Charcoal Grill Tips

Secrets and Tricks From Experts

Charcoal grill tips from experienced grill chefs can be a great help when you are first learning how to use a charcoal grill - or even after you've been charcoal grilling for quite some time.

When you are camping, you just can't beat the wonderful taste of charcoal grilled food - that smoky flavor is just awesome and will make you a great camp cook!


Plus a big bonus - grilling lets you put out healthy cooking at camp and also allows you to find easy meals to cook while camping.

It's important to have charcoal grills that will give you outstanding performance when you are on a camping trip - click here to see the best charcoal grills under $100 .

So go for it and use some of these charcoal grill tips to get you started on the way to being an outstanding grill chef.


Charcoal Grill Tips - How to Use A Charcoal Grill

One of the most important charcoal grill tips for you - never use a charcoal grill inside - nor propane either - dangerous carbon monoxide fumes can be generated - only use outside where you have plenty of ventilation!

Use a charcoal chimney starter to light charcoal - no chemical taste in food from lighter fluid - you can buy a chimney starter or make your own from a large metal can - open both ends - use a punch opener to make ventilation holes on one end or put some rocks underneath the edges to give air - put crumpled newspapers on the bottom and fill with charcoal - light the paper and it will light the briquettes.

Briquettes should be completely covered with white ash before starting to cook - takes about 15 minutes.

Use good quality charcoal like Kingsford - never use matchlight - it doesn't burn as hot or as long.

Add a handful of wood chips like cherry, apple, hickory or mesquite for even more flavor - soak in cold water for 1 hour first.

A good guide for the number of briquettes to use - spread them out so there is about 3 inches more charcoal than the size of your meat.

Store briquettes in a dry place - wet ones won't burn - plastic tubs with lids are good.

Empty ashes - after they have cooled - every time you use your grill - tip over the grill and empty right into a trash bag.

Clean your grill after every use - putting vegetable oil on the grates and aluminum foil in the bottom of the grill help for buildup. Just don't cover the air vents.

Long-handled tongs move briquettes easily.

Get portable charcoal grills with sturdy legs - you don't want to lose that steak!

Vents control cooking temperatures - more air, more heat - close all vents and coals will be extinguished so you can use them again.

Indirect cooking should be used for cooking some foods like roasts, whole chickens, ribs or turkeys. Put coals on both sides with none in the middle - then cook the meat in the middle.

On a windy day you will need more charcoal because the wind makes it burn up faster - it helps to have the bottom vent away from the wind so it doesn't blow into it - close the bottom vent before opening the lid - helps to keep ashes from blowing up into your food.

Charcoal Grill Tips for Cooking:

The most important tip for cooking on a charcoal grill - or a propane grill - preheat your grill first for 10 to 15 minutes - a cold grill takes longer to cook food and it will be overcooked and dry - searing food on a hot grill carmelizes the sugar and gives your meat that wonderful smokey grilled flavor - food doesn't stick to hot grill grates.

Trim excess fat from meat - helps to prevent flare ups and it's healthier besides.

Turn meat with tongs or a metal spatula instead of a fork - prevents juices from oozing out.

Use a timer to know when food should be turned or when it should be done.

Don't put cooked meat on the same plate you had the raw meat on - you could get bacteria from the raw meat.

If you have a flare up, move the meat instead of using a spray bottle. The grease that is burning will start burning again when the briquettes dry out - if you move the meat, it can continue to burn up the grease.

How to judge the temperature - hold your hand just above the cooking grate -

  • 5 seconds - low
  • 4 seconds - medium
  • 3 seconds - medium high
  • 2 seconds - high
  • 1 second - searing hot

Don't overcook food - you can always cook more if you need to, but you can't cook less.

Season food with salt, but not pepper - heat will oxidize pepper and make it bitter.

Pat meat dry, then rub with a little oil - makes outside crisp.

Cover meat with foil - after it's done - until you are ready to eat it - it should sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Some fat on meat adds moisture and flavor - if you don't want to eat it, cut it off after it is cooked.

