Grilling with Charcoal

September 27, 2010 3 Comments

Grilling with Charcoal

The Pros and Cons of Grilling With Charcoal

A few days ago, I posted an article about grilling with gas so today I would like to talk about grilling with charcoal. If you follow my web site or this blog, you know I am a fan of both.

What some grilling connoisseurs believe is the art of grilling with charcoal results in not only better skills, but also in a better meal. Although the purists will tell you the only way to grill is with charcoal, there are times when cooking with gas is more efficient.

Nights when I’m cooking pork tenderloin medallions that take a minute or two to cook or a boneless, skinless chicken breast because it is too hot to cook in the house, I don’t want to spend 25 minutes waiting for the charcoal grill to get hot.

But when it comes to cooking a thick steak, ribs or a whole bunch of bone-in barbecued chicken, I’m going to take the time to light my charcoal grill so I can have a very hot fire and control the heat by moving the charcoal around my Weber grill.

Please be sure to check out my 8 Grilling Tips To Grill Like A Pro

Pros of a Charcoal Grill

charcoal grillCharcoal grilling has a long history, and for good reason. It is easy to find a charcoal grill, and you can purchase briquettes just about anywhere. Grocery stores, convenience stores, you name it the fuel is easy to access.

Not only this, but the grill and the charcoal are significantly less expensive than the investment you could make in a gas grill. By spending less on the equipment you can afford to spend more on what really counts the food.

Don’t let the price fool you, however. Sometimes you can save some money while still getting better results, and charcoal grilling is one of those times.

We all have memories of burgers grilled over the coals, and there is no question that no matter your culinary training, charcoal simply tastes better than gas. The only exception is when too much lighter fluid is used or worse yet, my dad would sometime use gasoline if he ran out of lighter fluid.

Unfortunately, overzealous fluid application has given the true taste of charcoal a bad name. Do yourself a favor, and skip it entirely if you can. I am a big fan of the charcoal chimney.

You load the top up with gas, add a little newspaper to the bottom and lite it up. The confined charcoal starts quickly and effortlessly and when the coals are hot, just dump them out into the grill.

The Smell of the Grill

You know that glorious smell of a barbecue in the neighborhood? It’s not a gas grill that you smell, it’s the charcoal. Getting the coals to light takes a bit of effort, but with some time and forethought you can get them glowing.

It will take awhile to get them to the perfect temperature, but once they reach it, there is nothing like that even heat to grill meat to perfection. When the coals are white, you know they are glowing red hot within.

The coals do indeed get amazingly hot, but they are still far safer than a gas grill. With any type of cooking you want to remember to protect yourself from the heat.

The charcoal, however, isn’t pressurized and could never cause an explosion. As long as you are grilling on a safe surface and taking precautions for the flames and hot coals, grill safety isn’t difficult to accomplish.

Charcoal grilling is also one of those things most people want to share with friends. Fortunately, a charcoal grill is very portable.

Most of them are sized so that they can easily fit in a vehicle, meaning that it can travel to a neighbor or to the beach with equal ease. Since the briquettes are also compact and easy to manage, bringing along some fuel is super easy as well.

Cons of a Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grilling does have a few disadvantages, but they aren’t anything that you can’t work around. The coals may take longer to heat up, but the even heat that they produce when lit correctly is well worth the time they take.

By the same token, the coals take longer to cool down, requiring more supervision of the equipment once the meal has been cooked.

Once the coals have cooled, you will be left with quite a bit of ash to dispose of. This can go in the trash or even be buried in the garden, but removing the ash can be messy. Following the instructions for the specific grill will minimize any spilling and get your grill ready to go for the next meal in no time.

Charcoal grills tend to be pretty simple in their construction, and they don’t require cooking school in order to operate them. The down side is that you get a grill surface to cook on, and not a side burner for heating liquids.

Any charcoal griller worth their salt knows how to grill corn or heat up beans on the grill so with a little ingenuity the lack of a burner can easily be worked around.

Enjoying Your New Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grilling may be a little messy and require a bit more skill, but there is no question that the end result is worth it. With better tasting meat and that glorious smell in the air, some creative culinary flair will get you terrific results.

One of the best features, of course, is that charcoal grilling isn’t limited to home, so you can take your cooking show on the road, producing meal after meal with equipment that fits in your vehicle. Just be sure to wait for the coals and to dispose of them properly, and you’ll be the master of the charcoal grill.


Last modified on Thu 9 August 2018 2:16 pm

Comments (3)

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  1. blondee47 says:

    I charcoal grill and I have a question I need answered. All I have ever grilled were quick ten to 15 minute items like rib steak or hamburgers but I have wanted to do more the problem is my lack of knowledge in the following area:

    How long will the coals last and how do I know when to add more ie. I want to cook ‘chicken on a beer can’…it takes at least an hour to an hour and a half…so how do I know when to add more coals to keep the heat hot?

    Great question – I can’t tell you how long the charcoal will last because it depends on the charcoal and how hot your fire is but you add more as needed. If the fire is loosing heat because the coals have diminished, you add some more coals but remember, when you are cooking something for a longer time like beer can chicken, you are going to keep the cover on the grill so you don’t need a tremendous about of heat like you might when searing a steak. – RG

  2. blondee47 says:

    well that’s the thing….how do i know when to add more? is it when the lump charcoal has burned very small or do I assume that after 45 minutes I should automatically add more? I guess I need to know how to take the temperature of the coals/heat

    I don’t think there is too much that is automatic in cooking. Everything has variables. However, if you keep your eye on you fire you will be able to tell when you need to add more charcoal. – RG

  3. Ric says:

    I get my coals to last longer by using a mixture of charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal/seasoned hardwood. This does produce a high heat but the adjustable grill takes care of that.

    Great tip Ric, thanks – RG

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