How to BBQ with a Charcoal Grill

Kids these days have so many options for cooking their food. They can stick it in the oven, zap it in the microwave, or toss it on their huge BBQ. Which is great, but it has led to the charcoal grill becoming a lost art form. No one wants to take an hour to cook something on a charcoal grill when the microwave would take two minutes.


If you’re feeling particularly old school and want to cook your meat up the old-fashioned way, Cindy Lou’s BBQ is here to walk through it.

Why a Charcoal Grill?

Sometimes people don’t have the room for or can’t afford a bulky barbeque or maybe that can’t afford one. Sometimes people just want to be hipsters and grill with charcoals. These are all great reasons (well, maybe not that last one).

Charcoal grills actually are just better for some things than a gas grill. This includes:

  • Searing. Charcoal grills produce more direct infrared heat which means that they are better for searing and browning the outside of a steak than a gas grill is.
  • Smoking. Obviously your best results are going to be with an actual smoker, but if you’re smoking with a grill, you’ll want to go charcoal. Since charcoal grills burn complex organic molecules, they are able to more varieties of flavor-filled smoke in much, much larger quantities.


How to Grill with Charcoals

So now that your curiosity has been piqued and you’re thinking that maybe you want to try out this grilling charcoals, the next question arises: um, how?

Odds are that you’re mainly used to using gas grills and don’t have much experience with charcoal. If you want to get started grilling meet the old-fashioned way, you’re going to need 5 things:

  • A grill
  • Charcoal (briquets or lump)
  • Light fluid
  • A lighter
  • Meats

So first, you want to line the bottom of your grill with aluminum foil. This isn’t necessary, but it helps because the foil reflects heat toward your food and makes clean up much easier.


Next you want to stack your charcoal in the middle of the grill. I prefer to make a pseudo teepee shape because it allows for maximum air flow which enables the coals to burn more efficiently. That means your meat cooks faster and your coals last longer.

Then comes the fun part: lighter fluid! Put a light coat of the fuel onto the charcoal. Enough to completely cover the briquets but not enough to soak them through. Per usual when dealing with lighter fluid, erring on the side of moderation is always the smart choice.

Next you light the charcoal. Unless you have some crazy long fingers that allow you to light it while still standing a safe distance away, you’re going to want to use one of the long-necked camping lighters. Using charcoal grills is more dangerous than using a gas one, so safety is always the name of the game.

Once the charcoals are lit and producing some heat/smoke, spread them out across the foil-covered floor of the grill with some kind of metal tong. Then slap your meat on the grill and go to town! You’re grilling with charcoal, baby!

If you have any further questions about grilling, contact the Portland BBQ experts at Cindy Lou’s today! 503-290-8019