How Much Charcoal To Use?
Charcoal has been used for thousands of years in kitchens around the world. The use of charcoal in a cooker is mainly to replace or enhance gas and electricity found in today’s modern cookers. Charcoal offers many advantages over other forms of cooking, including faster cooking time, better heat control and more flavor than gas, and improved smoke absorption than electricity. In this article, I will discuss how much charcoal to use when cooking.
What is charcoal?
Charcoal is a solid, black, or dark gray material that is burnt in the absence of oxygen. The most common form of charcoal is made from heating wood until all the gases and oil are removed. This process is called carbonization. While charcoal does contain substances that may be harmful to our health when it’s used indoors, most modern-day grills use briquettes which are made by adding grains such as corn starch, sawdust, ground paper, etc., It also contains limestone and other binding agents to keep it together during transport and storage. Some charcoals are even processed with propane gas to produce clean-burning coals with minimal smoke.
Different types of charcoal
There are three types of charcoal; natural, quick, and instant. Natural charcoal is made from burning wood in the absence of oxygen without adding any other agents. This type of charcoal is mainly used by artists and sold in artist supply stores as it may contain substances that could be harmful when used indoors or near food.
Quick and instant charcoals are made from coal dust, sawdust, ground-up coal, and starch which is then compressed into briquettes These coals burn faster than natural but still cook food well. They also produce more smoke than natural coals, so using these shouldn’t be done if you want to create a flavorful dish with no smoky taste.
Natural charcoal comes in two forms; lump and extruded. Lump charcoal is made of large chunks. Lump charcoal burns hotter than extruded so it will burn more quickly and produce less smoke than the latter. When lighting lump charcoals, using long-handled tongs or a barbecue lighter is recommended so your hands won’t get burnt.
Extruded charcoal on the other hand is artificially made to resemble natural charcoal with many smaller pieces that are easy to light up. Extruded coals burn quickly then extinguish just as fast without producing much smoke, making them ideal for cooking indoors where smoking can be bothersome.
Which types of charcoal should you use?
When you are looking for a type of charcoal to use when cooking, you will have to consider the following:
- Indoor or outdoor cooking – If you plan on cooking indoors and want long-lasting coals that produce little or no smoke at all, then go for quick charcoals such as instant or briquettes. On the other hand, if you are looking for a grilling experience where you can add some flavor to your dishes while getting a hint of smokiness from the burning wood, then natural charcoal is for you. Lump charcoals provide a longer grilling time while producing more smoke than extruded coal which makes them ideal for grilling outdoors.
- Heat control – Natural coals give off a lot of heat compared to other types of coals because they burn very quickly. However, you need quick coals to cook thicker cuts of meat because the heat will dissipate too fast if you use natural coal which may overcook your meat before it gets done. This is where briquettes come in handy as these are made from binders that take a longer time to burn meaning they provide better heat control than extruded coals.
- Cost – The cost of charcoal varies depending on where you buy them and how much do you intend to buy. If you will be grilling outdoors regularly then it’s best to buy a 20 kg bag since this can last for several weeks or even months. On the other hand, if cooking indoors is just a one-time thing then buying 50 g pack would suffice.
- Fuel time – You should consider the amount of charcoal you need when determining how long it will take before your charcoal is ready for use. Lump charcoals may be harder to light up than quick coals but they burn very quickly giving you the chance to start grilling fast while briquettes, which are made from binders that will slow down their burning rate, require more time to get them ready for cooking.
Natural or manufactured? – If you are opting for natural coals then it’s up to you to determine which type of charcoal is best. However, if cost isn’t an issue then go for lump wood because these burn hotter and cleaner than other types of charcoals while providing better heat control when cooking indoors or grilling thicker cuts of meat. On the other hand, artificial coals are good in terms of safety since they produce less smoke compared to natural coals but require time before getting ready for use.
Other things to consider – There are some other factors that may contribute when choosing between coal types such as availability, storage space required, heat output per unit weight, ease of ignition, etc. So look into these things before making up your mind about which type to use.
How much charcoal to use?
The amount of charcoal to use is also dependent on the type of cookware you will be using and how much food you plan on cooking. If you are grilling a lot and do not put weight on portability, then it is best to use a brazier-style grill with handles for easier handling. Then again, if your main concern is weight and portability, then you should go for a kettle or hibachi-style grills which are made from non-flammable materials such as ceramic or steel instead of iron which makes them easier to handle while cooking.
