Our ancestors got it right when they chose to cook over hot coals. Today, charcoal remains the single best method for grilling to perfection.
The Flavor Factor
All charcoal started out as wood and can greatly affect flavor. Lighter woods include alder, apple, beech, and birch while the darker options include cherry, chestnut, hickory, and oak.
Wood pairs with meat just like wine. In other words, lighter woods go well with fish and chicken, while darker varieties go well with red meats and pork.
Not all woods burn at equal temperatures. After choosing the wood that will pair best with your meat be sure to research how hot those coals will burn to ensure your grill time is just right.
Larger charcoal lumps burn hotter and longer and work great for steaks and burgers. Briquettes, on the other hand, are great for chicken and fish as they burn faster, more evenly, and for shorter periods of time.
Every grill master knows you need temperature options when you grill. That’s why you should load 75% of your charcoal on one side and just 25% on the other to give you as much heat control as possible.
How to Char Like a Pro
Easy steps to fire up your coals.
Let’s start with the right way:
- Use a chimney starter
- Fill with charcoal
- Add & light natural wood starters or newspaper
- Wait until coals are white and ashy (~20 minutes)
- Pour & spread inside your grill using tongs
- Lighter fluid as it will impart a terrible flavor to your food and ruin your meal
- "Easy light" briquettes as they not natural and soaked in lighter fluid
Quality charcoal is a terrible thing to waste. If you have remaining lumps or briquettes, gently spray them with water and allow to thoroughly dry. The next time you’re ready to grill, they’ll be ready too.