How to Choose the Right Charcoal and Tips for Lighting It
Ideas and Advice

How to Choose the Right Charcoal and Tips for Lighting It

Finding the best charcoal for grilling your favorite foods can be a challenge. You love charcoal grilling because of the smoky, charred flavor of burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and more. Enhance the flavor of your food by choosing the right charcoal. Certain charcoals create certain flavors, and each different type may have its own tricks for lighting and burning. Follow these tips for choosing the right charcoal and understanding the correct way to light a charcoal grill.

Lump Charcoal

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is great for producing high heat in your grill. It has no fillers or additives, reducing the chances of getting strange, unnatural flavors in your food. It is made of wood that has been burned into a dense lump of carbon, so the type of wood that it used to be will impact the flavor it imparts on your grilled food. For example, apple wood charcoal adds a distinct fruity flavor. Lump charcoal is often considered the best charcoal for grilling because it is made from pure wood and doesn't infuse unhealthy additives into your food.

A chimney is an excellent way to light charcoal without using lighter fluid. First, crumple up pieces of newspaper and put them under the chimney. Then, pour the charcoal into the chimney. Use a match to get the paper burning, which will in turn get the charcoal burning. When the lumps have become covered in a light-colored ash, they are ready to be transferred into the grill.

To grill effectively with lump charcoal, make sure you have a space on your grill that is getting direct heat for searing and a cooler space for longer cooking. High heat is good for steaks that are not cooked all the way through, and lower heats are better for chicken and pork that need to be cooked all the way through. Finish up your meats on the searing zone to give it that great charcoal flavor! Have a second batch of lump charcoal ready because lump charcoal burns quickly.

Briquette Charcoal

Briquette Charcoal

This is a less expensive type of charcoal that contains fillers, such as sawdust, coal dust, and cornstarch. The fillers make it easier to light a barbecue, even without a chimney or lighter fluid, but they can also leave an unpleasant aftertaste. To light a charcoal grill can be especially easy using briquette charcoal that has been specially prepared to light quickly with a match. This is sometimes labeled as instant briquette charcoal. If you don't have instant charcoal or a chimney, consider lighting paper that has been twisted up and drizzled with vegetable oil, and using that flame to get two or three briquettes burning. You can also use dry pinecones as fire starters.

The wood that was used to make the briquettes influences the flavor, which means you can buy mesquite charcoal or hickory charcoal. This is a popular choice for grilling because it is designed to maintain a consistent temperature once it is burning, and the pressed charcoal in each briquette burns for a long period of time. You may find it leaves quite a bit of ash to clean up when you're done grilling.

Binchotan

Binchotan

Ever heard of binchotan? If you haven't, it's probably because it isn't as widely-used as other types. This costly type of charcoal is very dense and burns very hot. It also lights easily. The advantage is that you can achieve even burning at consistent temperatures for longer times. Plus, it offers up a clean flavor that goes well with certain recipes, such as chicken yakitori. The disadvantage is that it is not easy to find, and it tends to be more expensive.

Coconut Shell Charcoal

Coconut Shell Charcoal

Coconut shell charcoal is a cleaner burning charcoal. It is dense, gets very hot, and burns for a long time. Plus, it is reusable. You can burn it in your grill for hamburgers one day, and the next day, you can light it again to grill potatoes and pork chops. It does cost more per bag than your average briquette charcoal made out of wood, but since it lasts through two or three grillings, it can still be cost effective. Some grillers suggest using a torch to light coconut shell charcoal because it doesn't light as quickly as other charcoals.

Looking for the perfect charcoal grill to go with your favorite charcoal? Check out the many varieties available at Appliances Connection.

Related Questions

How long should charcoal burn before grilling?

Let the charcoal lumps or briquettes burn until they are covered in gray ash. This may take 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the type. At this point, they are ready for food to be added to the grill.

Should I put the lid on my charcoal grill?

Opening up the lid on your charcoal grill will make it burn hotter. Putting the lid down is good for when you are cooking foods that need to grill for some time. Leave it open when you are searing meats.