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Light a Charcoal Grill – Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means for many foodies.
Roasting meats over flames and feasting on sausages, burgers, seafood, and even veggies.
Everybody knows that a good barbecue starts with lighting a charcoal grill.
If you don’t have any idea on how to light a charcoal grill, then read on and find out how to do it.
Most die-hard fans of barbecue would agree that charcoal grill beats propane grill when it comes to flavor and aroma.
Charcoal barbecue emits the rich smell and leaves a delicious carbon flavor on the meat.
And for most cooks, there’s no better feeling than serving perfectly charred food.
Sure, charcoal grill has its disadvantages like the annoying need to clean up ashes and grease.
You also have to replenish the coals every hour or so, especially if you’re throwing a barbecue party.
And heat can really be challenging to control.
But charcoal grill remains very popular because it leaves a deep, smoky flavor on any food.
It is best suited for searing meat like steak because it creates a hotter flame than gas grill, aside from the fact that it is less expensive.
Table of Contents
Lighting a Charcoal Grill
While it may sound like an easy task, lighting a charcoal grill is not as easy as it may seem.
You certainly don’t want to look like dumb in front of your friends at your summer barbecue party.
Worse, you don’t want to be given curious looks by your girlfriend’s dad just in case you come to their own summer get-together.
While you can always pull out your smartphone and look for a YouTube video on how to light a charcoal grill, it is still better to know beforehand how to pull off the task.
And knowing how to light a charcoal grill is one skill you want to learn so that your guests will be confident about your grilling skills just in case you host your own barbecue party.
In lighting a charcoal grill, you’ll need the following tools, a lighter fluid, a stiff wire brush, a barbecue lighter, and charcoal.
Start by emptying old ash which can obstruct vents and make it difficult for you to control the temperature.
Get rid of leftover ash in the bottom of the grill, putting it into a bag and dispose it properly.
Next up is cleaning the grates.
This is very importantly especially if you are using a public grill as whatever mess left behind by the previous user should be removed, unless you want those particles to get into your food.
No, don’t believe into what others may say about the leftover grease and food particles making your food more delicious and flavorful.
The truth is that these particles will only make your food stick to the grill, resulting into a less than flavorful food.
Using a stiff wire brush, scrape off the ash and food particles that were left from the last use of the charcoal grill.
It is easier to clean the grates when the iron is still warm.
But if it has been a long time since the grill was last used, be patient in removing the leftover grease and particles.
You can also place the grill rack back in to a hot charcoal, as the heat should loosen the grease.
In case you can’t find a stiff wire brush, you can ball up an aluminum foil.
If there’s stuck on food that you can’t get rid of, there is a solution to that.
A mixture of baking soda and vinegar should work together in breaking apart burnt-on food.
Simply mix a cup of baking soda with two cups of vinegar in a plastic bag then seal the grates in the bag with a rubber band.
Let it stand there overnight.
Remove the grates then rinse them thoroughly. Leftover food should fall off.
You may also scrub off the rest if there is still anything still stuck on the grates. Rinse with cool water before patting dry.
Once the grates have been cleaned, start to place the charcoal briquettes.
The technique here is to fill the bottom of the grill with charcoal, arranging them in a pyramid shape.
The apex should be at the center of the grill.
How to Light a Charcoal Grill Using a charcoal chimney starter
Lighting a charcoal chimney or charcoal grill used to be a daunting task for me.
Normally I’d have to douse a bunch of newspaper or paper towels in lighter fluid and cross my fingers to hope it worked.
Fortunately, I discovered how a charcoal chimney starter can really change the game, and they’ve made my life much easier.
Charcoal starters take the guesswork out of using your charcoal grill and they’re really simple to use.
The starter looks like a thick, stubby pipe with a grate at the bottom.
All I need to do is fill the charcoal starter with the briquettes that I want to use and put the lighter cubes or flammable material right on the top.
To get started, I simply place an additional grate over the apparatus and light the material on the top of the starter.
The charcoal starter acts a lot like a funnel, drawing hot air up from the grill itself and concentrating it right on the material that I need to light.
Since there’s a smaller surface area to work with, the grill is able to heat much more effectively and get started within minutes.
Once I have a fire going, I simply transfer the coals from my starter right onto the grill and I’m able to cook my food pretty much immediately.
Starters are great for big groups of people, or when I need to cook lots of food to order.
This method saves me a lot of energy and time, as well as minimizes the chance that I’ll have an accident from using too much lighter fluid.
I’ve noticed that my food also has a better flavor and much less of a chemical aftertaste.
I know that excess lighter fluid can lead to some serious chemical buildup in my food, and using a starter eliminates the need for so much gas.
