Basics of Charcoal grilling: What You Need to Know About Charcoal Grilling

Speaking of charcoal grilling, we know that everybody loves a smoky flavour in their food, specially meat. Often they wish to make it at home.

And I bet you also wished to make a barbeque meal for your friends and family. Speaking of which, I’m here to tell you all the basics of charcoal grilling that you need to know. So, stay tuned.

Before that, did you know there are four types of charcoal grills? Well as a beginner, I don’t expect you to know that. But yes, there are four types of charcoal. But most used for charcoal grills are only two-

  • Natural lump charcoal
  • Charcoal briquettes

What is natural lump charcoal?

Cooking woods are burnt for days in low oxygen. And they come out as a pure carbon. Lump charcoals are uneven in size. They can be big chunks, medium blocks and small planks all together in one bag.

So, you have got the answer to the question- what is natural lump charcoal? Now, the question is- why they have different sizes? The answer is simple, they are natural! Without any polish and any artificialities. Natural lump charcoal is popular in the barbeque world because it has the quality to high and fast heating and cooking.

However, you can find the best lump charcoal in the given link below. Click the link if you need-

What is charcoal briquettes?

Seond big question is- What is charcoal briquettes?

They are popular for low heating and slow cooking. Most part of it has sawdust, woodchip, sodium nitrite and a little bit of charcoal. They are compressed and evenly shaped. Charcoal briquettes uses for barbequing.

How do you cook on a charcoal grill?

Enough of information regarding charcoal lump. Now focus on the main theme- How do you cook on a charcoal grill?

Most people find it tricky to cook on a charcoal grill. Because you need to be a master on controlling the temperature of your food and not letting it burn. Charcoal grilling for beginners is even trickier. Now I’m going to give you a step by step guidance on charcoal grilling-

Tools you need

  • Grilling drum
  • Charcoals ( lump/briquette)

These are used give heat for cooking

  • Match and paper/organic fire starter

It is used to fire up the charcoal

  • Wood chips

To add a smoky flavour

  • Metal brush

To clean the grates

  • Pair of Tongs

One is used to turn over the charcoals and the other one is used to turn over the meat

  • Long handed spatula

It is used for cooking

  • Silicon brush

To oil the grates and meats

  • Thermometer

To observe the temperature

Before starting the cooking procedure the first and foremost thing for you to know is how to fire up the charcoal.

How to light charcoal

 If you ask how to light lump charcoal? I would say that, natural lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes whatever type you choose for grilling, the lighting procedure is all the same for every type.

Charcoal chimney

It’s like a metal cup with holes in its bottom. First, place one or two chunks of paper and then pour the charcoal over it. Don’t fill the cup all the charcoal. Leave ¼ part empty. Then ignite the paper from the below. You can use any kind of paper. I usually use newspaper. Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes and they are ready to go on the grilling drum.

Instead of paper, you can also use organic fire starter. They are highly flammable. In this case, put the organic fire starter in the chimney, light it up and gently pour the charcoal in the chimney. So that, they can't extinguish the fire. You have to wait less than ten minutes to let the charcoals burn.

Chimney process to light charcoal is a traditional and very common way to ignite the charcoal.

Electrical starter

In this method, pour charcoals on the grilling drum and bury the electric lobe on it. Turn on the switch and it will take less than 5 minutes to ignite the charcoals. 

How to know your charcoal is ready? Well, if you are using lump charcoal, it will become ashy-red and emit little smoke. And if you are using briquettes they will turn grey-white.

And now, in five steps, I will describe how do you cook on a charcoal grill-

Step 1

Put the charcoals only on side of the grilling drum. It’s called 2-zone cooking techniques. This will prevent the food to become overcooked and burnt. Every barbeque maker follows this technique. But even for a beginner, I strongly recommend 2-zone cooking techniques.

Step 2

Clean the grates with a metal brush. Place the lid on the top to make sure your charcoals remains hot. Turn on the top and bottom vents on, otherwise, the charcoals will extinguish.

Step 3

Oil the grates with a silicon brush. In this way, your food won't stuck on the grates.

Step 4

Place your food on the opposite side of the charcoals. Cook them as much as you need. Generally, each side takes 3-4 minutes to achieve a brown look. Use spatula or tongs to turn over your meat.

Step 5

How to smoky flavour to your food? Add wood chunks to the charcoal to give a smoky flavour to your food.

Tips for charcoal grilling

  • Always place the lid lining its vent with the food. If you place the vent lining it with the charcoal the heat will escape straight through the vent.
  • For quick cooking and high heat use lump charcoal. But if you think charcoal grill too hot, then for low heat and slow cooking, use briquettes.
  • To control heat charcoal grill, you can always turn on both vents.
  • For beginners, it is best to use briquettes.
  • Clean the grates when it’s hot. In this way, the dirt will easily come off.


Charcoal grilling is not easy since here you have to monitor the temperature manually.

But through this basics of charcoal grilling guide and regular cooking as well as having knowledge on how to light lump charcoal, you will learn to control it.

However, since you’ve reached at the end of this article, by this time you have learned every steps and tips for charcoal grilling. Remember, always make sure that your charcoals are well heated. Now you can make and enjoy your smoky meat recipes.

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