Charcoal grilling is by far the tastiest and best method for grilling any kind of meat.
Properly grilled meat using charcoal tastes so much better than what can be accomplished on the stove. We love using charcoal for grilling any kind of meat for its natural ability to provide temperature zones–extreme heat directly over coals and more moderate heat away from the coals.
But then, why don’t people use the charcoal grilling method more often? Using an informal survey, we concluded that more people prefer grilling on a gas barbecue than with charcoal.
The reasons given were – length of time to start the BBQ, messiness of charcoal. Gas is easier.
Read on and we will convert you to a happy charcoal barbecuer in no time.
Lump charcoal vs briquettes
The difference between charcoal (lump or chunk – same thing) and briquettes
Lump charcoal Grilling
- made from hardwood (hickory, mesquite, oak or other hardwood)
- starts faster than briquettes
- costs more but not that much
- burns hotter, faster and more quickly than briquettes so it’s ideal for grilling
Briquettes for Grilling:
- Cheaper than lump charcoal
- Made of mix of ground and powdered compressed charcoal, mixed with starch, coal dust, nitrates, lime etc..
- Briquettes burn longer and more evenly (they are all the same size and shape) Brand name charcoal
- 2 type of briquettes – Plain, which need lighter fluid to start, and self-igniting briquettes. These are impregnated with flammable compounds that help them burn. (Keep the bag sealed well so the lighting compound won’t evaporate)
Brand name charcoal
Royal Oak 100% natural wood charcoal- known to start faster. For more information on brand name charcoal click here
Best charcoal Grilling starters:
Homemade fire starters:
- Dried orange peel burns well.
- Paper but not glossy magazines
- Pine tree resin in old egg cartons
- Chimney starter
- Newsprint or paper towels soaked in begetable oil
- Petrolium jelly soaked cotton balls (heat up the jelly in small sauce pan and put cotton balls using tongs and sop up the jelly, store in a small container like a pill bottle
- Soak balls of newslpaper in bacon grease.
Commercial charcoal starter
- Lighter fluid
Chimney starters make it easy to light your charcoal
Chimney starters are the best. Unlike when using lighting fluid, there is no bad taste imparted on the cooking food. It is also, of course, free, except for a few pieces of newspaper (never use magazine paper or other types of paper). When using the chimney starter, the hottest coals tend to be on the bottom, and when emptied out, distributes the hottest coals more evenly for a better cookout.
The best way to light up charcoal for barbecues using a chimney starter
A charcoal chimney is used to light up both lump coal or charcoal briquettes. It’s a metal cylinder, usually black in color, that lets you start the charcoal grill the easiest, safest, cheapest and most efficient manner. It allows for intense heat to start the closely stacked coals faster. This type of starter creates heat waves are sent up the chimney from an updraft.
How to Use a chimney starter
- First place the chimney starter on the charcoal grate in the grill. This allows for maximum airflow for the coals.
- Open the air vents.
- Put some sheets of newspaper or kindling wood at the bottom.
- Fill it full of coals.
- Put in one of your homemade fire starters such as the cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. The oil burns before the paper burns, and this slows down the process enough that you don’t need to add more paper and re-light.
- How do you know when the coals are ready?
Light the concoction you have made (newspaper, coals, chosen igniting method). Get ready for lots of smoke. After 20-25 minutes, the coals should be ready for grilling. There might be fire coming out of the top of the chimney. If you’re using briquettes, they should be turning ash grey around the corners. Lump charcoal is ready sooner than briquettes on average.
( when looking for a chimney starter at your local hardware store, look for one with an extra back handle. It makes it easier to pour hot coals onto the grill. A large one makes starting the grill faster. Get one made of tough steel)
Making your own chimney starter
I would certainly buy mine at the hardware store, they are not expensive and I like the idea of a flame resistant handle. But making your own is not rocket science. The idea is to create a cylinder to hold the charcoal and direct the air flow so that the charcoal lights quickly.
Here is a video showing you exactly how to make your own. First find the biggest tin can,
Types of smoking Chips for your charcoal grilling
- Hardwood and softwood smoking chips are used to produce just enough smoke to flavour your grilled food.
- Softwood will smoke more than hardwood. Pine, spruce, cedar
- Hickory is a favourite – but it’s quite strong bacon flavour. It works well with pork, ribs, hams, poultry and beef. For Hardwood like hickory soak the chips in water for at least 20 minutes to prevent a bitter taste before putting them on the grill
- Mesquite: One of the most popular wood in the country, mesquite is a scrubby tree that grows wild in the southwest. Sweeter and more delicate than hickory, it’s a perfect complement to steaks, lamb and duck.
- Walnut – heavy smoke flavour, best to mix with lighter woods like almond, apple, pear, or pecan. Good on red meats like beef, boar, venison, bison
Preparing Your Charcoal Grill
Use your favorite cooking spray to lightly spray your cooking grid. This will reduce the food sticking on the grill.
The best weapon in your arsenal is a good cooking thermometer.
We think that the best meat thermometer by far is the Thermapen™. These thermometers read instantly and are highly accurate. They are not cheap, around $100 apiece.
Check the meat as it cooks.
Avoid using a pitchfork to stab and turn the meat. Precious juices will escape. Use tongs instead.
Always thaw your meat in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge about half hour before grilling to attain room temperature.
Marinades from marinated meat should be discarded. Do not reuse them.
Place cooked meat on a clean plate
Now that your charcoal barbecue is ready for grilling it’s time for the steaks.
The smell of cooking steaks on a charcoal BBQ is the best around.
Optimum grilling time for steaks
Varies with the size and thickness of the steak. Below is a time guide. Best to use a meat thermometer.
Dry rubs for steaks
Bison and venison need only some kosher salt and cracked pepper. Rub it with some olive oil before putting it on the grate.
Or rub it with seasoned salt and a bit of sugar. The brown sugar gets beautifully caramelized and almost acts like a glaze for the steak.
After the steak has been cooked – let it rest for a few minutes. The juices will be reabsorbed during this time.
Bison, Venison and Wild Boar are great on the grill. Try some of Northfork Bison’s meats and enjoy healthy all natural products with no added chemicals or additives of any kind. All Northfork meats contain NO hormones, NO steroids. Besides being good for you, they’re delicious!
Tell us about your barbecue preference. Do you cook with charcoal? Do you use smoking chips? We would love to hear from you. Send us a picture of your steak to our facebook page.
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