also important to know that it only takes about fifteen minutes for your grill to reach its maximum heat so that you don't burn up any of your food before it's ready. You will want to be mindful of and adjust your heat accordingly so that all areas of your food are cooked evenly.

Kettle Grills

  • A kettle grill is a type of charcoal grill that has a long metal body, with an area below the coals for indirect heat. The lid is hinged to the kettle and can be adjusted to control airflow and heat.
  • Kettle grills come in many different sizes, from tabletop versions that are about 12 inches high to full-sized models that are anywhere from 36–48 inches tall. There are variations as well as different accessories for kettle grills in order to make them more versatile. The most common accessories for this type of grill include; a rotisserie, a side table, and even a conversion kit so that you can use it as an outdoor smoker.
  • Kettle grills are one of the most versatile grilling tools available. They are great to use on their own, but they also can be used with other types of kitchen appliances in order to make your dining experience more convenient and fun!


How long do you let the charcoal burn before cooking?

A correct amount of charcoal should be used on your grill. The ideal amount is 60 briquettes (15 pounds). A lot of chefs recommend that you start with a half cup of charcoal per burner and then add half as much again for each additional layer. For example, if you have 3 burners, use 1/3 to 1/2 a cup (80 to 160 grams) of charcoal for each burner. If you are using a kettle grill, it will probably burn faster than a standard drum grill so you'll want to watch the fire. You should also keep an eye on your heat level so that the temperature doesn't go above 650 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do you use a charcoal grill for beginners?

When you are using a charcoal grill for the first time, you need to decide how warm or hot it will be. For medium heat, light the charcoal in a chimney starter, and when the coals are glowing red spread them out on the bottom of your charcoal grill. Use a cooking thermometer so that you can check the temperature to make sure it doesn't go above 650 degrees Fahrenheit.

When cold, your grill may have grease build-up from previous uses. Before you use it for the first time, give your grill a good scrubbing and use soap and water or a natural vinegar solution.

Do you cook on a charcoal grill with the lid open or closed?

When you are cooking meat on a charcoal grill, it is best to cook with the lid closed, as it will retain the heat and juices better. In some models, the lid opens up to a 250°F (120°C) temperature.

Should I close the vents on my charcoal grill?

It is important to keep the vents on your charcoal grill open at all times. If you don't, there is a chance that too much oxygen will enter the grill and it will explode. Keep the vents open if you want to limit airflow. This can help in controlling your temperature and how fast your food cooks. Close them if you want to increase airflow.



With the advancement of technology, charcoal grills have become much more advanced than they were even a few years ago. There are models that can cook almost anything from fish to steaks and pork chops. Most of them are very simple in design and easy to use, which is why so many people decide to buy one for themselves.

The charcoal grill is a staple in almost any outdoor kitchen as it is widely used for barbeques and outdoor entertaining. Plus, a gas or electric grill will never give you the same taste and crispness that a charcoal grill can. With their ability to burn for hours with low maintenance and control, it is no surprise why charcoal grills are so popular.

I hope this article about how to cook on a charcoal grill was useful and gave you some insight into which charcoal grill might be the best option. Have fun when you barbecue!

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