How To Work A Charcoal Grill – 5 Easy Steps

How to Work a Charcoal Grill In 5 Easy Steps

We all enjoy firing up the grill and sharing a BBQ party with friends or family. The ‘firing up’ part sometimes deters people from grilling.

The whole process of choosing the right kind of charcoal, starting it, and arranging it in the grill can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be.

If you’d like to know how to work a charcoal grill, read on, it’s really quite simple.

Clean the Grill and Grate

Remove any ashes from the grill and dispose of it, and wipe off any remaining debris from the grates.

Usually, people use a metal brush to scrub off charred organic matter and grease, but sometimes tiny bristles stick to the grates, and from there they could get into the food.

clean bbq grill

I’d much rather use a wet cloth, or better yet, if there’s half an onion or a lemon around, I’ll use it. They clean well and leave a good flavor. Rub the grate with some vegetable oil and put it aside.

Start The Coal

Get some good quality coal, you can use briquettes, hardwood charcoal, or a mixture of both. Just make sure you procure a sufficient quantity.

Briquettes catch easier, they burn longer, and they’re less expensive. Hardwood charcoal adds a layer of smokey flavor to your food, but it burns out quickly and needs frequent replenishing.

There are several ways to ignite the coal, one of them is using lighter fluid. I’d rather not, but if you want to use it, please use caution and apply just a dash. It might leave a petrol-like smell in your grill.

Here are some other ways:

Fire it Up With a Chimney

Put some crumpled pieces of paper at the bottom of a small metal cylinder or ‘chimney’. Stack some coal on top of it to the brim, but don’t overpack it.

chimney charcoal starter

Light the crumpled paper with a match and wait for the fire to catch from one piece of coal to the next. In about 20 minutes the stack would be ready.

Remove the chimney and add more coal. Adjust the vents to let in more oxygen and wait a bit more till the newly added coal glows to a white-orange color.

Alternatively, you can add some fire starters to the bottom of the chimney, about half a handful, then fill to the top with charcoal.

Light the fire starters and wait till all the charcoal is glowing before closing the hood or placing your meat on the grill. If you do this too early the coal can taint the flavour of your food, not good.

Use a Charcoal Lighter

There’s a metallic tool you can use, you place it in the middle of your coal and plug it into the mains, and it works just like a car lighter.

When it becomes red hot, all the coal pieces around it will catch on. Unplug it from the power source and remove it carefully. This is an easy way to light up the charcoal, but the only downside to using this method is it does need a power source.

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Use Some Wooden Sticks

You can start the coal going by igniting a few wooden sticks in the middle of a coal mound. There are also starter wooden cubes made for that end specifically, but any starter will do, even a crumpled old newspaper.

Add some more coal and spread it evenly around the grill. Keep the lid open, this will let in a sufficient amount of oxygen to make this quick.

Adjust the Vents and the Lid

The final adjustments of the air vents and the lid will depend on the menu. Light food such as burgers or hot dogs can be cooked on an open grill. Boned chicken or steak needs more heat, so it’s best to cook them with a closed lid.

The air vents control the amount of air and specifically oxygen that goes inside the grill. Keeping them opened increases the heat, and closing them smothers the coal. The in-between positions vary the heat of the grill accordingly.

Stacking the Charcoal

Once the charcoal is fully alight, you can place it over the charcoal grate adjusting the amounts to where you want the most heat to the least heat.

You can divide the charcoal into two parts, with one side containing more. This side would have more heating capacity.

This way, you can control how thorough the grilling could get and roast two different types of food at the same time.

spread charcoal

Grill Something Delicious

Now that the coal is ready, you can put the grates back in place, and it would be nice if you could apply some more vegetable oil on them. This helps to  keep the food from sticking, and it also helps in giving your food those great looking and tasting sear marks.

You already planned what you’re going to cook and know the necessary adjustments of the coal stack, the vents and the lid, so what needs to be done now? Exactly, put that delicious meal on the grill, and cook it to perfection!

You might want to clean up the grill once you’re done and store the charcoal in a dry place for the next time you get that BBQ going.

To Sum Up

To have a perfect BBQ every time, remember these 5 simple steps: clean your grill and grates, start the coal, arrange it around the grill, adjust the vents according to the items you’ll cook, and grill something awesome.

Don’t forget to give your charcoal grill a clean down after you have finished. For more information about cleaning your BBQ Grill click here.

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Written By


Hi there, I'm Greg (also known as Herbie) and like most Aussies enjoy a good BBQ. I want to share with you some tips and recipes, along with gear that I like, to help you with your backyard barbecue and grilling hobbie.Anyway, have a look around and let me know what you think and happy BBQing. Cheers Herbie.

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