Since most people aim to reduce their charcoal usage because this will help conserve the environment in addition to saving money, here are some guidelines on how much charcoal each type of grill can hold.
Brazier-style (additional charcoal needed for cooking): 20 kg bag can produce up to 28 servings
Kettle or hibachi style: 15 kg bag can produce up to 24 servings
Ceramic or steel grill: 5 kg bag can produce up to 12 servings
Iron grill: 3 kg bag can produce up to 8 servings
Also, keep in mind that you need to add more quick coals every 30 minutes while cooking with natural coal so expect your charcoal usage to be higher when using these types of grills.
If you will be cooking a lot, then go for larger bags so you won’t have to keep on buying them every now and then. Also, remember that the amount of charcoal your grill needs may vary depending on where you are grilling, whether it is indoors or outdoors as well as the weather conditions. Wherever you are grilling, always light your charcoals gradually by using long-handled tongs to hold them over the charcoals just enough so they catch fire but not too close as to burn the coals.
What about smoking? How much charcoal should I use?
Smoking food is a great way to show off your cooking skills especially if you are planning to include this in your repertoire. However, beginners should be wary of how much charcoal they should use when smoking because just like grilling, the amount of heat that one puts on smoked food will determine its quality.
Lighting coals – Before you can smoke meat, fish, and other types of food for your family and friends (or maybe as a treat for yourself), make sure to light up charcoals until they become red-hot. You can do this by using an electric charcoal starter or simply placing the coals over their respective burners, turning them on, and letting them sit for several minutes before putting them into the smoker box where you will be placing your food.
Cooking – If you are using a charcoal smoker then it is recommended that you put around 10 hot coals on the bottom of the box and let them sit for about 10 minutes before adding more so they can slowly burn down to form red-hot embers. After this, continue adding 3 or 4 pieces every 45 minutes or so until you have enough heat inside the grill which will depend on how much food you plan to cook.
Basting – There are some who recommend basting meats with certain ingredients such as apple juice, soy sauce, or any fruit juices during cooking but just like grilling, do not baste too often because the constant opening of the lid may cause heat and smoke loss which may affect your food’s flavor.
What is a charcoal formation?
A charcoal formation refers to the shape of a pile of lit charcoals which you will need to use if you plan on grilling or smoking food. It is shaped like a pyramid with the largest pieces at the bottom and smaller ones on top so air can easily circulate inside your grill or smoker box.
The different charcoal formations are:
Ball – This is the classic shape of lit charcoals which you will need to use when grilling. It is made up of one large piece at the bottom with smaller pieces on top so air can easily circulate inside your grill.
Upside down ball – This is similar to the ball formation except that it is placed upside down so the largest piece is underneath and the smallest ones are on top where they spark even more once in contact with hot embers. Like in making toast, you should place this upside-down pyramid-shaped charcoal formation over direct heat.
Cube or Bin – The most stable of all three pyramids because its sides do not collapse, unlike other coal formations which makes placing food difficult. This formation is the best for smoking larger cuts of meat and fish because it can hold a large amount of coals underneath so air circulation inside the box will also be high and steady.
Stovetop or Hanger – This shape lets you control heat well making it great to use when indirect grilling which means that you do not want your food directly over hot embers but rather away from direct heat. On top is a small opening where you can easily pour in more coal if needed such as during cooking, basting, or checking on the doneness of your food without having to lift up the lid.
How to start a charcoal fire?
There are several ways you can use to light up charcoals and this depends on the type of coals you will be using and what you plan on cooking for dinner. Here is how:
- Using an electric starter – If using quick or instant coal, then this would be the best option as these only take a few seconds to ignite giving you enough time to prepare your grill before placing food on it. You should position your charcoal at least 2 inches apart from each other because this allows more oxygen movement which speeds up lighting them up. For starters, place it in a pool of petroleum jelly and wait for about five minutes until they turn black followed by igniting. Do this gradually by holding the starter’s handle 2-3 inches from the charcoals for about 5-10 seconds and letting it go after which you should immediately place them on your grill.
- Using a chimney starter – If using lump wood or natural coals then a chimney starter is best because these take longer to light up compared to quick/instant charcoal types hence giving you enough time to prepare your grill before actually cooking anything. It also speeds up lighting up charcoals but make sure not to add any petroleum jelly or other flammable materials while setting up the coals because these only serve as fire accelerants. Once ready, simply stack all your charcoals in one pile and wait until they are covered with gray ash before placing them on your grill.
