Using A Charcoal Grill For The First Time – 2024 Grilling Tips & Techniques

One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is that newbie finds it difficult using a charcoal grill for the first time. The main difficulty they face is to stabilize the temperature or heat inside the grill, which is very easy in the case of a propane grill.


However, the charcoal grill has its own advantages such as cheaper grill, cheaper fuel and, above all, smoky taste and better searing attracts most of the grillers.


You don’t need to worry if you are using the best charcoal grill for the first time or you are a pro. This guide will assist you in each step. Doesn’t matter you have experience in grilling, you might find something new and valuable as charcoal grilling tips and techniques. This guide has complied step-by-step tips and techniques, so you don’t get confused, stick with us in each step. Let’s get started!


Charcoal Grilling Tips And Techniques Before Cooking

best Charcoal grill

Let’s get into some charcoal grill tips that will certainly make grilling fun for you, its step by step guide make sure not to skip any step:

1: Cleaning

Clean the grill by removing the lid and grilling grates and clean the ash or dirt of any kind

2: Lighting

Lighting the charcoal is a crucial part, especially for those using charcoal grilling for the first time. There are multiple ways to light your grill as

Caution: Most alarming thing that should not be underestimated, never ever use your charcoal grill in an enclosed space. Burning coal in an enclosed space produce carbon monoxide, which is an odorless, colorless gas that is known as a silent killer. Indoor, it can kill you in minutes without any warning. 

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Charcoal chimney

A charcoal chimney is used if you are using original charcoal and don’t have self-starting briquettes or lighter fluid. Original charcoal is hard to light. The charcoal chimney has holes in it that circulate air and helps to start ignition. Put the crumpled newspaper at the bottom and place charcoal on top of it. And then ignite it with matches, let it burn until coal is white and ashy.

We have reviewed the best charcoal grills for steaks, in case you might want to buy a new one.

Lighter fluid

The lighter fluid has petrochemicals that help to start ignition. Make a pyramid of charcoal original charcoal, drop lighter fluid over it. Light it up with matches or lighter. It’s a cheaper option but the risk is involved.

Caution: As lighter fluid contains volatile fluid, that means it can vaporize. So when you are lighting it up, make sure your face or body is at a safe distance and don’t drop it over hot coals, as the flame may catch your hand. Avoid pouring on your hands or clothes, if it happened, consider cleaning or changing before lighting the grill.


Self-Starting briquettes

Self-starting briquettes is a remedy if you don’t want to buy an expensive chimney or play with hazardous lighter fluid. Buy these bad boys to get the party started in no time.

Note: Self-starting briquettes charcoal burn faster than original charcoal. So it’s a better choice to add some original charcoal instead of using self-starting briquettes for the whole time, which are costly. When self-starting briquettes burn, then the flame will spread to the original coal and help them burn as well.

Tip: You can use the newspaper at the bottom and then a layer of original charcoal and pour some lighter fluid on top. This will burn the coal faster and save your precious time.

Whatever method you use for lighting, it’s up to your choice and availability of items you have. After ignition, let it burn for 10-15 minutes. You are ready to start cooking when coal looks like white-grey and glowing red inside.

Caution: Wait until lighter fluid is wholly burnt. If not the case then your steaks may taste like petroleum.

3: Putting coal in grill

coal grill

It’s time to pour the coals into the grill by removing the grate of the grill if you are burning the coal separate not in the grill itself.

Caution: Always wear Protective Gloves while dealing with the transfer of coal, removing the grate, etc.

Now it’s time to spread the coal on the coal grate and arrange that coal uniformly. So that heat would be even on the grilling grate.

Note: Make sure your vents are open, if not your coal will suffocate due to lack of oxygen, and you will need to perform the lighting process again.

Note: Make sure that your coal is dry and don’t have moisture in it. If coal has moisture in it, use it at the end if needed. Hot coal will vaporize the moisture and will assist in burning the wet coal as well.

Charcoal grill or any other grill can also be a useful activity for couples during camping.

Charcoal grilling tips and techniques during cooking

best Charcoal grill

Pre-heating and oil the grilling grate

  • Let the coal burn inside your grill for at least 15 minutes that will heat you grilling grate and will prevent steaks to stick or whatever you are cooking to grates.
  • To prevent sticking, you can oil your grilling grate before putting anything to grill.

Tip: Let the steaks to come to room temperature before grilling for better result.

Learn how to vent

Unlike propane grills, where you can turn the knob or dial to adjust the temperature; in a charcoal grill, you only can adjust the temperature by opening or closing the vent. By opening the vent means more oxygen can come, faster the coal will burn, higher temperature and vise Versa.

Tip: Vents are not the only variable that can suffocate the fire by closing it, but build up ash can also do the same. So, make sure the grill is not full of ash.

Need to know the difference between direct and indirect heat

best Charcoal grill

It is important to understand this step for using a charcoal grill for the first time. It is self-evident that more coal means more temperature, but need to consider whether food is on top of it or not. The food that is situated directly above the coal will cook faster as opposed to away from them.

Using a charcoal grill for the first time, it is better to load coal on one side of the grill. Let the other side empty, which will be an indirect heating side. This technique will enable you to move food from the direct heating side to the indirect cool side. The cooler side will prevent overcooking and promote slow cooking. For example, a thick layer of steaks requires slow heating for a long time. This technique gives you the freedom to cook steak on the hotter side and vegetables on the other cooler side.

Tip: Add some of the wood, to enhance the flavor as we know flavor is the most desired aspect of charcoal grilling.

Don’t miss our review of the best smokers for beginners in 2024.

Charcoal grilling tips and techniques when you are done cooking

After you are done with cooking, it’s time for maintaining your equipment. Don’t be reluctant for cleaning as it is better to clean it after cooking rather than cleaning the next time you use it.

Cleaning the grilling grate:

Most of the grilling grates are made from cast iron or steel that is coated with porcelain which prevents sticking your steaks with it. But somehow, small sticking may be needed to be cleaned. Just make sure that the grilling grate is not hot and use a brush to clean the grate. It’s better to use gloves to prevent hands from carbon.

Ash handling:

It’s a tricky part you need to be aware of. You need to empty your ash catcher, but not immediately. You need to give it at least 12 hr to cool down. If the ash catcher is slightly warm, means the risk of fire hazard is involved. Ash handling is difficult if you using a charcoal grill for the first time but don’t worry these tips below will get you through.

Note: After cooking, you should close the dampers so that air circulation is blocked. Due to the lack of air, coal will stop burning. This way the coal will take less time to be in a safe state that can be disposed of. 

Caution: Double-check to make sure that no sign of burning before dumping in into a garbage bag or trash can.

Tip: Extinguishing ash with water would make the process fast but don’t be tempted. Water chemically reacts with ash to produce sodium and potassium oxides- which promote corrosion. This process will shorten the life of your grill and because of the same reason, don’t let your charcoal grill sit in the rain.

Tip: If you want to extinguish ash with water, remove it from the grill first. Then extinguish in a safe place, make sure no combustible material is nearby.

This guide tries to elaborate cooking tips, key reminders that must be considered, safety aspects during cooking. This guide provides you with all the practical information in each step especially if you are using a charcoal grill for the first time.

Check out these accessories for successful grilling: