Passionate grilling enthusiasts cannot say NO to the famous charcoal grill. Americans love charcoal grilled food because of its distinctive taste and smell. The inviting sound of meat crackling and sizzling on the grill can bring all your neighbors at your door. While there are many types of grills in the market, the famous charcoal grill is preferred by experts because of its smoky results.
This helpful guide will teach you everything you need to know about charcoal grills and why Americans and people around the world love it.
What Is So Special About Charcoal Grill?
Achieving the char and charbroiled taste and smell is practically impossible while using a gas or electric grill. This is primarily because a charcoal grill utilizes the smokiness and heat generated by charcoals. This is why it is able to produce more heat compared to gas, wood or electric grills! Sure, mastering the art of the grill may take some practice but it is surely worth the effort.
Types Of Grills
Are you looking forward to summer and all the delicious foods that follow? Contrary to popular belief, there are a large number of grill options on the market for you to choose from. The most common types include:
Gas Or Propane Grills
As the name indicates, you can power the flame burners on the grill using propane or gas.
Gas grills allow direct and precise control over the heat and do not require you to add and remove charcoal after each use, which minimizes inconvenience.
When investing in a gas grill, you must evaluate the heat rating which is normally measured in BTUs.
Most consumer grills have a heat rating between 80 and 100 BTUs.
You must also remember that propane and natural gas fuel are not interchangeable. While purchasing a grill, ensure the machine is specifically made for the fuel source or is appropriately equipped with a conversion kit.
Pros Of Using In A Gas Grill
Here are some notable pros of using a gas grill:
- Convenient and Fast: A gas grill is a convenient option if you want to whip up things quickly. You can quickly throw stuff on the grill last minute and don’t have to worry about waiting too long. The hot grill will be ready in 10 minutes.
- Cleaner: Unlike a charcoal grill, the gas setup will hardly have any ash, which means the grill is easier to clean when you are in a hurry.
- Temperature Control: Gas grills offer exceptional temperature control. You simply have to flick a switch and the temperature will increase, in a matter of seconds. This kind of temperature control comes in handy if you want to use bacon for starting a grease fire.
Cons Of Using In A Gas Grill
Here are some notable cons of using a gas grill:
- Does Not Generate Much Heat: Most gas grills can only reach a temperature up to 450°, which is certainly not hot enough if you want to cook delicious red meat or achieve a caramelized sear.
- Unreliable Thermometer: The thermometer on the gas grill is not necessarily correct. On a cold or an incredibly hot day, the overall temperature could go off by 40°. This is why it is recommended you get yourself an oven thermometer.
- More Expensive: Gas grills, generally, are more expensive and also cost more in terms of repairs. This is why most people opt for charcoal or electric options.
- More Flare-ups: Safety is always a top concern. A gas grill is more dangerous to use because it utilizes flames produced by harmful fuels, as opposed to a charcoal grill when you are only using hot coals to cook and smoke up the food.
- Flavors: The taste is a major drawback. This is mainly because the grill does not produce the flavors you would get while using coal. This might not be important if you are cooking something small, like thin burgers, but when you are preparing a big juicy rib eye, this may be a problem.
Despite its many cons, most people are forced to choose electric grills because they have fewer restrictions. Many condos and apartments prohibit the use of large gas or charcoal powered grills. There are many disadvantages of using an electric grill.
For example, it is difficult to get the grill hot enough to cook well on. The amount of heat the grill generates typically depends on the design and function of the electric grill.
Additionally, heating up the grill can take up more time as compared to gas and charcoal grill. The cooking process can also be tedious since you will have to wait longer.
However, the most notable disadvantage is the taste as it lacks the rich charcoal flavors you would want in a BBQ.
An electric grill may be a good option for folks who live in an apartment and do not have access to a backyard for grilling purposes but otherwise, it is simply not worth it.
Pros Of Using An Electric Grill
Here are some notable pros of using an electric grill:
- Switch It On in an Instant: One of the most notable advantages of a charcoal grill is that you can switch it on in an instant. All you have to do is plug in the machine and press the button.
- Ease to Use: An electric grill is easy to use and clean. You do not have to put in too much effort to maintain the grill and do not have to wait for more than a couple of minutes to heat up the unit completely.
- No Hassle: If you are in a hurry, you can use the electric grill without any hassles.
Cons Of Using An Electric Grill
Here are some notable cons of using an electric grill:
- High Initial Investment: One of the most notable drawbacks is that while the operating costs might be low, the initial investment might be too high. This also means most homeowners might not be open to the idea of purchasing an electric grill, especially if they will only be using it a couple of times a year.