- Using a simple lighter/match – If you are using natural or lump wood charcoals then getting a simple match or lighter is best because these take the longest time to light up, usually around 15-30 minutes and this gives you enough time to prepare your grill and other stuff needed for cooking while waiting for the charcoal to turn ready. First of all, place your charcoals in one pile and wait until they turn white before quickly preparing your cooker while covering the bottom part with aluminum foil instead of petroleum jelly (which can be used but make sure not to add too much). Once it’s done, use a long-handled tong to hold the match about 2 inches away from the charcoal’s pile before lighting them so you won’t get burned.
- Using a blow torch – If using lump or natural wood charcoals then this is another good option but do not use this on instant or quick coals because these can explode while lighting them up. Wait until they turn white and quickly prepare your grill for cooking by covering the bottom part with aluminum foil before lighting them up which should only take 2-3 minutes to be ready. Once it is done, simply place them on your grill while gently fanning them with a piece of cardboard if necessary (make sure to wear protective gloves) after which you are good to go!
- Lump/natural coal starter – This is an easier method but not advisable for instant or quick charcoals because these can produce a large flame which can burn your equipment. If you are using lump/natural wood coals then this is best. All you have to do is stack all of them on top of each other and wait until they turn white, now place them in a fireplace grate in order to heat up quickly before placing them in your grill for cooking. Make sure to wear protective gloves while doing the procedure in order to prevent getting burned during lighting up.
However, if after lighting it up still does not seem ready for cooking yet then simply add some more charcoals at least 2 inches apart from each other which should shorten the time needed for it to actually be ready. Keep in mind that using the starter fluid or petroleum jelly is not advisable because these can cause harmful fumes which can be absorbed by your food while cooking. It is best to use natural materials such as newspaper and sticks of wood instead which will help shorten the time needed for lighting up charcoals.
How to keep charcoal burning
- A chimney starter is best for this because it has a built-in ash catcher which would make your charcoal last longer. Just simply add up all the necessary charcoals you will need for cooking and light them up with newspaper or any other material that contains petroleum jelly or fire accelerants, once they are ready, pour them on your grill and close the lid to prevent cold air from coming inside. This should keep your coals burning for a long period of time unless you place too much charcoal in which cause the heat to decrease.
- Another good option is by using a simple aluminum foil which can be crumpled into a ball about 2 inches wide before placing under your grate where you would usually put coals on. If you do not have a grate then simply place them below your charcoals and light it up as usual. Make sure to check it from time to time so as to avoid burning the foil which contains petroleum jelly or any other accelerant materials, only use those that are best for fire starters, or else they can cause a large flame that might burn your equipment.
- Just adding charcoals is another way of preventing them from going off but this would usually work if you’re just grilling smaller portions of food such as hamburgers and steaks because these do not require long cooking periods. However, if you plan on grilling for an extended period then adding more coals will definitely be needed in order for them to last longer.
- By using a charcoal chimney is best for those who do not wish to purchase a grate as well as a foil because these can be used for both of them and would only require newspaper or other accelerant materials such as paper towels and starter fluid. It works by simply adding up all the necessary charcoals you need and stuffing them on one end of the chimney before lighting up the other end which should last about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how much charcoals you use. Once they turn white, pour them out on your grill and wait until they are ready before starting to cook.
- Just place unlighted charcoals towards the sides of your cooking grate then light up some kindling at the middle in order for the heat to slowly spread throughout the area then light up your charcoals afterward. You can also add a few pieces of kindling every hour or so in order for them to last longer which would usually take up about 3 hours.
What are the benefits of cooking using charcoals?
- Charcoal provides heat that can be spread all over your cooking grate for better distribution of heat which enables food to cook faster and more evenly.
- The smoky flavor they produce when heating up is also another benefit because most foods like steak, pork ribs, chicken wings, and brisket are best if cooked using charcoal grills. This gives them a savory taste that would make you never want to eat any other way again!
- Charcoals are very cost-effective compared to other types of fuels because it usually costs less than $20 per bag which can last about 2 hours or so depending on how much you use them in your grill with prices varying in different stores. They do contain unnecessary chemicals in order to produce a larger flame which might not be healthy for your food but they are usually burned off when used for grilling.
- Charcoals can actually keep you safe from getting sick especially if meat is undercooked! They kill bacteria present in raw meat which enables you to enjoy eating all types of foods no matter how rare it is.
