Quick Guide to Good Charcoal BBQ Grilling

Use Grilling to Produce Delicious BBQ Meals

In one of our other articles we have described the difference between grilling and barbecuing on a BBQ grill. We suggest you read this article for details on the differences, but in summary, grilling involves cooking your food on an open BBQ grill at a very high temperature (i.e. around 600 degrees F), generally for quite short periods of time.

When grilling is carried out correctly it can provide delicious barbecue meals very quickly. When cooking beef, lamb, pork or fowl the grilling process produces a seared crust over the meat’s exterior. This crust seals in the juices of your food and makes a big contribution to its overall taste.

There are hundreds of pages of information about BBQ grilling on the web. This article has been written to provide you with an overview of the essentials of the grilling technique.

We have broken this technique down into five main steps, focusing mainly on cooking various types of meat.

Five Steps to Successful Charcoal Grilling

Before you start grilling clean the cooking grate of your BBQ grill thoroughly with a wire brush. Many regular barbecue users neglect this step, but if you do the residues left on the grate after your last grilling session may result in unpleasant food tastes.

After you have cleaned your barbecue grate it’s a good idea to lubricate its surface with cooking oil. This will prevent your food sticking on the grate during cooking.

Step One – Ignite Your Barbecue Grill Coals

Whilst some people always use wood on their BBQ grills most of us use either lump charcoal or briquettes. Whatever fuel you choose you’ll need sufficient to provide a solid layer of hot coals on the surface of the charcoal grid that spreads at least three inches outside the area on which you will be placing your pieces of meat. If your food is too near the edges of your burning coals it’ll cook unevenly.

There are a number of different ways of lighting your charcoal once you’ve measured out the amount required. We recommend using a chimney starter. This is the ideal method to use if you grill regularly. It’s quick and reliable.

Step 2 – Spread Your Burning Coals in the Grill

Once your coals are burning vigorously spread them evenly across the BBQ fuel grid (bearing in mind the guidelines provided above). If you are going to grill very thick pieces of meat or meat with bones, taper the layer of burning coals so that you get a lower temperature area and a higher temperature area (where the layer of coals is thickest).

Use the cooler area for the thick and boney pieces of meat. The lower temperature will ensure the meat doesn’t char during grilling (we’ve all been to barbecues where we’ve been presented with pieces of meat covered in burnt unpleasant tasting patches).

Step 3 – Make Sure You Get the Right Temperature

Before you put your food on the cooking grate make sure that your grill is at the right temperature. You’ll need a temperature of around 500 to 600 degrees F to get good results on your grill.

Measure the temperature of your BBQ grill with a grill thermometer (most good grills have one of these built-in) or use the tried and tested “hot hand” test. This involves holding your hand three inches above the burning coals and counting 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 etc. Your grill will be hot enough to use if you can longer hold your hand in place after counting 3.

Use this test once your coals have a layer of white ash over them.

Step 4 – Put Your Food on the Grill

Place your food on the barbecue grill. Don’t use a fork, use a spatula. If you pierce your meat with a fork you’ll lose the juices which give it its flavor. Avoid continually turning your meat over during cooking (a common mistake). Divide the estimated cooking time in two and cook each side of your food pieces for the same amount of time.

Some people like basting their food with a marinade during cooking. We have written another article on the best techniques to use if you want to do this.

Step 5 – Test for Whether the Meat is Cooked

In other articles we have recommended using a meat thermometer to test whether your meat is done. Whilst this works very well for the long cooking times involved in barbecuing it’s not as easy to use when grilling because of the shorter cooking times involved.

We suggest using the established “artistic” method of testing for whether your meat is cooked:

  1. a) Your meat is rare if its soft and squishy when pressed with your spatula
  2. b) Your meat is medium-rare if its semi-soft and yielding
  3. c) Your meat is medium if it yields just a little when pressed
  4. d) Your meat is well-done if its firm when pressed.

(Some people suggest using the flesh texture at the base of your thumb as a comparison when the thumb is placed successively on your first, second, third and fourth fingers).

Enjoy the Food from Your BBQ Grill

When you have finished grilling your meat it will have a crust over its surface but it won’t be charred. This crust seals in the flavor of your meat and is the main reason why BBQ grilling over charcoal can be so rewarding. There really is no better barbecue grill food than food prepared using the techniques outlined above.