- Difficult to Clean: Sure, electric grills have low maintenance costs but you need to be careful while cleaning the grill. This is because, if water reaches the electric circuit of the grill, the entire appliance may malfunction.
These grills use charcoal as fuel and are a favorite among grilling enthusiasts because of the smoke and flavors they produce. Most professionals enjoy working with charcoal grill because it provides a stable source of heat, which makes it easier to cook the meat. However, the grill is more susceptible to corrosion and requires frequent physical addition and removal of charcoal, which can get tiresome.
Buyers should particularly take notice of the construction of the material. This is because thin walls made using standard steel and cast iron are prone to corrosion. Buyers must also keep in mind that the charcoal must be removed promptly after each cooking session as the existing ashes can damage the grill.
Pros Of Using A Charcoal Grill
Here are some notable pros of using a charcoal grill:
- It Generates More Heat: The temperature of a charcoal grill can go up to 500° to 700°. If you are a fan of steaks, a charcoal grill can help you achieve the perfect caramelized results you are looking.
- Smokier Flavor: Charcoal produces just the right amount of smokiness needed to enjoy your food.
- Cheaper: Charcoal grills are much cheaper as compared to gas options and not to mention, you do not have to invest in fuel.
- Charcoal Grills: They might not be as portable as electric grills but they are still portable enough for picnics at the park.
Cons Of Using Charcoal Grill
Here are some notable cons of using a charcoal grill:
- Difficult to Clean: Yes, a charcoal grill is difficult to clean but don’t be a wimp. Use gloves or tongs.
- Longer Heating Time: A charcoal grill has a warm up time of about 15 to 20 minutes but the real question is, is it worth the wait? Of course!
- Harder to Control the Temperature: Amateurs may have a tough time controlling the temperature, especially if you tend to plop the coals at the center. However, a professional knows the importance of creating different temperature zones for cooking by placing the coals on one side. You should place the meat on the other side to reduce flare-ups and you are good to go.
- Too Much Ash: As mentioned above, a charcoal grill may be difficult to clean but if you buy one with removable ashtrays, most of your troubles will be over.
Because of its delicious taste and aroma, charcoal grills certainly are the winner here.
How To Use A Charcoal Grill
Grilling food on charcoal can be intimidating but once you have familiarized yourself with these easy tips, you can become the master of the grill in no time. Here are some easy secrets to preparing meat on your kettle. You can grill anything you want using these few easy tips.
Prepare The Kettle For Preheating
- Before preheating the kettle, ensure the damper in the lid and the dampers on the bottom of the kettle are fully open.
- Remove the cooking grate on the top and move it off the handle
- Fill the chimney starter about halfway using charcoal
- By using the bottom grate, place the 2 lighter cubes on the chimney starter and light it up. Wait for about 10 to 15 minutes until the charcoal has completely ashed over.
Preheating Your Kettle
- Use a grill mitt to evenly rest the ashes from charcoal over the grate. As an added tip, we suggest you set up your grill by putting all the lit charcoal onto one side so you have a safer zone for indirect grilling.
- Position the cooking grate over the charcoal grate in the grill.
- Place the lid on the kettle and double check if the lid vent is completely open. The grill needs to preheat for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- You can prepare your steaks while the grill is preheating.
- Pour some olive oil over the steaks. Also, remember to take the steaks out of the fridge and let them cool to room temperature.
- Use your favorite seasoning to season the entire surface of the steak. A great combination includes salt, pepper and garlic.
How To Heat Up A Charcoal Grill
Whipping up a delicious meaty dish becomes easier when you learn how to control the heat of charcoal grill. Here are some simple to follow techniques that will help you manage the flames and cook your favorite dishes to perfection.
Oxygen: Is It Your Friend Or Enemy?
When using the grill, you must keep in mind that oxygen is your friend AND your enemy. Oxygen is what creates the fire and causes the coal to burn.
Abundant amount of oxygen makes the coal burn faster and hotter while limited amount of oxygen can slow down the cooking process.
Fortunately, the vents located on the top and bottom lets you control the flow of oxygen to stabilize the coal temperature.
Increasing Temperatures With Vents
To increase the grill temperature, all you have to do is open up the vents to allow more oxygen to flow inside. This allows the coal to burn better.
Decreasing Temperatures With Vents
If you want to slow down the cooking process and reduce heat, close down the vents. However, always leave the vents partially open so the fire does not suffocate.
