Cooking Charcoal FAQs

Cooking Charcoal FAQs

How long does charcoal last while cooking?

The good news is that high-quality charcoal should give you more than enough burn time in favourable weather conditions. Lump style charcoal will probably give you two to three hours of cooking time, while briquettes can keep going for four or five hours. If you’re using them in an oxygen-restricted appliance, such as a smoker, those times can be extended considerably.

How do you know when charcoal is good to cook?

One of the key tricks to learn when using charcoal is to know when it is burning at a hot enough temperature to start cooking. If the coals are still black or grey with the flames, they won’t be hot enough. Once they glow white hot with a red centre, however, you can use them for direct heat. When they are ash-white – but still very hot – you can use them for cooking in the coals or for indirect heat.

How does charcoal work for cooking?

Using charcoal allows you to create zones in the grill for foods that need different ways of cooking. By moving your coals to one side of the grill, you get a strong heat source that’s perfect for grilling meat such as steak, while the side without coals can be used for food that needs indirect cooking – that’s things like chicken and potatoes that might otherwise burn before they are cooked properly on the inside.

How long does charcoal take to start cooking?

Once you’ve successfully lit your charcoal, it’s probably going to take about 20 minutes for it to reach the right temperature. If it’s still black rather than glowing white hot, however, you’re going to have to wait a little longer!

How do I control the temperature of my charcoal grill/smoker?

The best way to control the temperature is by using your dampers to adjust the amount of air getting to the coals, and not by adding or removing coals. To increase the temperature, you simply need to let more air in (oxygen feeds a fire), while limiting the air will bring the temperature down (just don’t let it drop too much!).

What are some common mistakes to avoid when cooking with charcoal?

The main thing you want to avoid when cooking with charcoal is impatience – make sure you wait until your charcoal is hot enough before starting to cook and don’t keep lifting the lid to see how it’s doing. In both cases, you’ll get better with practice! Other common mistakes include using low-quality charcoal that contains additives and chemicals and not using the vents to control the temperature effectively.

How do I add smoke flavour to my food when cooking with charcoal?

The best way to get the smoky flavours and aromas that are such a big part of any successful barbecue is to use good-quality charcoal. Restaurant grade BBQ coal delivers everything you need without the need for using extras like liquid smoke, while low-quality charcoal with chemicals and other additives is more likely to leave a nasty aftertaste than a mouth-watering experience

What are the best practices for cleaning and maintaining a charcoal grill/smoker?

It’s easier to clean your grill when it’s still relatively warm, before any debris hardens and becomes difficult to shift. However, we understand that may not always be practical so you can soak your grates in warm, soapy water for a few hours to make the job easier. Rinse them off well afterwards to make sure any lingering soap has been properly removed and then give them a coat of oil to both prevent food from sticking and prevent rust. Similarly, wash the inside and outside of the grill itself with soapy water and thoroughly rinse afterwards.

How do I know when my food is done cooking over charcoal?

Cooking your meat properly doesn’t just mean that it tastes better, it also makes it safer to eat. Get a thermometer to check the internal temperature of your cooked meat, because if you just go by the outside and you’ve had the temperature too high, you might not have cooked the insides sufficiently. 

Beef, pork and fish are all considered safe when the internal temperature reaches about 63ºC (145ºF), while poultry needs to reach about 74ºC (165ºF). However, your meat continues to cook internally after you remove it from the grill, so you should remove it when the temperature is about three or four degrees Celsius below optimum temperature and then leave it to rest.

Can I use wood chips to grill?

Wood chips can be used to give a smoky flavour to barbecued food, but you’ll be better off using the type of top-quality charcoal used by professional BBQ chefs, which should give you all the taste and aroma you’ll ever need!


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