Charcoal Grill Advice for a Newbie?

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matchstickman

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Jul 15, 2011
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So I never had the opportunity to use a grill when we were in the apartment, and I was gifted a VERY nice charcoal grill as a housewarming gift from my father in law, and I finally sacked up and cooked on tonight. I have never cooked on a charcoal grill before, but I made some chicken legs and pork tenderloin. Both turned out really good, I think my only problem was not using enough coals and not building a hot enough fire as everything took a little while to get done all the way. I'll know that for next time, but is there any other sagely advice that the charcoal grill vets can give a newbie? The chicken legs were absolutely delicious, and the tenderloin came out great too but it was just a hair dry (so sue me, I'm not that picky).

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,445
232
Covered grill? Hibachi? Can you setup indirect heat? Many questions so, a pictures or nomenclature would be useful for people chiming in. I mostly go low heat and smoke cooking so, I won't be much help. I can provide what I consider to be the finest recipe for baked potato.
Fry up few strips of bacon, roll potato in bacon grease, pierce a couple of times with a fork, roll potato in sea salt (large pieces), do not wrap in foil then you are simply steaming the potato. Indirect cooking is best, over coals means close monitoring. Cook until the potato is soft when gently squeezed. The skin will be crispy, the salt, when crunched, will fill the mouth with flavor and the creamy soft inside will nearly melt in the mouth. Top with all your favorites, butter, shallots, the fresh bacon bits from earlier, sour cream, etc.
I run the temp up while the meat is sitting and redistributing the juices. At 300 the tater should take 30-40 minutes. A potato nail will shorten the time. The key is the potato feels soft inside when done.
For your tenderloin: Make sure your meat has plenty of fat which will melt into the meat and keep it moist. Injecting will help as will marinating over night. You don't have to eat the fat but, it does moisten meat. I do full pork shoulders for sandwiches. I insist the butcher leave the entire fat cap on. Make sure your meat sits for, I like a half an hour, so the juices flow back into roast. Meat continues to cook when removed from the heat so try not to over cook.

 

matchstickman

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Jul 15, 2011
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Warren it's a smaller oil drum type setup, not made of an oil drum but that same shape. The surface area is large enough that I can set up indirect heat and that's what I did this time around to prevent everything from burning because I had never done this before but I had a basic idea as to what I was doing. The tenderloin was still good, I don't cook pork to the 145-ish that everyone says to because I personally don't like the texture of pork cooked to that temperature. I usually shoot for 160 ish but took a little over this time. It was still super tasty and filling.

 

hoosierpipeguy

Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2018
2,046
187
Error on the side of using more briquettes than you really need and give them plenty of time to hit prime heat. If you use enough, they should last more than long enough to complete the cooking. Use the air flue to adjust air flow although that generally isn't a big deal. I like keeping it fairly closed to allow more smoke to hit the meat.
It really isn't rocket science, do it a few times and you'll get it. Charcoal makes hamburgers taste like steak. Just keep an eye on hamburgers because the fat can cause the coals to fire up and burn the meat. Good luck and enjoy.

 

matchstickman

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Jul 15, 2011
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Use the air flue to adjust air flow although that generally isn't a big deal
Yup I remembered that from when dad would grill when we were little. Kept it open halfway to keep the heat around medium. Once again, it did OK, food just took a little while. The wife raved about the chicken legs.

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,445
232
Chicken pieces hard to master as breasts usually take longer to cook. It's darned easy to turn chicken into a blackened mess. It must be tended closely and turned often. I usually cook thighs only and keep one side of the hot and the other cooler so I can move the chicken frequently to get a decent browning while cooking thoroughly.
If 160 internal is what you want be sure and take the tenderloin off the heat at 10 degrees less or even 15. While sitting, redistributing the juices, it'll get that additional 10 degrees. And, don't forget, pork isn't marbled like beef and really does need some fat sitting on the top, melting into the meat. Or, split it, stuff with a pork dressing which has butter in it, tie it up and cook as usual. If you do doneness via thermometer sticking it into the dressing should till provide a reliable reading. It still needs to sit, should have some fat cap and I can almost guarantee moist meat if you don't muck it up.
Grilling, smoking, etc. all have a learning curve. Just go for it and enjoy your mistakes as you learn. Good luck!
You'll soon learn what woods or briquets go with what foods. Alder is great for fish. Oak, mesquite, apple, hickory and more are all out there in chunks or briquets. I shy away from "Kingsford" because I do not like the taste of the binder used.
Careful, it's as addictive as tobacco!

