There are many types of charcoal, plan briquettes, self-starting or flavored briquettes and lump coal (or hardwood charcoal). Use a good quality of charcoal, often the bargain brand is no bargain, it will either not burn or burn too quickly. The frustration is not worth the bargain price. Store charcoal is a dry space. Charcoal absorbs moisture quickly and will not burn well if it is damp. If charcoal is stored outdoors, keep in a weatherproof container with a tight lid. It is possible for treated charcoal to self-ignite when left in a hot location, for example in the direct sun.
If you use self-starting coal, you cannot add them to an existing fire because it will add a chemical taste to the food.
Lump charcoal adds a smoky flavor but burns more quickly, hotter and it sparks.
To start a fire use a charcoal chimney, basically a large metal container where you place some paper on the bottom and the charcoal on top and light it. When the coals are hot and ignited, you dump them out and have your barbecue ready in no time. Commercial fire starters begin again with some paper or a base of kindling.
Next pile a pyramid of briquettes upon it and light the kindling. Allow starter to soak into the charcoal for a few minutes before lighting in several places. After about half an hour they will be ready to spread out with tongs.
Allow 30 to 45 minutes for your coals to be ready. Never cook over a charcoal fire until the briquettes are covered with a light ash white and have stopped flaming. Ready coals look gray in daylight and glowing red at night.
*Check before you ignite the fire to see if you spilled the fire starter fluid on the bottom of the barbecue. If you have light it first to burn it off then light your coals.
Top and bottom barbecue grill vents should be open before starting the charcoal and while cooking, for the most oxygen flow. If the fire is too hot, bottom dampers may be partially closed to regulate heat intensity. Top vents should always remain open while cooking. Use mitts when adjusting vents.
Closing all vents when you are finished barbecuing will extinguish the fire and save coals remaining coals for future use. Remove the coals and the ash before you start your next fire.
There are two popular ways to grill.
Direct grilling is quick cooking over a single layer of coals, and it is the way to cook burgers and chops are cooked.
For the direct grilling spread the coals out evenly in a single layer. This is the best for steaks and chops, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Place the foods in the center of the grill, for food requiring less heat place them on the outside of the coals.
Indirect grilling is for slower cooking, foods that require 25 minutes or more. Using the grill like an oven, you may save about 1/3 the time as a conventional open because hot air circulates constantly around the food. Indirect grilling is for cooking larger pieces of meat or those which call for applying a sauce, glaze or marinade. Check the temperature of the grill with an oven thermometer to check so you know how hot it is and when to place your food on the grill.
Indirect grilling put a (usually a bread pan or disposable heavy gauge foil pan) drip pan in the middle or to the side of the grill place the food over the drip pan and bank coals on one or both sides. Place a little water in the pan bottom to prevent fat from flaring up. Place coals on either side of the pan and the meat directly above the pan.
*For extra flavor add hardwood chips for a rich smoky flavor or herbs. The other option is to fill a smoker chip box with chips (gas grill) or place chips directly on coals that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes or more. Place on the fire when it is ready and let them stand for five minutes adjust to the fire before placing the food on the grill. As the grill heats up and the chips emit their smoky flavor and maintains the moisture in food. Replenish chips and water as needed.
Use the cover to help with the cooking temperature control and also to control flare ups, you will not have flare ups with the lid down.
Gas Grills– Gas grills have made cooking outdoors as quick and convenient. Preheat grill with all burners on high. Only when the grill is hot, place the meat on the grill for a fast searing, then reduce the heat. It is also a good idea to keep an extra filled gas container on hand to ensure you always have a ready supply.
Electric Grill– With an electric grills, using a pan under everything is important The fat can cause a fire and the drippings reside from sauce or fat dripping can build up and give foods an unpleasant taste.
Rotisserie Cooking– With the rotation of the rotisserie, juices stay in and on the meat, rather than dripping out onto the flames. You will need to always use a drip pan. This self-basting action results in exceptionally succulent meat and crispy skin. There is nothing to do but set the timer and when your roast chicken or turkey is done.
