We’ve all experienced the difference between food cooked on burning gas versus charcoal. Food cooked on charcoal comes with an amazingly savoury aroma. Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, a renowned grilling expert wrote on his website, Amazingribs.com, “Charcoal makes more smoke than gas, with a broader range of tasty flavour molecules, because it’s burning complex organic molecules.” That’s why food cooked on charcoal has an added flavour to it and tastes unique and better. 

Be it smoked chicken or grilled veggies, using a barbeque to cook exceptional food starts with the right fuel. For more traditional cooking experience, charcoal and wood are often the fuels of choice, elevating flavour and taking the recipe a notch higher in taste.

Charcoal grill testing conducted at many places repeatedly confirms that the result of food cooked on the grill is profoundly dependent on the skills of the cook, who needs to monitor cooking temperatures, adjust dampers, and manage coals to achieve successful results.

For a newbie, it can be overwhelming to visit a Barbeque store Toronto the first time with so many options ranging from chips and lumps of cherry, apple, coconut wood and many more. Surely, the first question is whether to go for lump or briquettes? 

Lump or briquettes?

Lump charcoal is also known as “natural” hardwood charcoal. It is the purest form of charcoal and comes in various shapes and sizes. 

Features of charcoal lump 

  • It is 100% natural and contains no additives
  • Renewable hardwoods are used to make lump charcoal
  • Lights and burns clean and easy, producing little ash
  • Gets to higher temperatures very quickly

Briquettes are small chunks/blocks of charcoal made with coal dust, biomass and various other combustible materials. 

Features of briquettes

  • Super useful for heating, cooking, and also adding flavour to foods
  • Burns evenly and for a longer duration as compared to natural charcoal
  • Similar size blocks are available
  • Takes more time to reach a high temperature

If you are new to grilling, you should start with charcoal briquettes since they heat more evenly and require less monitoring. If you are an expert griller you can give lump hardwood charcoal a try. It burns slightly hotter, which makes it a good choice for searing.

There are four major steps to flavour-packed charcoal cooking 

. Arranging the Charcoal 

Depending upon your need and expertise you can choose the type and flavour of your charcoal. Your grill usually has a sign for the maximum fill level for the charcoal. You also need to ignite the grill and let all of the coals start to burn before you start cooking. It’s usually around 20 minutes of pre-heating time. 

. Direct or Indirect Charcoal Grilling 

If you’re grilling burgers or steaks, you’re going to want a more direct flame and heat whereas for  more delicate or slow cooking foods you’ll need indirect heat.  The indirect method entails having the charcoal stacked on either side of the food to simulate confection cooking with the lid closed. Adjust the dampers as per your heat requirement. Opening the dampers makes the coals burn hotter, and closing them reduces it. You can also choose to close the lid, for foods that require slow cooking. 

. Grilling and smoking 

It is vital to control both the temperature of the grill and the temperature of the food.  This is an important step to ensure that meals are cooked to perfection. You can also choose to add smoke to your food to make it more savoury and delicious. 

. Getting rid of the coals 

Once the cooking is done, shut the lid and both dampers to extinguish the coal. Remove the unburned coal and store it for future use. Transfer the ashes to a container filled with water and let them rest for a night before throwing them away.

Grilling is all about experience and practice so don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavoured wood each time you grill before choosing your favourite. 

Happy Grilling! 


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