BBQ Tips - Cooking with Charcoal Grills

Somehow, the barbecue always brings to mind great friends and great food. Cooking on the BBQ does call for some preparation, though, so here are a few to make the experience of using a charcoal grill easier and safe.

  • Keep your barbecue clean. Sure, it's no fun to have to clean, but a clean BBQ will make the cooking process go more smoothly. Plus all those burnt, greasy bits can catch on fire, so clean well! Get a good BBQ grill brush that's specially meant to clean barbecues and the job will be much easier. Another good tip: heat up the grill for a few minutes and then brush off the particles. They'll come off more easily.

  • Pre-heat the barbecue. Food will cook better and stick less.

  • Direct vs indirect grilling: Direct grilling is when the food is placed right over the heat for cooking. Indirect grilling is when the food is placed away from the direct heat source and the lid is closed, so that heat is reflected throughout the barbecue, cooking the food, oven-like. We tend to cook steaks, veggies, and skewers on direct heat, and things like roasts, ribs, whole chickens, and fish with indirect heat. With , we find that indirect heat cooks the meat much more evenly and keeps it moist (even when I get distracted and wander off for too long!).

  • Rinse meat before preparing or cooking. Run it under cold weather, pat dry, and you're good to go with marinading, spice rubs, or putting it on the grill.

  • Trim fat and remove skin prior to barbecuing. You don't need a lot of fat for flavor, and fat can cause flare-ups which can burn food.

  • Pre-heat your cooking grate prior to oiling it. Soak a wad of paper towels with oil, then use tongs to grasp the paper towels and oil the grate.

  • Try not to 'hover' over the meat - keep the lid closed. Meat usually only needs to be turned once, and it will be juicier if you keep the lid closed. Open the lid only when you want to turn the meat or if you have to check if it's done. Keeping the lid closed will also cut down on the cooking time.

  • Don't pierce the meat, either before cooking or afterwards - it lets flavorful juices run out. Use tongs or a spatula to handle the meat instead.

  • Use a meat thermometer. It's easier than guessing when the meat is done.

  • Get organized before you start. Have everything you need near the BBQ, rather than running back inside to get it (I know I've overcooked a couple of things after going back inside 'for just a minute'!).

  • Keep the grill protected from the elements to prevent it from rusting. Rust-flavored food just isn't all that tasty.

Barbecue Safety Tips

  • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire. Use lighter fluid if you must... however, the use of a chimney starter or an electric charcoal starter is safer, faster, and doesn't leave any chemical smell on your food.

  • Put the electric fire starter away somewhere safe. They get extremely hot and could easily set something else on fire, so put it on a fireproof surface away from combustible materials until it's cool again.

  • Always use tongs. Trying to turn something with your hand is just an invitation for an accident. Not only is the food hot, but so is the grill.

  • Keep a spray bottle handy... just in case of flare-ups.

  • Don't cross-contaminate. In other words, don't put cooked food on the same plate you used to hold raw food.

  • Wash your hands, utensils, and dishes thoroughly. Use soap and hot water. Don't use utensils, dishes, or your hands on raw food and then on cooked food, or vice versa, unless you wash first.

  • Always marinate in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.

  • Cook foods to the proper temperatures to kill of harmful bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to remove guesswork. Cooked foods also need to be kept hot, or else refrigerated, to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

  • Promptly refrigerator all leftovers so that bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow.

  • Be careful when opening the lid. It's hot! If you're barbecuing at higher temperatures, open the lid just a couple of inches first to let that initial blast of hot air safely dissipate. Then open it all the way.

  • Close all vents to put out the coals. Fire needs air, so if there's no air flow then the coals will go out.

  • Clean out ash regularly to maintain air flow.

  • Only clean out the ashes when they're cold! Likewise, only dispose of them when they're cold (or you might end up setting something on fire...).

We hope you've found these BBQ tips helpful! Check out the list below as well as the other sections of our website for more specific tips on barbecuing various types of meat and side dishes.

 

More BBQ Tips

 

About BBQGrillingGuide.com
This website offers tips on how to BBQ as well as some of our favorite barbecue recipes. We barbecue with a charcoal grill in an outdoor kamado-style cooker called The Big Green Egg. We love food and we love the grill, and hope you enjoy our recipes!