How to Start a Charcoal Grill for Beginners Guide for 2022

Grilling might be fun, but grilling with charcoal requires little skills. Charcoal grills give food that unique flavor of the right texture and smoky aroma. But using a charcoal grill is not as easy as a gas grill, or electric grill. In other words, there is more to using a charcoal grill than turning a knob on a gas grill. For example, how to start a charcoal grill, when to add in charcoal, when to open the vents amongst other things are things you ought to know when using a charcoal grill. So, relax and learn some helpful tips many people tend to omit when grilling.

How to Use a Charcoal Grills Step by Step

In this charcoal grill review, we would be talking about three major things you need to get started with using a charcoal grill.

1. Lighting up the Grill

Lighting up a charcoal grill is the first challenge a lot of people face when they decide to use a charcoal grill. Even top rated charcoal grills still come with this downside of igniting the charcoal. Easy ways to start up a charcoal grill is to use a charcoal chimney or a lighter fluid. However, using lighter fluid might be dangerous as it is highly flammable. A charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder with something like a grate at the bottom as an air vent. To use a charcoal chimney, arrange some charcoal in it and then wad up a newspaper and dip it in vegetable oil. Place the paper in the charcoal chimney, and then add some more charcoal on it.

Lighting up the Grill

Light the chimney and place it on a fire-safe surface like concentrate or the grill grate. Make sure you light the newspaper and let the flames travel up the coal. It might take up to 20 minutes for the fuel to ignite. While you wait, you can make sure the Grill is properly clean. Dispose of any residual ash in the Grill as it may obstruct airflow and prevent the charcoal from burning correctly. When everything is all set, lift the Grill’s Grate and gently pour the ignited charcoal in the chimney into the Grill’s charcoal grate. Spread the charcoal evenly in the Grill, and add some more charcoal and let everything ignite or turns red hot.

Create two zones with the charcoal in the Grill; one zone should have more charcoal heap than the other one. The reason why you should have two-zone is that some food cooks faster than others, while some require less heat directly underneath than others. The zone with more charcoal is the fast cooking zone, while the one with less charcoal is the slower cooking zone. Foods like pork loin, roasts, bone-in chicken, and similar foods take a longer time to cook. So, ideally, you grill these types of food in the slower cooking zone. And you can use the fast cooking zone to sear vegetables and warm food.

2. Preparing the Grill for Food

In preparing the Grill for food, you would need to know some helpful tricks that would help you produce the best-grilled food. First and foremost, clean the cooking grate with a clean rag. Using a clean damped cloth would also help remove more dirt on the cooking grate. Some people even recommend using a stiff wire brush to clean the grate to make sure it is well clean. But when using a wire brush to clean the cooking grate, be careful as small metal particles may end up in your food. So, it may be advisable to follow cleaning with the stiff wire brush with water and sponge. Additionally, one step most people often skip when grilling is oiling the cooking grate. Greasing the cooking grate with oil before placing your food would help keep things from sticking.

Preparing the Grill for Food
Another thing is to ensure the charcoal is well ignited and produces enough smoke you need for the ultimate grilled food. You can start by closing the grill after adding some extra charcoal and opening the air vent properly to let the charcoal ignite properly. You can also add some additional wood chips for extra smoke. Dump like one or two handfuls of wood chips on the coal before adding what you want to grill. Ensure the wood chips you use are food-grade and you can find these where grilling supplies are sold. There are different wood chips like applewood, mesquite, and hickory that add a different smoky flavor to your food. Soaking the wood chips in plain water for a few minutes, say 20 minutes before grilling, would increase the flavor and help the Grill burn slower.

3. Grilling your Food

Before you place your food, wait a minute to ensure a good sear. Place your food on the cooking grate and cover the grill when necessary. You can grill foods like hamburgers and hot dogs with the lid open. Foods like pork loin or bone-in chicken are slower cooking foods, so you ought to close the lid to increase the amount of indirect heat, which will help the food cook thoroughly. The most grill comes with a temperature gauge, so take advantage of it. And if your grill does not have a temperature gauge, you can buy and use a digital handgun thermometer. Grill pork at 160 F, beef at 170 F and chicken pieces at 165 F. Use the air vent or grill’s damper to control the amount of heat in the grill to suit what you need.

Grilling your Food

Opening the dampers will make the charcoal burn more as it gets more oxygen, which will cause an increase in the temperature in the grill. Open the dampers when you want to sear steaks or similar food. When you want to grill at a low temperature, close the dampers. Cooking on high heat is the perfect trick to getting that perfect sear on the outside but keeping the juice inside. You can know what you are grilling is ready with its texture or color. When grilling meat, the meat fiber contracts, it loses moisture and gets hard when grilled. Firm steak is medium-well done, while rare cooked meat still has a raw feel and soft like raw meat.

One technique you can also use to know well-cooked meat is to use your index finger to touch your thumb. Try not to use force as we are after the texture of your muscle. Now, feel the texture of the flesh under your thumb and then press the meat. You can do this with your thumb and other fingers to get different textures. This technique gives you a rough idea of the varying degree of doneness you should feel while grilling meat.


In conclusion, charcoal grill remains one of the best ways to add a real smoky aroma and the right texture to grilled food. Now that you know how to use a charcoal grill, check out our other articles as they would help you with purchasing the best charcoal grill. Do not forget to turn off the charcoal with water after grilling. Dispose of the ash and clean up the Grill before storage.

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