It’s a primal pleasure to stand near the grill, to see the heat waves rise up, to hear the pop and sizzle of the coals, but remember, whether you are burning gas, charcoal or wood, an open flame of any kind must be treated with respect.
*Never barbecue indoors with a gas or charcoal grill; both produce dangerous toxic fumes.
*Never try to move a hot grill.
*Never squirt fire starter on anything burning, no matter how small the fire seems. Fire can easily climb up the stream and ignite the can causing an explosion.
*Never use gasoline, kerosene or paint thinner in place of lighter fluid for they are too volatile and uncontrollable and are not meant to be used with food.
*Set you grill on an absolutely level surface, away from anything combustible, beware of overhanging branches and roof eves. Table tops grills would be put on a thermal pan, as should grills on decks. Sparks can ignite and create an unplanned fire.
*Do not grill on a windy day.
*Tie back long hair and do not wear clothing with long flowing sleeves.
*Never try to dispose of coals that are not totally cold, the slightest heat can reignite. Sometimes they can smolder for a few days before they burst into flames, make sure they are completely out!
The right tools really help making the grilling experience better.
Spray bottle /always keep a spray bottle filled with water beside the grill in case of a flare up or accidental fire.
Mitts– Fire resistant oven mitts, if possible a little longer than the standard oven mitt or heavy leather gloves, will help to protect your hands and arms from burns from all the hot surfaces.
Basting brush– A long-handled natural bristle basting brush or basting mop work best for applying sauces and oiling the grill.
Spatula- Long handled flat metal spatulas with wooden handles to prevent burns, will allow you to flip, most chops, burgers.
Tongs– Use Heavy duty tongs one for arranging coals and one for arranging or turning meat. Don’t use a fork to turn meats or poultry, because you risk piercing the skin and allowing the juices to run out.
Grill brush– Keeping a grill clean is important and a sturdy stiff bristled wire brush is just the thing to scrub your grill with between uses. Turn the grill on and when it is hot most of the food residue with burn off brush off any remaining charred remains.
Heavy duty aluminum foil is perfect for making a last minute drip pan or to protect a piece of meat (wing tips) that’s scorching. Also use the heavy duty foil to line the bottom of the barbecue, to collect the ashes to make for a fast and easy clean up. Crumpled foil can work great at cleaning the grill. The foil also makes a fantastic envelope to steam cook fish or vegetables. Just place the fish or vegetables in the middle of the foil, and add some herbs, onion, or lemon and then form a large loose envelope to encase the food.
Skewers– Thread small chunks of meat and vegetables on skewers to make kabobs. Look for long metal skewers with easy to grasp handles on one end so the food can be turned easily for even cooking. If using wooded or bamboo skewers, remember to soak them for at least half an hour before using them. Rosemary sticks ae wonderful for skewers, they add fantastic flavor.
Grill basket– Grilling delicate fleshed fish like sole can be tricky without an enameled grill basket and plus they are great for grilling vegetables.
Timer– a kitchen timer is essential to help keep the food under control. It will remind you when the food needs tending. It is easy to forget the time when you are enjoying yourself with your family and friends.
Thermometer– An instant read thermometer ensures that the food is cooked thoroughly and tells you when it is done. Remember when you remove the food from the grill the heat in the food will keep it cooking for a few additional minutes.
Wood Planks– Cedar planks are great for cooking your fish on. Just soak them in water for 30 minutes or longer then place the fish directly on the wood and cook. The gentle flavor comes through and the fish does not fall into the grill. You can purchase the wood from your local lumber yard or order the cedar on line.
It is necessary to clean the cooking grate after each use. Simply loosen residue with a brass bristle grill brush or crumpled aluminum foil
Make sure coals are completely extinguished first, then remove remaining pieces and ashes.
Remove grates, as needed, and wash with detergent and water. Rinse well Wipe dry. It is not necessary to wash after each use.