16 Charcoal BBQ Tips For Beginners [Be A Pro Within Minutes]

charcoal bbq tips for beginners

So you’re going to use a charcoal BBQ for the very first time. And you need some basic charcoal BBQ tips as a beginner. Seriously! Cooking meat chunks with a charcoal BBQ is an intimidating matter for those who’re not familiar with the basic charcoal BBQ tips. 

Whatever it is!

I’m a self declared professional chef cooking over the last couple of decades. Frankly speaking, the charcoal BBQ techniques I’ve learned doing hundreds of thousands of mistakes are going to share with you. 

These BBQ techniques have made me a pro chef. And I strongly believe that these will also turn you up from beginner to professional. So make sure you read the whole article at least once. 

Charcoal BBQ Tips For Beginners: 

1. Select The Right BBQ: 


There are two common types of BBQ in the market. One is Barrel grill and the other is Kettle grill. Needless to say that both types of grills have advantages and disadvantages. All you need to do is to choose the right one for you based on your need. 

Barrel grills are much larger than kettle grills. While the barrel grills have the capacity of holding a huge amount of meat for commercial purpose. Kettle grills, on the other hand, are pretty good for a small group of people or family members. 

Every kettle grill requires less charcoal even for higher heat compared to the barrel grill. 

Overall, kettle grills are handy and perfect for home use. And Barrel grills are perfect for events, restaurants, and mobile food-service applications. 

2. Put The BBQ In A Safe Location: 

Safety is always first. Your very first duty is to find out a safe location in order to avoid any accidents. 

When you light up your BBQ with charcoal, flames play in the surrounding areas. Once you place your BBQ at any closest area of the door of your house, chances are open flames will enter into the house through the door. 

 In my personal point of view, any corner of the backyard that is free from aggressive wind is the most perfect place to keep a BBQ. In addition, make sure that the place you’ve selected is too away for children to access. 

3. Choose The Right Charcoal For Best Result: 

Typically, there are two types of charcoal for barbecuing meat chunks. The most common one is hardwood charcoal and the rest is briquettes. 

Hardwood charcoal is made of hard wood collected from oak or other hard trees. Briquette charcoal can either be made of unusable wood chunks or coconut shells. 

Anyway, there have been many disagreements about their performance in the BBQ world. Which one is perfect; hardwood charcoal or briquette charcoal, is a debatable question? And there is no one word answer. 

Hardwood charcoal burns hotter and cleaner. They also burn faster than briquettes. They produce very little ash and light up in no time.  

But the truth is that the uneven hardwood charcoals create different temperatures during barbecuing that can cause overcooking or undercooking. Apart from that, they’re expensive and even very difficult to find in some places. 

Briquettes, on the contrary, burn longer and more consistently. Their universal shapes help you to cook meat chunks or steaks evenly for a longer period of time. Since they come with a pocket-friendly price, and are available everywhere, mass people are considered them for slow and steady cooking. 

However, their limitations are they produce less heat than hardwood charcoal. Plus, they take a long time to light up and create more ash than hardwood charcoal. 

To the point, if you’re going to cook such foodstuffs that require low but consistent heat, then briquette is the right choice for you. Similarly, if your intention is to cook a large and heavy meat chunk or anything that requires very hot heat, then hardwood charcoal is the best charcoal for you. 

4. Clean The BBQ If It Desires: 

Whatever your BBQ is brand new or the oldest one, make sure that you have cleaned it thoroughly. 

When it’s brand new, clean it (especially the grates) with soapy water and a stiff-brush.

Most of the time, BBQs’ outside look sound after using them a few times. But the reality is they’re full of ash and burnt foodstuffs. Those who cook meat without cleaning the burnt foodstuffs are inviting bacteria in the next barbecuing cycle. 

Anyway, to get rid of the harmful disease, the ideal cleaning cycle of any BBQ is at least once a week.  

5. Use A Chimney: 

Some of us want to light up charcoal without any chimney which is nothing but a bad habit. Needless to say, it takes a long time to light charcoal up without a chimney. 

When you have prepared all the foodstuffs, it’s time to light up the charcoal and start cooking. In this stage, I always use a chimney in order to complete the process with ease. 

Man! Learn how to use a chimney to light up charcoal in less time. I’ve already written down an article on how to use a charcoal chimney. This is the link. 

However, I’m going to write down the matter once again in short. 

Take one or two pieces of newspaper and put them strongly at the bottom of the chimney. Now keep the chimney on the BBQ’s grate and put enough charcoal chunks in the upper part of the chimney. 

Now, light up the newspaper and leave it for 15 minutes. 

Completing this period of time, you should see that almost all the charcoal of the bottom is now active. This is how you can light up the charcoal with ease. 

6. Indirect Fire Vs. Direct Fire:  

Want to protect your food from burning? You should have a clear idea about direct and indirect charcoal cooking. 

When you keep the meat on the top of the active charcoal and close the lid, you are probably going to overcook the meat. So be careful about it! 

