Want to start enjoying all the goodness an outdoor barbecue can bring? You’re in the right place. Preparing and cooking a barbecue is a great feeling, and it can add some amazing tastes to your food. If you’ve been using a gas barbecue for a while, you might not know how to use a charcoal version. Some argue that gas barbecuing isn’t REAL barbecuing. If you want to really get back with nature and start feeling constructive again, as well as having even tastier food, you might want to try a charcoal barbecue.

For those who are new to charcoal barbecues, where have you been? You’ve been missing great tasting food and an enjoyable experience getting one ready. If you’ve just got a charcoal barbecue or are thinking of getting one, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re going to look at how to barbecue with charcoal.

Remember, this isn’t a process you should rush. If you want your food quick, then stick to a gas barbecue or throw the food in the oven. Also remember, that cooking with fire can be dangerous. Never leave a burning barbecue unattended. Be careful at every point or this process. Have a fire extinguisher nearby and don’t cook near anything flammable.

How to find the right barbecue

Head to your local DIY, homeware or cookery store and you should be able to find plenty of options. You might want to consider a circular bowl barbecue or a rectangular tray size. These bowl ones work well with charcoal and help the air circulate, but you can still get a good rectangular one. Check how strong each barbecue seems, as this is important. You want something sturdy, even if it costs a little bit more. You might want to read some reviews online to find the most recommended barbecue at a price you can afford.

If you buy a barbecue from the store, make sure you can get it home.

How to barbecue with charcoal

Now you’ve got your charcoal barbecue, let’s have a look at how to start cooking with it…

1. Clean your barbecue

If you’ve just bought it and set it up for the first time, you should clean it before use. If it’s been used before, you still need to make sure it’s clean. While you will be cooking with heat (which kills some bacteria), it won’t get rid of everything. You shouldn’t let dirt cake itself to your barbecue from previous cookouts.

2. Find the right charcoal

You might want to consider briquettes or standard coals. There are lots of places you can get charcoal from, including the supermarket. You could even make your own, but this isn’t always an easy process, or a safe one. A big bag of charcoal is normally cheap enough and easy to find, so stick with that.

3. Set the barbecue up

Follow the instructions to set your specific barbecue up. Use trays at the bottom of the barbecue to keep the coal in and so they can be moved about. If you haven’t got trays, you can just lay things on the bottom, although this will make things a bit harder to manage later in the cooking process. By placing coal in the trays, you can move them later (carefully, with utensils) to move the heat, rather than having the whole bottom area of your barbecue on fire.

4. Put firelighters at the bottom of the tray

Get some firelighters and place a few of them at the bottom of the trays. If you haven’t got trays, then place them carefully on the bottom grid or the bottom of your barbecue (depending on the design). Remember to always store these firelighters in a safe place, and put the box away before you light the ones you’re going to use.

5. Find and chop wood

If you live somewhere that has plenty of wood, go around and pick up a few pieces. You don’t need anything too big. Make sure you’re allowed to chop wood in your area. You can also buy wood from the store, either in larger pieces or pre-chopped. Remember to be extra careful when chopping. Don’t do it if it’s not something you can do safely. Chop wood into small, thin pieces. Long pieces are good, but make sure they’re thin enough that they’ll catch fire easily enough.

6. Place wood over the firelighters

Build a nest like structure with the wood over the firelighters.

7. Place charcoal on top of the wood

Place plenty of charcoal over the wood. The idea is to light the firelighters, which will catch fire easily, this will in-turn light the wood, which takes slightly longer to start burning but burns for longer and will then make the charcoal burn. Charcoal takes a while to catch fire and get up to temperature, so you can’t simply light it directly. That’s why you need a construction like this.

8. Carefully light the barbecue

Once you’ve built the structure as explained. Put a flame to the firelighters at the bottom (carefully).

9. Give the barbecue time to heat up

It could take about half an hour, or maybe more. Don’t put the lid on, and let plenty of oxygen to the fire. You can tell when the charcoal is hot enough because it will have turned black to grey.

10. Make sure you’ve got the right safety equipment and utensils

Use gloves and other tools.

11. Place the grill above the fire

12. Check the temperature

Make sure the charcoal has turned grey. Use a thermometer if you want.

13. Add food

Thicket bits of meat should be added first.

14. Move trays and place food carefully

Try not to cook above flames directly.

15. Keep turning food

16. Check food’s temperature

Cut through to the middle or use a meat thermometer.

17. Move food that’s cooked while other food cooks

Move already-cooked food to the edge of the barbecue, or to a ledge that’s higher up (and further from the flame) while the rest cooks.

18. Enjoy

About the Author James S

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