There’s something special about food prepared to get the charcoal flavor on a charcoal grill. Juicy burgers, tasty sausages, and spicy chicken take on that unmistakable smoky taste, reminiscent of the outdoors and the approach of summer.
But before you start, be sure to steer away from these common mistakes.
Charcoal grills need to be cleaned to ensure they cook properly. So whether you plan to fire up a grill at home or out in some public space clean the grates so there’s no stuck-on food.
The way to go is to heat the grill and use a stiff wire brush to get rid of all the charred-on debris. This will not only prevent old food from getting stuck to what you’re cooking but also clean grates make better grill marks.
Grilling requires patience. If you ever jump the gun and add your food before the charcoal grill is preheated, you are likely to find your food sticks to the grates, plus the food may pick up odd-flavors especially if you cook with briquettes.
Let the grill get hot before adding any food. After lighting up, cover the grill with the lid and let the charcoal’s heat build-up for at least 15 minutes. When it looks gray and ashy it’s ready – but not before!
Charcoal acts as a direct source of heat. Some food is better cooked over direct high heat, while other types of food prefer indirect low to medium heat. If you don’t get the heat source right for each job, there’s a risk of food being undercooked, overcooked, or even burned.
Prior to adding charcoal to the grill, think about what’s being cooked. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken breast and steak benefit from direct heat because they cook relatively quickly but whole chicken, pork loin, or ribs need with a longer cooking time over indirect heat.
Charcoal grills have vents. These are normally to be found on the hood and the grill’s bottom. They control the essential airflow needed to keep the charcoal burning, as well as for temperature control. If you forget to open or close the vents you may find the charcoal burns out before cooking is finished, or your heat may soar far too high with the danger of burning the food.
As you preheat the grill and during cooking adjust the vents to control the temperature. Keep the vents open for extra airflow when lighting and preheating the grill.
When it appears your food is cooking too quickly, close the vents to bring the temperature down. When you want to raise the heat, open the vents.
Because opening the lid feeds oxygen to the coals there is a danger the food will burn.
Only open the charcoal grill’s lid when you need to flip food or to check its progress. Otherwise, keep the lid closed. This is particularly crucial when cooking any larger items like whole chicken or ribs because they benefit from cooking over indirect heat for longer periods of time.