Alfresco dining, scorching sunshine, and family reunions are the perfect combination for enjoying a glorious summer, made even better when meals are prepared on a charcoal grill. Nothing can beat the smoky aromas and BBQ flavors that come with outdoor cookouts.
If you’re looking to up your grill game and spend your summer eating outdoors, it’s time to get serious about charcoal grilling.
Whether you’re a BBQ novice, an outdoor chef enthusiast or you’re dusting off the cobwebs of your grill after a long winter, a few tips and tricks can help you master your charcoal grill.
Always Start With a Clean Grill
For an optimum BBQ experience, it’s always recommended that you cook on a clean grill. Not only will this enhance the flavors of your food, but it also ensures that your cooking apparatus is free from bacteria and any other harmful organisms.
To clean your grill, start by quickly cleaning up the powdery ash from your last grilling session. You can do this by sweeping the ashes through your grill’s vent. If your model doesn’t have a trap door, it might have a removable tray that you can slide out and empty. Then, use a grill-safe coil brush to clear out any remaining charred food from your grill grates.
Easy and quick, a basic cleaning enhances the grilling experience for everyone.
Oil Your Grill Grates
Oiling your grates before you cook ensures the food you’re grilling doesn’t burn or stick to the cooking surface. Begin by dipping a cloth or paper towel into some olive oil. You can use other oils, like peanut or canola; however, olive oil is less likely to cause allergies.
Don’t over-saturate the cloth in oil. Only use a light coat to wipe over every grate. Always remove the excess oil at the end by wiping the grates with a paper towel.
Don’t Go Overboard on the Charcoal
When lighting up your grill, you’ll need to ensure that you have the right amount of charcoal for your specific model. You’ll also need to take into consideration how much charcoal certain foods require for cooking.
For example, a general rule of thumb suggests you should use 30 briquettes for portable or smaller grills. For larger grills and models, around 50 to 75 briquettes is a sensible amount.
The more charcoal you place on your grill, the hotter it will get. This is fine if you are searing steaks quickly on either side, as they don’t require a long time on the grill. However, it’s advised that you spread the coals around for foods such as ribs and brisket. This creates a lower and more even temperature that’s great for cooking these foods to perfection.
Keep Your Fire Burning
If you’re planning on barbecuing all day, you’ll need to ensure your fire is strong and remains lit. To achieve this, before you start your fire, you’ll need to open the bottom vents of your grill by removing the grates and setting the top aside. You need sufficient airflow to reach the charcoal for you to start a desirable, even fire.
Cleaning out the ash will prevent your fire from being smothered. Once your fire is lit, keep a close eye on it throughout the day to maintain it. If at any point the flames dwindle, add small amounts of charcoal to build it back up.
Always Preheat Your Grill
It’s always advisable to preheat your grill for around 10 to 15 minutes before you cook. Placing food on a grill that hasn’t reached its optimum cooking temperature can lead to dishes being dried out and overcooked. Avoid disappointing your guests and wait until your grill is at the desired temperature before you add food.
Vent Your Grill Properly
To vent your grill correctly, you’ll need to dictate how hot the charcoals are by controlling the oxygen flow. Do this by opening and closing the air vents.
Opening the vents allows more oxygen through, which increases the heat of the grill. To reduce the heat and slow the oxygen flow, trim the vents. Make sure you don’t shut the vents entirely, as this will cause your fire to suffocate.
You should also ensure the grill isn’t filled with ash, as this can obstruct the vents.
Make a Game Plan for Your Grilling Session
This is a great way to make sure that your BBQ goes smoothly. To plan your grilling session, think about what foods you’re going to cook, how many people are attending, and how long you’ll need your fire and your coals to stay hot.
By considering these factors, you’ll be able to determine how much charcoal you should light, how to arrange your charcoal, and how long it will take the grill to reach its optimum cooking temperature.
Make Sure You Shut Down Your Grill Correctly
Cooling off your charcoal grill is just as important as firing it up. To shut down your grill, close all the vents at the top and bottom, and allow it to cool completely.
Once it’s cooled, remove any leftover coals and brush the ash from the grill, ready for your next BBQ. If you want to go the extra mile and ensure your grill is squeaky clean for the next time you use it, you can clean and brush the grates, too.
Many people remove the grates when they’ve finished barbecuing and reinstall them the next time they use their grill.
On a more critical note, be sure to never dispose of hot coals in the garbage. This is because they can stay hot for up to 24 hours, and just a tiny ember has the potential to start a fire. To safely dispose of charcoal, allow it to cool completely before wrapping it in aluminum foil and placing it in an outdoor trash bin.
Now You’re Ready to Become a Grill Master
If you’re planning on firing up your charcoal grill in the near future, these tips and tricks are the key to success. Not only will your grilling skills soar to new heights, but you’ll also achieve a tastier and safer grilling experience.