- A healthier way of cooking your food because charcoals don’t leave a lot of grease residue on your meats due to their high heat content causing them to cook quickly and evenly! It also doesn’t emit toxic gases that can cause cancer which makes it a little bit safer compared to other fuels such as gas and electricity.
Do you use different types of charcoal for different types of food?
Yes, whether you’re grilling or barbecuing you have to know the best type of charcoal for the meat being cooked! This would help the charcoal produce the most flavors and aroma to give your food a better taste. A few of them are:
- For steaks and burgers, lump charcoals or natural hardwood briquettes are best because they emit little ash which is very healthy for your food when cooking! It also provides a sweet, mildly smoky flavor that’s just perfect for meat that’s easy to cook on!
- For pork ribs and chicken wings, fruit woods such as apple and cherry is best so they can create a strong smoke flavor giving them nice crispiness when grilled. Also gives it a sweet delicious taste!
- For fish, seafood, and vegetables you should use fast lighting charcoals they can be ready within a few minutes. This is the best type of charcoal to use if you’re grilling a lot of food that requires little cooking time!
- For your turkeys, hams, and large roasts it’s best to use slow-burning charcoals such as natural hardwood briquettes because these provide longer burning times which means more heat is provided for foods requiring longer cook times.
What are some safety precautions when using charcoals?
- Always make sure there’s water nearby before lighting up your charcoals in order for them not to burn too fast or out of control. You should also have a pair of tongs or gloves on standby in order to transfer them safely from one area to another.
- Don’t forget to wear long sleeves and pants with shoes before lighting up charcoals because it’s quite easy for you to get burned especially if you’re adding fuel into the grill afterward!
- Always keep an eye out when grilling with charcoals because they can easily burn down your house! Keep food away from walls, curtains, decking near the barbecue so accidents like this won’t happen.
- Make sure all children are inside playing or doing anything else before using fire, especially around the kitchen area so they don’t accidentally knock over your bottle of lighter fluid/charcoal starter fluid! Also never leave anyone unattended near the barbecue when grilling especially when they’re cooking!
Does charcoal affect the flavors of food?
Charcoals don’t have a huge effect on the flavors of food unless you’ve used flavored type charcoals such as Mesquite which can affect your meats in a good way! Foods cooked by natural hardwood briquettes add a sweet, mildly smoky flavor that isn’t easily detected when mixed with other ingredients.
What types of food can you prepare using charcoals?
All types of foods especially meats! Charcoals are the best type of fuel to use when you’re grilling or barbecuing because it gives off a sweet, mildly smoky flavor that’s delicious with most kinds of meat. It can also be used for cooking vegetables and seafood like fish too!
How long does it take for charcoals to cook food?
It depends on how much charcoal is being used since it has different heat content depending on the type of fuel used which will affect how fast your food is cooked. Normally if you put 5-6 pieces of natural hardwood briquettes like Kingsford Charcoal underneath your grill or directly into your cooker, it should be ready for cooking in as little as 10 minutes!
Can you reuse charcoal?
You can but it will be very difficult since once they’ve been used, most of the heat has escaped. You should also not use charcoal that’s burned all the way through because it produces toxic fumes which you may inhale!
How do you dispose of used charcoals?
It’s best to completely let your charcoals burn out and become gray ash before disposing since all their heat is already gone. Just wrap up the charcoal into a newspaper and throw it inside a metal garbage bin or any other flammable items. Make sure there are no small children or animals around because this could cause a fire accident if not disposed properly!
How many times can you grill with a bag of charcoal?
About 5-6 times before you have to use another bag of charcoal depending on how much you use. It also depends on the type of fuel used since natural hardwood briquettes can last longer than instant light charcoals because they provide more heat content too.
What’s the best way to tell when charcoals are ready to grill?
It depends on what type of fuel you’re using such as natural hardwood briquettes which will turn gray and be ready for grilling in around 10 minutes! Instant light charcoals will be white and burned after 15-20 minutes. Also, it’s best to wait for your barbecue or cooker to reach 350°-400° before placing food inside so they don’t burn and won’t taste like charcoal afterward.
Can you leave a charcoal grill unattended?
No, you can’t because it can cause a fire accident if something knocks over your bottle of lighter fluid! Always put the fuel container away from the grill area and keep children and animals around just to be safe!
Where do you store your charcoals at home?
It’s best to place them into a metal garbage bin near your outdoor barbecue area if possible since it keeps them away from small children, animals and will stop them from rolling around too which could cause a fire if not properly kept away from potential hazards. Always remember to use newspaper, kindling, or natural hardwood briquettes to get the fire started! Also, you can place it inside a metal container if possible so nothing knocks over and starts a fire accident which could seriously hurt someone!