Between indirect and direct charcoal cooking, indirect charcoal cooking means there is no heat underneath the food you’re going to cook. This barbecuing method is applicable to those sorts of foods that require low but consistent heat for a longer period of time for the best result you desire

Indirect charcoal cooking methods can be applied when you cook anything that will generally take longer than 20 minutes to perfectly cook. When you put the lid, heat rotates evenly to the whole inside area of the BBQ which plays a very important role to cook the meat chunks evenly.

If you like crispy outside and nice tender inside of the meat, then put the active charcoal on a side of the BBQ and place the meat chunks on the rest of the side. This simple rule of thumb will protect the meat chunks from overcooking.  

Alternatively, direct charcoal cooking method is perfect to cook those sorts of foods that require hotter and faster heat in a short period of time for outstanding cooking. 

Overall, apply any charcoal cooking methods based on your cooking intention. 

7. Allow Pre-heating:

Whenever you want to cook meat chunks or anything else, make sure that you have gone through a pre-heating session. Pre-heating makes your BBQ fully ready for cooking. 

8. Clean & Oil The BBQ Grates With A Brush:

After finishing the pre-heating session, BBQ grates should be hot enough. And this is time to clean them with a brush. Apply your cleaning brush on the BBQ grates until they look shiny.  

Now take some olive oil and submerge a fresh-brush into the oil. Apply the brush to the grates. This is how food will never stick to the BBQ grates. 

9. Scent The Meat Chunks With Rubs: 

Once you have fully prepared your BBQ to start cooking, now scent the meat chunks with rubs. Visit any online store and buy a bottle of rub you like most. Alternatively, you should make your own since it’s easy and simple.

10.  Always Have Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil: 

Needless to say, heavy duty aluminum foil has an importance on barbecuing food. But whatever you use aluminum foil or not mainly depends on the food you’re going to cook. 

My suggestion to you is to use heavy duty aluminum foil when your intention is to cook any foodstuffs for a longer period of time.  

There is a huge difference between heavy duty aluminum foil and regular aluminum foil. 

11.  Use A Meat Thermometer: 

Using a meat thermometer is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent foodborne illness. You’ll also ensure the temperature you want to reach.  

The reason why I am saying using a meat thermometer is that you want to know what temperature is right now inside of the meat chunks. 

12. Don’t Constantly Open The Lid: 

Man! Don’t constantly open the lid. When you open the lid without any purpose, it takes a few minutes to come back to the previous heating position. This is nothing but a bad habit and should be avoided. 

Use a timer to guess if the meat chunks are cooked. A timer can help you not to open the lid constantly. So be careful about this bad habit.   

13. Learn How To Put The Lid On The BBQ: 

Putting the lid on the right position is one of the most important steps of barbecuing food. 

While you can easily cook any foodstuffs by time, your food will get garbage if you fail to put the lid on the right position.   

Never put the vent part onto the active charcoal. Heat will straight out which takes a longer time to cook the meat chunks. Instead, I always keep the vent part against the active charcoal. 

This is how heat travels across the BBQ and cooks the meat chunks evenly. 

14. Learn How To Use The Vent To Control Temperature:  

It goes without saying that every kettle charcoal BBQ has vents on the top and the bottom. 

The upper vents of the BBQ help to come out the raw-meat odor and turn your meat chunks delicious. Similarly, the bottom vents of the BBQ help to bring out charcoal garbage. Apart from these, they’re very useful to flow oxygen in and out of the BBQ and keep the charcoal light up all the time. 

Generally speaking, I always keep the upper vents and the lower vents open to control high temperatures. Or, I sometimes move the lower vents so that a small amount of oxygen can go up. 

15. Never Use The Same Tongs For Raw Meat and Cooked Meat: 

Tongs are one of the most common accessories we need to have to cook meat. We cannot turn up or down any meat chunks without tongs. But make sure that you’re using two pairs of tongs at the same time. 

One pair of tongues is for pulling up the raw meat in the BBQ. Plus, another pair is for moving meat around here and there. An additional piece of advice for you is to use long-handle tongs to keep your hand at a safe distance from the heat. 

Short-handle tongs can cause your hand and clothes to get burnt. 

16. Protect Yourself With BBQ Gloves: 

Another safety barbecuing equipment is a pair of gloves. There is a high tendency of burning your hand if you use BBQ without gloves. So make sure that you have always worn a pair of gloves to protect your hands. 

Final Verdict: 

In a nutshell, charcoal BBQ is one of the most commonly useful and handy methods of cooking meat. There are two more barbecuing methods. One is gas BBQ and the rest one is electric BBQ. Among them, charcoal BBQ is still the best option for you. 

Once you become a master of these 16 charcoal BBQ tips as a beginner, you can cook meat chunks today without any doubt. 

I’m quite sure that you will be able to make your barbecuing journey with ease with these charcoal BBQ tips. 

Have a nice day with your family member! 

Wilson C. Scully

Hello everyone, This is Wilson C. Scully. I'm likewise you. However, the main difference is that I like to share my kitchen and cooking experience with you.

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