Charcoal grills were the first ones ever available on the market, and up to this day are preferred when cooking meat with a strong, smoky flavor. A charcoal grill is the ideal choice when cooking ribs or burgers and this does not come as a surprise. The charcoal grills are still going strong in the US, where most grill fans prefer them over other types of grills.
These grills feature several advantages, with one of them being their lower cost. The charcoal grills can easily reach $1,000 or more, but their price is still considerably lower compared to gas grills. There are few things you should take into account before purchasing a charcoal grill. First of all, controlling the temperature makes things tricky. Adding fuel is a manual process and there are no temperature levels, so you will have to use the classic matches and papers method to keep the grill going.
You can light up the fire with a match, place papers under to sustain the fire, and then wait for about 20 minutes until the coals turn red and the grill heats up. The cooking grate should be removed from the grill before the fire is lit, and placed back after it gets hot. Controlling the grill’s temperature depends on several factors such as the lid, the available grid space and how experienced the cooker is. Charcoal grills use a fairly simple cooking system: the meat is placed on the grid, and gets cooked by the hot charcoal underneath. Some of the newest and more expensive grills include advanced lids and vents. The vents allow the grill to stay shut and help it cool faster after you are done cooking. The best lids will maintain a constant heat while you cook, and you should check what is it made of, and its thickness.
Charcoal grills include 2 dampers: one is for controlling the heat (the intake damper), while the other releases all the extra gas and is called an exhaust. The heat can also be controlled by lowering or raising the charcoal, depending on what you cook. Different meat types require different grilling time or temperature, with some people preferring to lower and to raise the charcoal all throughout the cooking process.
When using a charcoal grill, you will need one with enough space to place the meat on, and have some extra space left if unexpected guests show up. Search for grills that have anything between 300 and 500 square inches room. These also allow you to move the coals from one side to the other to use the 2 area cooking method. This way the cooked food can be kept warm, or it can get to an edible temperature. Some charcoal grills include a door that makes things a lot easier when adding charcoal. Some grills feature useful ash-collection systems and these help with cleaning up the grill.
Before going shopping for a grill, think about where you want to place it. Many people cook outside and leave the grill there, so you may want to consider purchasing a cover to protect it against weather conditions. If you plan on using the grill for picnics, get a portable one that includes a locking lid. Another thing to pay close attention to is the grid. Having a good quality cooking space makes all the difference, and often the cheaper options are better. Look for wire grills, as these cook the meat equally on all sides.
One thing about charcoal grills is how different they are from one another. While their features are very similar, their size is not. You can find huge 1500 square inch grates, but also smaller ones which are perfect for picnics or a couple of steaks. The golden rule is the more food you plan on cooking, the larger the grill should be. Charcoal grills also come in different types, with some of them being more popular than others.
- Brazier grills are basic and the cheapest option. The vents are missing, making the temperature harder to adjust. You can raise and lower the temperature simply by moving the grate further or closer to the charcoal.
- Kettle grills date back to 1952 and include useful components like a venting system and a tight lid. They cook the meat evenly thanks to the round shape, and thus remained at the top of the game for decades. Kettle grills come in various sizes such as 18, 22, and 26 inches.
- Portable grills are small and thus easy to carry around or pack in your car. They are perfect for road trips and picnics.
- Disposable grills are for one time use only, as suggested by their name. They include everything you need for cooking, and the cleaning time is much reduced, as you just throw this one away.
- Smoker grills add a lot of flavor to the food and are best suited for slow cooking meat like barbecue ribs. These grills allow cooking at a lower temperature and adding various types of wood for a well-flavoured meat.