How to Heat With Charcoal

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Heating with charcoal can be incredibly challenging to any grillmaster as it is tremendously different from heating with a propane grill. Variables such as the size of the grill, amount of food which will be cooked, cooking time as well as weather conditions introduce new variables into the grilling process. In order to properly heat with charcoal, it is important to know the type of charcoal to buy, the arrangement and amount of briquettes needed, and the cooking time.

Things You'll Need

  • Charcoal
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Fire starter
  • Grill
  • Long stick or metal prong
  • Purchase a bag of charcoals from a local store. The two types of most commonly charcoal differ in whether they are or aren't already soaked in lighter fluid. A 5 lb. bag will usually contain between 75 to 90 briquettes inside of it. Around 30 briquettes are needed for each 1 lb. of meat that will be placed on the grill. Take the size of the grill into account so that you do not place too much meat on the grill or it will not be cooked properly. The meat should have a bit of space in between it, and be located at least an 2 to 3 inches from the edges of the grill.

  • Open the top lid of the grill with your hand, and remove the cook grate from the grill. The cook grate is the metal grid which holds the food. Place the correct amount of charcoals onto the bottom of the grill. If you are unsure of the right amount, first lay them out so that they cover the entire bottom of the grill in a single layer. Next, move the same charcoals to the middle of the grill so that they form a pyramid shape.

  • Soak the charcoals with the lighter fluid, and wait a couple minutes so that they soak up the fluid. This might not be necessary if the charcoals that you purchased already have fluid on them, but in my experience both kinds usually need to be soaked as they will not stay lit otherwise.

  • Light the charcoals with a fire starter by holding it as far away as you can. The charcoal that is soaked with lighter fluid can light up very strongly and holding your hand too close may result in a burn. Leave the charcoals alone for 20 to 30 minutes until they are ready.You can partially close the lid of the grill so that the heat doesn't escape as quickly and put out the initial fire prematurely. Closing the lid all of the way down will smoke the fire out and not heat up the charcoals properly. Use a longer stick or a metal utensil to spread the charcoal back into a layer after they are white and ready. Install the cook grate back on the grill and place the meat on it.

Tips & Warnings

  • When grilling in cold or windy conditions, a larger amount of briquettes will be necessary to reach the proper cooking conditions.
  • Watch the meat when cooked, the dripping oil can start a fire and you can control this by either moving the food to the sides or closing the lid until the flame goes out.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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