Charcoal Grilling For Beginners - 5 Common Mistakes To Avoid

Charcoal Grilling For Beginners - 5 Common Mistakes To Avoid

Ask anyone who enjoys BBQ-ing and we’re sure they’ll agree that there’s something really special about preparing food outdoors. After all, there would have to be considering the extra effort and preparation it takes. For us, there are many benefits to cooking outdoors and we find that enjoying food outside takes the mundane, every-day act of eating and turns it into an experience that’s shared with our family and (once we’re able to) friends. If you’ve never had the time or opportunity to prepare food outdoors but it’s something you’re thinking about trying, we’ve put together a 5-point charcoal grilling for beginners guide that should help you avoid some of the more common mistakes. 

1 - Take The Outdoor Temperature Into Account

The first thing you’ll want to think about is the fuel. We’re focusing on charcoal for the purposes of this article, but one thing to remember regardless of what you’re cooking with is that you’ll need more of it if the weather is cold. You see, most charcoal BBQ grills are made from metal and when the ambient temperature is low, the temperature of the metal is equally so. Before you can begin cooking, you’ll need to warm it up cooking temperatures, so make sure you have an extra bag of charcoal for the grill spare just in case.

If you’re not sure what kind of charcoal to go for, we recommend a good quality, low-moisture charcoal. Trust us when we say it will go a long way toward making your life easier and the whole experience a lot more pleasant. Also, if you’re going to be grilling in cold weather, make sure you check out our Winter BBQ ideas for some delicious recipes.

2 - Set Up For A Win!

If nothing else, the one thing we’d like everyone who reads our charcoal grilling for beginners guide to understand is that everything hinges on preparation. Making sure you have the right tools to hand is a must, as is making sure that you have an undamaged pair of heat-resistant BBQ mitts or gloves.  The ‘undamaged’ part here is key, as even a small hole may result in a serious burn.  

If you’re BBQing in cold weather, make sure you have a safe and clear path to and from your charcoal grill before you even think about lighting it. If it has been icy, think about salting the area around your grill, as well as your path leading back to the house. Lastly, ensure that your charcoal grilling is in an area that is, at least partially, sheltered from the wind. 

For the perfect winter setup of your charcoal outdoor grill, check out our 6 Tips For Grilling & Chilling and ‘6 More Tips For Grilling & Chilling’. Once. You will also want to have a jacket, gloves, and a pair of boots ready. Seriously! No shorts and flip-flops when there are feet of snow on the ground. Please remember to practice safety near the fire and remember not to wear dangly or loose clothing that can catch fire.

3 - Don’t Heat Both Sides Of Your Grill To The Same Temperature

With gas grills, you have the option to customize the temperature on each side with the simple twist of a dial. The way you do this with charcoal, though, is by distributing at least 75% of the coals to one side, creating two different temperature zones. This allows you to cook different foods at different speeds and gives you more options for letting your food rest over little to no heat while you get everything else set up before eating.

4 - Don’t Forget To Preheat The Grill Before You Start Cooking

Just like your oven, you should preheat your grill before throwing any food onto the grates (also, make sure those racks are clean before you place anything on them). Once your charcoal for the grill is distributed, throw the lid on and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before placing any food over the coals. You want to hear a light sizzle when the protein, fruit or vegetables hit the grates, so make sure you let it heat up a little longer if you don’t.

5 - Leave The Food To Cook

The last point on our guide to charcoal grilling for beginners is the most crucial, as it will determine the quality of the food you’re about to serve. A big part of what makes BBQing so fun is that you get to watch your food cook, but don’t fuss over it too much. A lot of people feel like if they are standing over a charcoal grill then they’ve got to be doing something, however, sometimes the best thing you can do is leave it alone. Covering your grill with the lid for a while is a great way to help you resist any temptation, and it will also help to cook the food a little more evenly. 

It’s important to check on your food every now and again, but it doesn’t take much to lose heat so leave things alone as much as you can. Looking isn’t cooking, and your charcoal grill will have to come back up to temperature every time you lift that lid. Finally, have a cast iron or ceramic dish warming for when the food is done on the grill. This will help keep your food piping hot so you can take your time at the grill and don’t have to worry about the food getting cold before being served.

To help you start your BBQ in no time use Lekto Woodfuels’ Natural Firelighters. As they are 100% natural with no added chemicals the only thing you will taste will be your lovely food! They are made from wood shavings compressed into cylindrical briquettes and burn for up to 10 minutes and producing a strong, reliable flame.

Images by @getafterit_nashy