Flares Up? It’s Time To Move Aside
Flare-ups are caused when fat condenses from the food and starts dripping on the coals. You may be tempted to put these flare-ups out using water but that is not the way to go as this can cause the ashes to fly up to your food. The best way to manage this situation is to create a two-zone fire. Simply move the food to the side without coals. Once the flames have subsided, move the food back to the hotter side to continue cooking.
Add More Coals To Increase The Heat
If you want to increase the heat of the grill, simply add unlit coals on the top of the bed of already lit coals. You don’t need to add any fluid as the new coals will light up on their own. However, this will take about 15 minutes so you need to plan. Another strategy is to light up new coals in a chimney and then pour it over the hot coals when they are ready.
Is Charcoal Cooking A Healthy Option?
Grilling meat using charcoal is considered a popular pastime for most American families, especially during the summer. While there are several grilling options to choose from, some people prefer the smokiness of charcoal in their food as opposed to when it is cooked with gas, while there is some controversy involved in cooking with charcoal. Here are a couple of things you ought to keep in mind:
Benefits Of Grilling
Contrary to popular belief, grilling foods can be a healthier option when done properly. Grilled foods, including foods cooked on a charcoal grill, contain fewer fats because the fat drips away during the cooking process.
Additionally, grilled foods can be seasoned with dry rubs, which does not utilize added dressing and fats. Grilling also helps your food taste better without using any harmful preservatives.
Tips For Healthy Grilling
Follow these healthy tips to reduce the dangers of grilling in charcoal grills:
Cut Down Cooking Time
Cooking meat for a long time using a charcoal grill can maximize the exposure of carcinogens due to smoke and added flames.
To cut down on cooking time, consider cooking foods that require less time to cook.
This includes fish or meat cut down into cubes. Additionally, consider microwaving your food before tossing it inside the grill.
Always put partially cooked meat on the grill to protect it against pathogens, which may cause illness.
Avoid Using Processed Meats
Perhaps it is time you skip sausages and hotdogs. While they might taste good, these meats contain cancer-causing substances, which can also increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Keep Flames At Bay
If your grill has this option, turn the flame down to a low-heat setting. This will keep the meat from charring and burning. Additionally, to prevent the meat from burning and sticking, consider oiling the grill rack. You can also use a sheet of foil to avoid flames from touching your foods. Allow the meaty fats to drip down for best results.
Grill Veggies Or Fruit
You can still enjoy the taste of charred foods by swapping meat for veggies. Veggie burgers are worth a try, especially if you are trying to keep cholesterol levels at bay. Not to mention, the phytochemicals found in vegetables and fruits can reduce the risks of certain types of cancers.
Top Charcoal Grill Recipes
Now that you have learned everything you need to about charcoal grilling, it is time to try some fantastic recipes.
Grilled Chicken With South Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce
This classic BBQ grilled chicken is the ultimate recipe for your summer gathering with friends. Try this delicious recipe:
For The BBQ Sauce
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp of hot sauce
- 1 cup prepared yellow mustard
- 1 tbsp. ketchup
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp. hot sauce, add more to taste
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
For the chicken
- 1 tbsp. sea salt
- 4 drumsticks
- 4 chicken thighs
- Prepare the barbeque sauce at least 30 minutes before grilling to cut down on prep time. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and set the flame over to medium heat. Cook the ingredients for 2 minutes until the mixture is steamy. Be careful and do not allow the sauce to bubble as it can result in burns.
- Now, reduce the heat to medium low and wait for the sauce to thicken. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Then, set it aside to cool.
- Once the liquid is thick enough, reserve ¾ cup of the sauce for the chicken and set aside the remaining. The remaining sauce can also be stored in the fridge for two says.
- Rub the chicken pieces with sea salt 20 minutes before cooking. Set it aside in the fridge while you prepare the grill.
- Prepare the charcoal grill, ensure one side of the grill has direct heat while the other side has indirect heat.
- Brush the chicken with ¾ cups of barbeque sauce on both sides.
- Turn the heat to high and then grill the chicken over it. First, place the chicken over the hot side of the grill, moving it over to the other side and flip the chicken to ensure both sides are golden brown.
- Complete the cooking process over indirect heat by moving the chicken to the side where there are no coals. Cover the grill for about 5 minutes, flip and then cook for another 15 minutes until the chicken appears golden brown.
- Check the internal temperature of the chicken. It should be at least 175 degrees. The thighs of and the drumsticks may have a slightly higher temperature. Ensure the chicken is cooking on indirect heat to prevent it from drying out.
- Serve with the sauce immediately.
Hopefully, this guide has taught you everything you need to know about charcoal grills. For more information, don’t forget to check out our buyer’s guide. Good luck!