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How to use a charcoal BBQ

Updated April 17, 2017

A charcoal barbecue is a simple, affordable and convenient way to grill your favourite foods. You can find charcoal grills in all shapes and sizes, from a personal-sized, tabletop hibachi to the oil drums large enough to accommodate several pounds of food. You can find charcoal grills in the outdoor department at many large chain department stores and in speciality shops. While charcoal grilling is fairly simple, there is a specific way to start the coals to get the most out of your grill.

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  1. Start with a clean drum and grill. Remove any ash or debris left from the previous use. Wash the grill with a stiff brush and soap. Set the grill aside.

  2. Open the vents in the bottom of the drum and the lid. Set the lid aside and cover the bottom of the drum with a layer of briquettes.

  3. Stack the briquettes into a pyramid in the centre of the drum. Saturate the pyramid with lighter fluid or charcoal starter. Use enough to soak the briquettes but not so much that it forms a puddle.

  4. Use a long match to light one side of the base of the pyramid, then the other. If necessary, light the top of the pyramid as well.

  5. Let the pyramid burn until the flames naturally burn out. The briquettes should glow red with a thin ash cover.

  6. Use the barbecue spatula to spread the briquettes evenly along the bottom of the drum. Let the coals smoulder until they turn white with ash but are still hot.

  7. Put the grill inside the drum with the barbecue fork. Put the items you wish to cook on the grill. Wrap foods that flake easily, such as fish, in foil that has been sprayed inside with a non-stick cooking spray or brushed with oil. You can also use a grill basket or mesh grill pan. For items that take a long time, such as potatoes, put the lid on the grill.

  8. Turn the items with the tongs or the spatula, at regular intervals, to cook all sides. Remove the food when it's done, put the lid on the barbecue and close the vents to let the charcoal burn out.

  9. Tip

    Add mesquite or other wood chips designed for grilling to add a smoky flavour to your food. Soak the chips in water for several hours before adding them to the hot coals.

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Things You'll Need

  • Charcoal barbecue
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Lighter fluid or charcoal starter
  • Long matches or grill lighter
  • Barbecue spatula
  • Barbecue tongs
  • Food
  • Foil (optional)
  • Grill basket (optional)
  • Mesh pan (optional)
  • Barbecue fork

About the Author

Andy Jackson has been writing professionally since 2010. He is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jackson is also a lifestyle and weight management consultant whose work has appeared in various online publications. He holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and health, and a Master of Science in sports studies from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

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