Do you close the lid after lighting charcoal?
Most people don’t but it’s best to close the lid because closing your barbecue or cooker will make it cook slower and better. If you want a really quick meal, leave the lid open and turn up the heat! Just make sure you don’t burn anything if you plan on leaving it unattended for hours!
Can you add anything besides fuel when lighting your barbecue?
Yes, you can add kindling like newspaper or dry leaves to get it started but make sure not to put too much otherwise it’ll take forever for it to start burning! Always place enough kindling underneath the charcoal before lighting up since this helps create an easy flame that’s easier to control and doesn’t produce toxic fumes either.
Do electric barbecues need any charcoal?
No, they don’t since most of them are designed to cook food with electricity but if it does have an option for charcoal, you’ll have to use natural hardwood briquettes or instant light charcoals just like regular ones! You can also place your meat inside a metal oven-style cooking bag so it’s easier to clean afterward. Remember though that electric barbecues are usually smaller than traditional ones so be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly!
Should you Stir charcoal?
Yes and no because it depends on if you want an easier fire or a quick one! To get an easier fire where your charcoal is lit without having to use so much kindling, always leave the lid closed and let the heat build-up inside first. Stirring it will help create more oxygen which makes for a better flame as well as cooking anything faster too!
If you want something that’s ready quicker however then simply open the lid, place your kindling underneath and light it up after waiting for about 10-15 minutes! If you’re using instant light charcoals then they’ll be completely white in around 15-20 minutes and ready to cook with afterward. Remember not to put too much kindling under them though or you’ll end up with a huge flame that could end up burning whatever you’re cooking!
What does prepping charcoal mean?
It means to light the kindling first before waiting for the charcoal to catch fire and fully burn afterward. If you’re using instant light charcoals then this step isn’t necessary since they’ll take about 20-25 minutes to be completely white and ready after lighting them on your barbecue! If you’re using natural hardwood briquettes or regular ones though, it’s best to place some kindling underneath so they’ll start burning quickly as well as cook anything faster too. This helps create an easier fire that’s more efficient and doesn’t need as much attention either. It also prevents toxic fumes from being released since it’s burning more efficiently too!
Why do my coals go out?
If your coals go out, it’s either because you didn’t light them enough where the heat wasn’t concentrated as well as it should be or that they’re running out of oxygen. Either way, the best way to fix this is to burn more kindling underneath and wait for them to gain back their strength! If you’re using instant light charcoals then be sure not to leave anything flammable like paper near them and never smoke when lighting your barbecue if possible since smoke can make things difficult for it too! Make sure not to use any toxic liquids like gasoline or kerosene either since this’ll create a really dangerous flame that could end up hurting anyone nearby!
How do you regulate the temperature on a charcoal grill?
It depends on the kind of barbecue you have because some are easier to control than others. There are ones with small heat controls located in its lid so it’s easy to adjust when needed while others only have a single wire inside which could become really hot or not lit enough! You can also regulate the heat by placing more or less charcoal onto the grill which will make it either hotter or colder too. Make sure not to leave anything flammable like paper underneath though since this might smother your fire and make it go out completely!
Why do my coals need water?
Water can help lower and control the temperature since putting some on them helps put out any flame. It’ll usually take about 10-15 minutes for your coals to be fully lit afterward but wait for all of them to catch fire first so you don’t waste any by putting it on before they’re ready. You can also put some ice cubes onto the barbecue which will cool it down quickly too!
Does lighter fluid help coals light?
It depends on the kind of barbecue you have since some people do use it to help their coals catch fire faster. However, if your charcoal is self-lighting then you should never add anything else onto it since this will just create a really dangerous flame that could end up hurting anyone nearby! If you’re using instant light charcoals then it’s best not to use any chemicals or liquids at all since this’ll affect its ability to cook food efficiently and make cooking harder too.
It depends on how much food you’re cooking and what kind of barbecue you have too. If it’s a smaller grill or portable one then around 2 pounds is enough but if it’s larger than 3 to 4 pounds won’t be enough! It also depends on your usage so if you plan to constantly cook with the barbecue every day, don’t use less than 10 pounds at all since this’ll run out really quickly. Just remember not to use more than 15 pounds either since putting too much could end up creating a huge flame that might damage whatever you’re cooking!