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,445
232
Fat on the fire = flareup which in turn equals additional flavor imparted into the meat. Just don't let the flame do the cooking, a good spray bottle filled with water or, apple juice when grilling pork, is helpful in beating back the fire. Stay away from saucing when grilling or do it sparingly. Many sauces are sugar based. Sauce after removing from the grill, not so important when smoking, or you'll just have a burnt sugar glaze on nice piece of meat.
I could give a lot of tips. Instead I'll suggest Steve Raichlen's The Barbecue Bible. He does some things I don't like but, barbeques is a personal thing, lots of experimenting. Raichlen's book is a great introduction to the science, witchcraft and art of outdoor cooking.

 

matchstickman

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Jul 15, 2011
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Just go for it and enjoy your mistakes as you learn
That's what I intend to do, and given that this was my first time doing this I don't think I did too badly. Being a line cook, I know my way around a kitchen, we just don't have a charcoal grill, we have a flat top that has 4 electric burners underneath so I can adjust the heat by the different zones on the flat top depending on what we need them for. I've got a pretty adept hand at using a deep fryer too but I usually don't cook with one at home.

 

matchstickman

Preferred Member
Jul 15, 2011
2,363
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barbeques is a personal thing, lots of experimenting
That's precisely how I figured out I don't like pork cooked the way everyone says to cook it. I know that it's still perfectly safe to eat and it is very juicy but there is just something about the texture that I'm not a fan of. I like my steaks cooked a perfect medium all day long though. I think that might be my next project.

 

judcole

Preferred Member
Sep 14, 2011
4,685
53
Detroit
I don't grill a lot, but I am a big fan of using a chimney to start the fire instead of lighter fluid. My daughter gave me some paraffin starter cubes,and I really like those better than using paper to start the fire.

 

tbradsim1

Preferred Member
Jan 14, 2012
7,481
106
A friend of mine and a co worker used to BarBQUE for us at work, Sundays, no day people just us shift workers. He cooked for Churches, he put a metal pan of water on the grill and said that prevented the meat from drying out. He cooked some good meals for us.

 

carolinachurchwarden

Preferred Member
May 9, 2018
1,682
2
Raleigh, NC
Like Warren said, fat can be your enemy, but also your friend. You need it to make those steaks, pork loins, and hamburgers to be nice and juicy and tasty. One thing I had to learn the hard way...never, under any circumstances, press your meat into the grill with the spatula. You're squeezing all the juices out that make the meat tender and tasty and keep it from drying out. Like Warren, I too generally just cook thighs for chicken. I don't think I've cooked the first breast yet to be honest.

 

folanator

Preferred Member
Nov 24, 2015
708
61
Time is your friend when cooking large pieces of meat. When in doubt, keep it on the heat. Also give all meat a good 5 min rest before you do anything with it.
I cook on a large 26" Webber with a large Slow and Sear. You can do anything with that set up grilling to a 12 hour slow cook.



 

curl

Preferred Member
Apr 29, 2014
598
15
I don’t use lighter fluid

I have a couple charcoal chimneys and a small stack of newspaper to get the fire going.

 

folanator

Preferred Member
Nov 24, 2015
708
61
@Pipe Novelist you can set up an inexpensive sous-vide with a cooler at home (around $100?). You want medium edge to edge? Try and do a reverse sear sometime (bring the internal temp to 125 and then set on 700+ degree heat to sear). Ends up looking like this...



 

bigpond

Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2014
2,023
0
This thread needs moar vegan. Seriously, y’all’s colons need some veggie love.
OP: Years ago my then gf and I uprooted from the big city and landed in a tiny town in Nebraska. It took weeks to get an oven properly installed for a number of reasons, so we grabbed a Weber at mennards and decided to learn how to use it for all our cooking. The best resource I found as a dude completely new to charcoal grilling at the time, was Steve Raichlen’s “How to grill”. A great comprehensive, easy to follow book. Has a number of good recipes too, I remember getting on well with his chimicurri.
The first time we had folks visit I was in the yard smoking cheese in the grill and roasting green coffeee beans in an air popper. They all thought I was the coolest (craziest) cat in town!
Seriously though, give tofu a try.