If your meat has no fat on it, brush it with olive oil.

Check the underside of meat often - it can burn quickly.

It's okay to flip meat and move it around.

Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling meat.

Always have a clean grill grate - prevents sticking.

Wait until meat is done before adding sauces - no charred, burned food.

Let food sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before grilling.

If you have fat down one side of the meat, make tiny cuts in it so the fat doesn't curl up.

Hamburger should have some fat in it - 20% is good - ground chuck is best and makes juicy and moist burgers - extra lean hamburger will be dry - meat should be bright pink with no brown spots - if you want to use lean hamburger, cook it on low to medium.

When using wooden or bamboo skewers - soak for 20 minutes in cold water before putting on food - helps to prevent burning.

Charcoal grill tips for cooking a steak -

  • Light the charcoal with a chimney starter and let the briquettes burn until they are all covered with white ash.
  • You want the searing temperature of holding your hand over the heat for 1 second.
  • Place a thick steak - 1 to 1.5 inches thick - on the grate - season with salt - cook 2 to 2.5 minutes per side for rare - 3 to 3.5 minutes per side for medium rare - 4 minutes per side for medium - and 5 minutes per side for well done.

Charcoal grill tips for cooking chicken -

  • Have briquettes on both sides with an empty space in the middle.
  • Skin on, bone in pieces work the best.
  • Use medium heat of holding your hand over the heat for 4 seconds.
  • Turn to brown all sides and season with salt.
  • Move the chicken so the pieces are over the bare spot where there isn't any charcoal.
  • The chicken should cook for 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes - use a meat thermometer to know when it's done.


Check out these popular grills:

Charcoal grill tips - time chart for grilling:

boneless, skinless chicken breasts - 5 minutes per side

cut up chicken - 45 to 60 minutes

fish fillets - 3 to 5 minutes per side

fish steaks - 5 minutes per side

hamburgers - 10 to 13 minutes

pork ribs - 45 to 60 minutes

ribeye steak - 5 to 8 minutes

shrimp - 2 to 3 minutes per side

More Charcoal Grill Tips: Did you know you can bake a pineapple upside down cake on a charcoal grill?

Start 24 pieces of charcoal and let it burn for 10 to 15 minutes until it is glowing red and covered with ashes.

Put 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a Dutch oven - add 1 can of pineapple slices, drained - mix up a yellow cake mix following directions on the box - pour batter over the pineapple - put the lid on the Dutch oven and set it over the coals, having about 1/2 inch of space between the coals and the bottom of the oven - using long handled tongs take out 16 coals and put on top and spread around evenly - bake for 15 minutes - remove from the fire and let it continue to bake with the coals on top for 15 to 20 minutes - cool for 10 minutes.

I hope you find these charcoal grill tips to be helpful and get you on your way to becoming an outstanding camp cook!

Here are some pages you might enjoy:

Learn which are the best charcoal grills under $100 - see what features make the best barbeque charcoal grills for camping

Building a campfire;  Learn how to build a campfire that burns well and has little smoke so you can cook great campfire meals - tell scary campfire ghost stories - sing campfire songs

Searching for the best grilled salmon recipe? Find it here among the top 10 grilled salmon camp menu ideas.

Camping grills; How to choose - do you want a propane grill, a charcoal grill, a smoker grill? Learn about different ones so you can decide.

Montana Camping Guide; Learn all about camping - tips and ideas, gear you might need, camping with kids, Montana campgrounds, fixing meals, camping in Yellowstone Park and Glacier Park, plus much more

Cast iron Dutch oven;  Dutch oven cooking makes incredibly delicious food.  Other cooking methods have tried to imitate them, but they cannot equal cast iron dutch ovens for cooking.

Silver Charcoal Kettle Grill; Tasty and easy camping meals will be yours when you use this charcoal barbecue grill.

Cheap Family Vacations; Discover how Montana camping will give you fun and inexpensive family vacations - as well as incredible memories!


Happy Grilling!

Montana Camping

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