Here’s How To Grill With Charcoal

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If you’re the kind of person who loves the taste of a char-grilled steak but are intimidated by anything that involves more than flicking a switch, don’t despair: There are experts who can tell you exactly how to grill with charcoal at home.

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports put together a handy video packed with tips and tricks that will guide even the greenest griller across the hot coals of cooking without gas.

Before You Start

You’re going to need supplies — and we’re not just talking your Uncle George’s barbecue sauce recipe.

• Grill: This probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway — you will need a charcoal grill. Consumer Reports used an 18-inch Weber kettle grill.

• Briquettes: If you’re new to grilling, stick with briquettes — which heated more evenly than irregularly shaped lump charcoal in past CR tests. You’ll need enough to fill one charcoal chimney. On that note…

• Chimney: This is where you’ll get your coals ready before dumping them into your grill.

• Natural fire starter or newspaper: You only need one of these. Some crumpled newspaper will do the trick.

• A long lighter: Safety first – getting burned is not part of the ideal grilling experience, after all.

Light your fire

1. Place the fire starter or newspaper on the ground underneath the chimney.

2. Fill the chimney with briquettes. Stick your lighter through one of the chimney’s holes, light it, and let the flame ignite the coals.

3. Allow the coals to heat up and ash over — this should take about 20 minutes.

4. Dump your coals into the grill.

At this point, you have a choice between two cooking methods.

Direct Heating vs. 2-Zone Method

Direct heating: Best for burgers, hot dogs, and most vegetables. Spread the coals evenly, and keep the lid off while you cook.

RELATED: 5 Tips From A Pro For Cooking Up An Awesome Hamburger

2-Zone method: Ideal for chicken breasts and thick pork chops. Move coals to one side to create two zones. Zone 1 with coals is for cooking at high heat and searing; Zone 2 without coals is for indirect cooking.

The idea here is to get a nice sear on your meat and then move it to the indirect zone to let it cook through without burning. You can use the lid for indirect cooking, and turn up the heat by opening the dampers or adding more coals.

Tip: If you want to use wood chips to get a smoky flavor on your food, make sure to soak them for 20 minutes in water before adding them to your coals before cooking. Dry wood chips can burn and cause flare-ups, which no one wants while cooking with fire.

Cool It Down

Let the coals cool down with the lid on, and both dampers closed. When they’re no longer hot, dump the ashes in a metal can and pour water over them. Let them to sit overnight before throwing them away.

For more tips on grilling with charcoal, check out Consumer Reports.

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