The food is savory and chemical-free. Additionally, it’s cooked much faster than with traditional methods.
Cleaning up my grill after cooking is also easier with a starter because there’s less burnt surface area to deal with.
The starter will also collect most of the ash in one spot.
When I remove my starter from the grill, I always make sure to put it in a secure place.
The starter remains hot for a while after cooking, so it’s best to keep it away from children and pets for at least an hour.
Light Charcoal Grill
Then apply lighter fluid to the top briquettes.
Spray it in an outward, circular motion until all the briquettes have been covered.
Don’t over soak.
You should leave enough fuel to properly light the charcoal.
Let the liquid soak into the coals by waiting for five minutes.
After five minutes, use a barbecue lighter to light the bottom of the pyramid.
To distribute the heat evenly, you should light in several different spots.
It could take as much as 30 minutes until the coals have been properly heated.
They would die down after burning quickly at first.
Just give them time to light up.
Lighting Charcoal Grill Using Lighter Fluid
In lighting a charcoal grill, you need to have charcoal briquettes or char wood.
Place sheets of aluminum foil at the base of the grill before you put and light the coals.
This would make it easier for you to clean the grill and disposed the used coals and its ashes.
Now place the coals, stacking them in a pyramid shape right in the middle of the grill.
This would also allow for air to flow and enable the coals to burn more efficiently and with less smoke.
Spray lighter fluid on the charcoal; light enough just to get the briquettes soaked.
As you get used to it, you will learn how to light the coals without the use of a lighter fluid by using plain old newspapers.
Give it a minute or so for the coals to be soaked in fluid.
Then using a match or a long-neck grill lighter, start the fire.
Light the opposite sides of the stack quickly.
Give the coals around 20 minutes or so to light and burn.
You need them to be hot and glowing prior to grilling.
You would know that you can start cooking when the coals get that familiar ash gray color.
There should be no smoke.
Fan the coals gently so they would burn, or give it a few minutes before you start cooking.
Using tongs, evenly spread the hot coals on the grate.
Never spray lighter fluid with the aim of heating up the coals faster.
You’d end up having barbecue tasting like gasoline.
Once you notice that the coals are covered with white ash, use your tongs to spread the coals.
Put the grate in position and remove any gunk.
But how would you tell how hot the fire is?
Simply hold your palm five inches above the fire.
You would know that the temperature is somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees F if you can hold your palm for 2 to 4 seconds.
If you can hold it for 5-7 seconds, the temperature is in ‘medium’ while if it is around 8 to 10 seconds, it is in ‘low’.
If you can hold your hand for more than 10 seconds, you need to add more coal.
Now your charcoal grill is ready to start grilling up those meats and vegetables.
As you can see, lighting up a charcoal grill isn’t as complicated as it seems.
Now that you know how to light up a charcoal grill, you don’t have to fear to be in a barbecue party next summer.
Guide to Cooking on a Charcoal Grill for Beginners
Guide to Cooking on a Charcoal Grill for Beginners just in time for Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means if you’re a foodie.
Barbecue parties in just about every place.
And when you say barbecue parties, you will definitely have to include cooking on a charcoal grill into the equation.
After all, it is hard to dispute that food just tastes richer and tastier when cooked on a charcoal grill.
Although there is a lot of controversy on eating food cooked on a charcoal grill and its link to cancer risks, what is hard to dispute is that the additional flavor that grilling imparts to food is what makes cooking on a charcoal grill very important.
Charcoal grilling for beginners and you will know that with your barbecue.
Plus grilled foods have less fat than foods that are cooked in pan since fat is able to drip away.
But everyone knows that cooking on a charcoal grill isn’t as easy as frying an egg in a pan.
Fortunately there are lots of charcoal grilling tips that you can refer to in making sure you get the most out of your grill.
Cooking on a Charcoal Grill Tips
You should have the right charcoal grill if you want to make the juiciest and most mouthwatering dishes for your family members and friends.
If you are to buy a charcoal grill, you should know the right surface area for your needs.
A charcoal grill with limited surface area can pose a lot of problems if you are to grill for a large number of people.
For example, if you are to cook for nine to ten guests, the charcoal grill space should be around 900 to 1000 square inches.
A minimum of 1,000 square inches is needed if you are to throw a barbecue party for more than 10 people.
In case the number of people is around four to five, you will need a grill with 400 to 500 square inches of space.
You must also look at the features of the charcoal grill before buying one.
For example, there are charcoal grills with rotisserie which would add a charcoal flavor to a rotisserie chicken.
You should also consider the type of ash removal that the grill has.
There are grills that come with pans for ease in removal of the ashes.
You’d also want a grill that has a sturdy and heavy duty steel cooking grate and charcoal grate.
