Tips: How to BBQ With Charcoal

Charcoal grills are popular because they result in such great-tasting food. Here are a few tips on how to BBQ with charcoal to get you started.

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  • Clean out ashes regularly. Too much ash will restrict air flow, and good air flow is important to getting charcoal nice and hot.

  • Remove ashes only when they're cool. It might not seem like a big deal, unless you drop hot ashes onto something that burns easily (like grass)!

  • Keep your bag of charcoal dry. Wet charcoal is very smoky, which makes BBQing much less pleasant!

  • You can use charcoal briquettes or natural lump charcoal, whatever your preference. Briquettes are cheaper, easier to find, and typically burn longer - but they contain chemicals and leave a lot of ash, plus can be a bit of a pain to light. Lump charcoal is more expensive but it has no added chemicals, it burns hotter and leaves less ash. It also burns faster so once again, price may be a factor. The amount of charcoal you need depends on the size of your barbecue - check the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Make a pyramid of charcoal. This helps to encourage air flow, making the fire start faster (and build nice and hot).

  • Lighting the fire: light the charcoal fire with an electric starter or with a chimney starter. Try to avoid lighter fluid, which can impart some unpleasant tastes to the food. With an electric starter, bury the starter in the pyramid underneath a few pieces of charcoal. Plug it in and leave it for about 8 or 9 minutes, until you see some pieces glowing red and going ashy. We prefer the electric starter just because there are no chemicals involved, and it's quick and easy.

    A chimney starter is another easy way to get your charcoal going. Basically, a chimney starter is a long cylinder. Charcoal is stacked inside over a grate, and a newspaper is placed beneath. The newspaper is lit, which in turn heats up the chimney and lights the charcoal.

    If you're using lighter fluid (if you really must! -- it gives off a chemical taste), pour it on top first -- about 1/2 cup should be about right -- and let is soak in for a minute or two. Then you can carefully light it with a match. Don't use gasoline or any other flammable liquid other than lighter fluid to ignite the charcoal.

  • Don't add lighter fluid to hot coals. This can cause flare-ups.

  • Light the charcoal about 30-45 minutes before you want to start cooking. It will take this long for most BBQs to get to the right temperature. The BBQ is ready to use when a layer of gray ash forms over the charcoal.

Learning how to BBQ with charcoal, at least how to get started with charcoal grilling, doesn't take long. Once you have that figured out, you can move on to reading more BBQ tips and trying new barbecue recipes!



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!