Gas grills may be convenient, but real grilling gurus know there’s nothing like cooking with charcoal. Aside from burning hotter than propane gas, which helps seal in meat’s moisture, a good charcoal imparts a pleasantly smoky, charred taste that you just can’t replicate with any other cooking technique. Best of all, cooking with charcoal is surprisingly simple if you follow our tips for grilling with charcoal.

Tips for grilling with charcoal

Lump charcoal vs. briquettes

Let’s start by talking about the difference between the two most popular types of charcoal, lump and briquettes. In short, charcoal is wood that’s been burned without exposing it to oxygen, leaving behind those familiar blackened lumps. Briquettes on the other hand, are just machine-made versions of traditional charcoal, and most contain artificial binders and additives.

What kind of starter to use?

To get your grill going, start with a starter. Unless you like the taste of petroleum, skip the can of lighter fluid (and especially those instant charcoals infused with lighter fluid). Not only do they pollute the environment, and your food, they are also one of the main causes of grilling accidents. Instead, use one of the following specially designed fire starters.
Fat wood
fat wood is the nickname for resin-saturated slivers of wood that light with the flick of a match. Wedge one into the bottom of your charcoal pile, light it and you’re good to go—just make sure that you check that the brand is safe for cooking uses.
Electronic charcoal starter
Another solution is to use an electronic charcoal starter, which is basically a super-hot heating coil that you also wedge into the bottom of your charcoal pile. The only problem is you need a nearby electrical outlet to plug it into.
Charcoal chimney
But if you really want to grill like a pro, consider investing in a charcoal chimney. Set the chimney someplace non-flammable, tuck a few crumpled pieces of newspaper into the bottom, fill to the brim with charcoal and light the newspaper. Within minutes, you will have perfectly pre-heated charcoal to (carefully) pour into your grill.

Let’s get this barbecue started!

Once your charcoal is glowing red and covered with a hint of ash, spread your coals around the bottom of your grill to create an even heat source, add the top grilling rack, and you’re ready to start cooking with some serious fire!

Cheryl Says

Nothing says summer to me like the smell of charcoal on the grill!