Other features that you would want from a charcoal grill are built-in thermostat and grill cover.
Charcoal Grilling Basics
The beauty of charcoal grilling is that you can grill basically every mouthwatering food out there.
From steaks, hamburgers, chops, chicken, to brisket, you can cook them on a charcoal grill.
You can also grill fish and vegetables.
And it’s fun, too, as you can watch the food get cooked.
Plus the unmistakable aroma of grilling can whet your appetite that other kinds of cooking can’t.
In charcoal grilling, the food is placed directly over the radiant heat source.
A distinct advantage is that it is the only grilling method where food can get the popular seared charcoal flavor, or char-broiled.
It’s something you can’t get from a gas grill.
A disadvantage is that charcoal grill can burn hotter than gas.
It is thus harder to control heat but there are plenty of ways to do it successfully.
Control the temperature on the charcoal grill
The flames should have died down before you put the food on the grill.
Now once you have placed the food on the grill, you need to control the temperature on the charcoal grill.
Remember that this type of grill doesn’t have a temperature setting.
Instead you will have to use the vents or dampers on the top of the lid and at the bottom of the grill to control the temperature.
Both the top and bottom vents must be opened wide.
The vents at the top are for trapping or releasing heat and smoke.
The ones at the bottom are for cutting down oxygen supply, reducing fire, and extending the burning time of the coals.
If there is too much heat, you can open the vents of the top of the lid so that some heat would escape.
Then close the vents at the bottom.
In case you need more heat, simply reverse the steps.
Close the top vents and open the lower vents.
You can also simply open the hinged lid, which is a feature in most large grills.
For smaller grills, there’s a lid that comes right off.
You can cover this once the fire is toned down.
If you remove the lid, more oxygen will get into the coals and this will increase the fire.
Temperature will vary depending on the food items you will cook.
For example, grilling thin steaks, fish, and poultry usually require less than 30 minutes and on high heat.
If cooked on low heat and for an extended period, said food items will dry out and lose their juices.
To be able to monitor the temperature of the grill, use a grill thermometer.
It is pretty inexpensive at around $3.
It can help you avoid burning of food.
In case you can’t get one, you can place an instant food or meat thermometer in one of the top vents so you can have an idea on the grill temperature.
Charcoal Grilling for Beginners
In case you are grilling larger food items such as lamb, ribs, and roasts, you should use the indirect grilling technique with less heat.
You will have to lower the temperature so that the outside of the food is not burned, while the inside is well cooked.
The key to cooking on a charcoal grill is to grill the foods at the right temperature.
As much as possible, you should grill within the recommended temperature range and cooking time.
Some people are good at just looking at the color of the food in determining whether the food they’re grilling is done or not.
But not everyone is capable of pulling off this trick.
Most of the time, the color can trick you into believing that the food is good and ready.
There are also instances when the food is safe but its color outside looks raw.
The ability to judge a food’s readiness or doneness just by looking at its color would get easy over time, as you get more grilling experience.
Suffice to say, veteran cooks know when items are ready with one look at the food.
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Charcoal Grilling for Beginners Tips
Charcoal grilling may sound simple, but try to do it one time and you’ll definitely have your hands full.
However, we listed grilling tips to keep in mind so that you can come up with a tasty and juicy dish that you can proudly serve to your guests:
Read and understand the recipe to lower the risks of food poisoning and more importantly, avoid being disappointed with the outcome of your grilled dish.
Create a checklist of the ingredients, tools, cooking times, and temperatures you will need or follow.
Before grilling, lightly coat the food and cooking grill with a cooking spray.
This should prevent the food from sticking on the grill.
The food should be spaciously laid out on the cooking grill so you can see the coals as they burn.
Also, keep a close eye on the fire.
This would help you deal with flare-ups.
If there are still food residue on the cooking grid from your previous grilling session, set the temperature to high so that the particles will be burned off.
After a few minutes, use a grill wire brush in scraping off the residue.
Then re-coat the grate with cooking oil.
Use a tong in turning food, particularly chicken, steak, and other juicy foods.
Don’t use a pitch fork to stab and turn the said food items because it can create a path for the juice to run off.
But a pitch fork is ideal for turning chops, thin steaks, and hamburgers.
Place an aluminum pan or a shallow metal under the cooking grid when you are grilling large food items.
This would be for collecting the juices.
Don’t use gasoline or kerosene in lighting the coals as this can cause explosion, resulting to burns.
In case the coals don’t light up well, stack unlit coals over the glowing ones. Fan them gently.
Don’t use a charcoal grill indoors as it is a fire hazard
Charcoals grills are very easy to tip over.
You should place yours on a flat and level surface.
Moreover, don’t leave it unattended especially if you have small children or pets in your household.