How to Grill on a Charcoal BBQ

The charcoal BBQ is still a popular choice for outdoor cooks because it lends such wonderful flavor to the food. You can cook so many things on the barbecue too - and grilling food outside during the summers is a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather while creating delicious meals. Here are a few starter tips on how to grill with charcoal.

What Type of Charcoal Do You Use?

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You can use any type of charcoal you like. Briquettes and natural lump charcoal both have their pros and cons but either one will work. More information about this can be found in the article, Grilling Charcoal - What Type to Use?

How to Light the Charcoal

Soaking the charcoal first in lighter fluid is probably the method most people know best... but there are also chemical-free ways to get the fire going. Chimney starters are popular, as are electric charcoal starters. With an electric starter, you just bury the starter under a few pieces of charcoal and wait a few minutes until you see the coals start to glow. With a chimney starter, charcoal is stacked inside the chimney and a lighted newspaper is used to get the coals started.

Charcoal should be stacked in a pyramid shape to help encourage good air flow.

Always make sure to keep the charcoal dry. Once it gets wet, it's much harder to start and will smoke heavily -- something the neighbors probably won't appreciate (nor will your poor eyes!).

How to Grease the Cooking Grate

Wait until the barbecue is pre-heated. Pour some oil onto some folded paper towels, then use BBQ tongs to hold the towels while thoroughly wiping them on the grate.

When Is The Barbecue Hot Enough To Start Cooking?

This obviously depends on what temperature you need, but generally you should at least wait until there is a layer of grey ash on top of the coals.

Adding Wood Chips

Using BBQ wood chips are an easy way to add extra flavor to food. Soak the wood chips or chunks in water for at least an hour or two before you need them. Then drain them well and shake off the excess water. The chips should be damp, not soaking wet.

Add the damp wood to a smoker box or directly to the coals after they've formed a layer of grey ash (they won't last as long if you put them right in the coals). Use wood chips sparingly at first -- a handful or two to start -- until you can figure out just how much smoke flavor you like.

How to Clean the Cooking Grates

Crusted-on food is easier to remove when the grate is hot. Right after pre-heating the barbecue, use a stiff-bristled grill brush to scrape off the cooked-on tidbits. If you don't have a brush, you can also use a crumpled-up ball of tinfoil -- just make sure you hold them with barbecue tongs so that you don't burn yourself.

Always start with a clean grate. A clean cooking grate will release food more readily so that it doesn't stick and burn (and your food also won't have burned bits from whatever was stuck to the grate).

These short 'how to grill' tips are just a start. Browse our site for more BBQ tips and, of course, lots of great 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!