Common charcoal briquettes are kind of like the fast food of charcoal; they’re cheap, reliable, can be found on almost every corner, but you really don’t want to know what’s in them. Unlike natural hardwood charcoal, briquettes are manufactured wood by-products compressed with additives that help them light and burn consistently. If you’d prefer to grill your dinner without a side of chemicals, try natural hardwood charcoal! In addition to being an all-natural product, hardwood charcoal lights more quickly, burns hotter, generates little ash production, and makes it easier for you to control temperature with air vents on your grill. Why not give it a try? Here’s what you’ll need to know:
- Pour hardwood charcoal into a charcoal chimney starter about 20 minutes before you want to grill. Place a piece of natural fire starter (check out the ones we sell near the hardwood charcoal in the meat department), or wad up a few pieces of newspaper under the bottom chamber of the chimney. Light your fire starter/newspaper, wait about 20 minutes, then pour hot charcoal onto the grill. Either spread the coals evenly, or mound the hot charcoal to one side, spreading a bit of it into the center, and leaving one side free of hot coals. This will give you three distinct heat zones to cook your food. Once charcoal is in desired position, place grate over the top.
- Once the charcoal begins to ash over, brush the grate clean with a wire brush and oil the grate. To oil, use tongs to wipe a clean, wadded-up cloth dipped in oil. Place the items you wish to grill onto the grate and let it be. This is the hardest part! It’s natural to want to poke, prod, and flip, but this is a fast way to lose all the juices and flavor from your food. Depending on the items you’re grilling, check cooking times and try to flip only once, giving the food an even amount of cooking time on each side. Oil or yogurt-based marinades can be applied throughout the grilling process. Sugar-based marinades (like BBQ sauce) should only be applied in the last 5 minutes, or so, to prevent premature burning.
- When you feel like your food is cooked, give it another check with a meat thermometer to confirm proper temperature, then remove it from the grill and allow it to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. This will ensure that your meats retain their juices. Serve and enjoy!