Cooking on a charcoal barbeque can take a little practice if you’ve never done it before. The most important way to get excellent results is to be patient. You can’t rush things when you are relying on charcoal for your cooking.
Thoroughly Clean the Grill and Ash Catcher
If this is the first time you’ve used your grill you won’t have to worry about this step, of course. If the grill has been used before, however, cleaning it out is an important part of preparing for cooking. Make sure the ash catcher is empty and any old coals have been removed from the basin underneath the grill. The bottom of the grill needs to be as open as possible to allow oxygen to flow easily among the coals while they burn. The cooking surface is often coated with a light greasy substance if it has been left in the grill since the last time it was used. You can clean the grease away with normal dish detergent and an abrasive pad. It’s easier to clean the cooking surface with a hose rather than taking it inside to the sink.
Arranging and Lighting the Coals
Once the grill is clean, it is time to put the coals in. Fill the basin halfway with fresh charcoal. You want to make sure there is enough coal to cover the bottom of the grill when you spread it out. Before you light the charcoal, stack it up in a pyramid shape in the middle of the grill. It’s fine if the charcoal pyramid is taller than the grill itself, you will knock the stack down and spread out the coals when you are ready to cook. Light the coals with a long fireplace or candle lighter if possible. Make sure you set the coals on fire at different parts of the pile so that the flame will spread evenly throughout the pyramid.
Waiting for the Right Time
The hardest part of using a charcoal grill is knowing when to knock down the coals and begin cooking. It can be tempting to break the coals up early because they look like they are hot enough or because you are too hungry to wait. Take your time. Don’t spread the coals out until they have all turned completely white and have glowing red areas. Some people worry that the coals will die out before the cooking has finished if you wait too long, but there is no reason for concern. Charcoal will burn for over an hour once it has reached the glowing white stage.
Prepping the Grill
Take all of the food and accessories back out to the grill, which should be filled with white hot coals by now. Use a pair of tongs or a poker to spread the coals out in an even layer across the bottom of the basin. Place the cooking surface on the grill and leave it alone for a few minutes until it becomes nice and hot. If you put the food on the grill before the surface has warmed, it may stick to the grill and be difficult to turn.
Different kinds of foods should be cooked differently on a grill. Hot dogs and bratwurst sausages need to cook more slowly so that they get warmed all the way through without becoming scorched. Chicken and hamburgers should be cooked until one side is completely finished, then turned to cook the other side. When you are cooking foods that drip grease, like hamburgers, you want to avoid letting the burgers get too scorched by the flames that pop up from the hot coals. If possible, adjust the cooking surface so that it is as far from the coals as possible. Vegetables grill very quickly and should be saved until just before you are ready to serve the meal. Buns and bread can be grilled with the vegetables.