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Charcoal Grill Advice for a Newbie?

(35 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by Pipe Novelist
  • Latest reply from warren
  1. matchstickman

    Pipe Novelist

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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).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  2. warren

    warren

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    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.

    A man without a shillelagh is a man without an expedient.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. matchstickman

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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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  4. matchstickman

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    By the way, the potato recipe sounds dynamite. The wife will thank you for it

    Posted 1 year ago #
  5. hoosierpipeguy

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  6. matchstickman

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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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. warren

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    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!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. warren

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. matchstickman

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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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. matchstickman

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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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  11. hoosierpipeguy

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    Pay attention to Warren, sounds like he knows his grilling.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. judcole

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    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.

    Thought in the early morning, solace in time of woes,
    Peace in the hush of the twilight, balm ere my eyelids close
    Rudyard Kipling
    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. tbradsim1

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    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.

    The Old Cajun
    Posted 1 year ago #
  14. carolinachurchwarden

    carolinachurchwarden

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    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.

    "If you can't send money, send tobacco." - George Washington

    Posted 1 year ago #
  15. folanator

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. ashdigger

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    Don't burn your house down, because you forgot to turn the grill off.

    Ubi Ignis Est?
    Posted 1 year ago #
  17. curl

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    I don’t use lighter fluid
    I have a couple charcoal chimneys and a small stack of newspaper to get the fire going.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. folanator

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    @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...

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    bigpond

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. crashthegrey

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    Patience. It should take too long, that's why it was so good.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. cosmicfolklore

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    I find chicken legs and wings to be... more difficult, but not impossible. You have to get the meat around the bone cooked well, without burning the rest. I prefer thighs and fillets. It just requires practice and a good eye.
    I have my steaks down to a 5-5-2-2 minute timing. 5 minutes, flip, repeat, flip, 2 minutes, and repeat, done for a perfect medium.

    Michael
    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. matchstickman

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    Seriously, y’all’s colons need some veggie love.

    Ummmm...Pretty sure that could be taken the wrong way by someone.


    I have my steaks down to a 5-5-2-2 minute timing. 5 minutes, flip, repeat, flip, 2 minutes, and repeat, done for a perfect medium.

    I do love me a good steak, but being diagnosed with gout last year, doc gave me a list of foods that I have to limit myself on, and unfortunately beef is one of those foods. The wife can still eat steak though, so she might just have to be my guinea pig on that one. Thanks for the heads up, that sounds like a pretty standard and sure fire way to cook a great steak.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  23. whiteburleydude

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    Keep the lid closed to keep down the flair ups. Use a charcoal chimney. Use a meat thermometer.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. zack24

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    We're getting very close to a discussion of religion when we start talking grilling, smoking, and barbeque. I personally worship at the altar of the Big Green Egg. This one I've had for 12 years- 160 lbs of ceramic that you can heat to 700 degrees for steak or pizza or run at 225 degrees for hours for brisket. The most important thing, regardless of what you cook on is to use lump hardwood charcoal- briquets are a poor substitute. Meat quality is also key- I use a 3rd generation Italian butcher who cuts my Porterhouse for me...and his baby back ribs run around 3lbs a rack...
    Here are a few pictures- this is a Large- I'm about to buy an Xtra Large so I can smoke 6 racks at a time...

    ...and a little slo-motion video of a 40 oz. Porterhouse
    40OZ PORTERHOUSE SEARING...




    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. jpmcwjr

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    Holy Cow! Holy steer! Your egg even sits on a proper alter! They look so tasty, those ribs....

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  26. mso489

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    Grilling is a high and gentle art. There is a deep lore, and regional and individual advice is hotly debated on every aspect. I sometimes joke that the suburban fascination with grilling arises from the morbid fear of some men to cook anything on the kitchen stove as a matter of gender identity. But outdoor cooking has, in fact, long been the prerogative of males of the household, including holiday farm barbecuing of pigs and other meats in earthen pits for many many hours. I really like that grill. I do admire the fancy gas grills that have elaborate stove tops, but somehow that isn't the same as stoking a bed of charcoal maybe with some special woods to give the smoke distinctive flavor. I don't grill these days for lack of time, but I had fun with it, off and on, in a totally amateur way, for many years.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. folanator

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    Men have been grilling meat for millions of years. Carl Jung was correct, we are born with the instinct to build fire and cook just like our forefathers.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  28. warren

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    People have been roasting meat almost since the discovery of fire. Grilling had to wait for the invention of a ... (wait for it) ... grill to support the meat. Meat on a stick or a hot rock probably came first. The first person to drop, accidently?, raw, mastodon into the fire, pull it out and see if it was still edible should be enshrined somewhere. Followed closely by the developer of the "pork pull."

    Posted 1 year ago #
  29. matchstickman

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    So just an update, here's a pic of my latest effort, which turned out great, but I have decided after today to invest in a charcoal chimney because I have a feeling this will make life a lot easier. I have also decided that I am going to be that guy that drags the grill out when there's 10 inches of snow on the ground to grill burgers and hot dogs.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    bigpond

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    Chimney is a must have, imo. They are ‘t all created equal. Would advise you spend the extra few bux.and get a Weber branded stack then be sure to keep it out of the wet.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  31. warren

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    Outside cooking in a wintry clime, Anchorage for me, can be a challenge. Grilling isn't bad, you're cooking fast and hot. Smoking and indirect cooking require closer temperature monitoring and adding more fuel, more often. So dress for the winter. I'd also suggest a remote thermometer which can be monitored from your computer or phone. Two chimneys, three?, are a must for adding glowing fuel.

    A tri-tip or brisket is an accomplishment and a treat in the middle of January when it's blowing snow and ten degrees with only a couple of hours of daylight.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  32. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    Used to make chimneys out of large tin/steel cans. But now I cook with gas. I know, sacrilege to many, but that's the way it is.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  33. warren

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    I prefer wood. That siad, I've had great meals cooked on gas and inedible crap cooked over wood. It's what gives you the flavors you want and good tasting food. Kinda like pipes and blends ... Whatever gives you the experience you are looking for.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  34. mikethompson

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    Warren, oh my goodness I need to try your method for doing potatoes. I've been doing it wrong for years!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  35. warren

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    I bet you've been cooking a perfectly good potato over the years. But, I will admit the recipe I posted above is singularly tasty.

    Posted 1 year ago #

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