How To Buy A Charcoal Grill From

Hey everybody, Max Good here.
I’m Keeper of the Flame and Director of Equipment Reviews at
So you’re thinking of buying a charcoal grill? I’m not gonna argue with you. Gas
grills are somewhat more popular but generally speaking charcoal grills are
less expensive with fewer moving parts to break down and have a wider
temperature range than most gassers. Charcoal enables you to cook low and
slow smoked meats, sizzling seared steaks and anything in
between. Yes they require a little more skill but it ain’t rocket science, and we
have a wealth of tips and techniques about cooking on charcoal at that will help you achieve backyard domination in no time flat.
You may be tempted to ask, “Max what’s the best charcoal grill?” A better question is
what’s the best charcoal grill for my budget and my cooking style. I can help,
but only you can make that call. So start by asking yourself, “How much do I want to spend and how big of the grill do I need?” Let’s start with price. Like everything
else you get what you pay for. Not to say low cost equipment isn’t
available. In fact you can get a great charcoal grill for way less than a
decent gas grill. On the other hand, high-end charcoal grills that often have
cool features do exist. Now size. Unless you’re trying to squeeze a grill into a small space like a condo patio, or just want a little portable for tailgating or
bopping to the beach – go big! Why? Well obviously if you have a big family or
host a lot of parties, you also don’t want to crowd the grill, always leave at
least a half inch between things being cooked. But there’s another very
important reason many overlook Two zone cooking capability.
One of the most important techniques an outdoor cook must learn is how to create
a two zone setups. This allows you to move the food off the hot flame into a cooler
area where it roasts from convection and indirect heat. To do this you need to
have enough space to push the coals to one side. If your grill doesn’t allow two
zone cooking you will be handicapped. And when you go to zone
you cut your active cooking service in half. A small grill gets really small, and
remember for two zone cooking you need a lid. Flat top grills without lids are
meant for simple grilling over direct heat A lid is necessary for large foods
like roasts and even thick steaks. Once you learn to control your fire,
throw on a few hunks of wood and make smoked ribs and brisket that rivals most
restaurants – another advantage of charcoal grills over gas grills, More on
that later. All right then let’s get the briquetes bouncing. A good
place to start is with my Searchable Equipment Reviews. Go to – In our red navigation bar at the top of your screen click on Product Ratings and
Reviews. And here you’ll see our search options
on the left. Right now we’re looking for charcoal….grill. Price Range. Let’s go for
under 200 to 600 bucks, of course you might want to spend more, and mid-sized
to large. Once again if you need a little portable grill – or something to feed an
army. Click search and let’s go! Search options on mobile devices are on the bottom rather than the left side. Scroll down to search on mobile. When you cook indoors you take it for granted that your oven can be set to the temperature
you want, right? But many except that charcoal grill temperatures are a
guessing game, a crap-shoot, DON’T! You’re smarter than that bag of charcoal.
Charcoal grills don’t have dials labeled low, medium and high, but they have
adjustable air dampers that do the same thing. Control the air intake and exhaust
and you control your cooking temperature. The name of the game with charcoal is
effective air control, and that requires tight construction all the way around.
Think of your charcoal grill as a sealed system. The lid, dampers, external ash
removal designs, and fuel replenishment doors should have a snug fit. Wobbly dampers and loose lids allow unregulated air to enter and leave the
grill, making fire management difficult. Aharcoal grill with tight construction
makes you the master of your fire. Open the intake damper to feed oxygen to
the charcoal for higher temps and close it down to temper the heat. That’s
why charcoal grills are much better at smoking meat than gas grills. Gas grills
have to be well ventilated for safety reasons. When you burn wood in a gas grill the smoke billows out the back and it burns
up quickly. In your sealed charcoal grill with the fire purring away at low and
slow temps, smoke is allowed to linger and work its magic flavor and aroma into
your foods, same as a charcoal or wood burning smoker. On the other side of the
heat spectrum, charcoal grills put most gases to shame when it comes to high
temp searing. I don’t want to sound down on gas. Gas grills have many positive
attributes that make them the instrument of choice for the majority of backyard
cooks, but nothing beats a rip-roaring red-hot bed of charcoal for sizzling
steaks, and some charcoal grills have adjustable height charcoal grates that
allow you to move the fire closer to or farther away from the cook surface,
adding an extra dimension to grilling. We talked about the necessity of having a
lid earlier, now let’s talk about what’s planted in just about every lid you’ll
find – an antiquated inaccurate thermometer. Even if these cave era heat
estimators were accurate, they’re usually located high above the cook surface and
are routinely off by 50 to 100 degrees. You absolutely need accurate modern
digital thermometers. Don’t worry, we’ve got Searchable Reviews for them too.
Cooking grates are typically cast iron or steel rods. Cast iron grates are heavy
and have high thermal capacity, making them very efficient at holding and
transmitting heat to meat. Hence cast iron has become associated with searing
and those crisscross sear marks. However, the best searing comes from
intense radiant heat and nothing does a better job than a screamig hot, bright
red charcoal fire. Thin steel rod grates are our favorite choice because they
expose the meat surface to direct radiant heat from below and allow an
even overall brown crust to develop. Stainless steel rod grates are also easy
to clean and last a long time Charcoal burns up
and needs to be replenished. Most charcoal grills are designed to give
easy access to the fire so you don’t have to remove your food and cooking
grates. Two common methods are hinged grates, and fire access doors. Ash
builds up and needs to be removed or it can restrict air flow. Here again,
manufacturers know you want to clear out ash without taking the grill apart. This
is usually accomplished with a removable ash cup at the bottom, or a slide-out
ashtray. Always remove ash after grilling because it can absorb moisture which
leads to corrosion and shortens the life of your grill. Charcoal grills generally
don’t have as many bells and whistles as gas grills, although add-ons like rotisserie and pizza oven inserts, and handle lights are
available as options. Also unlike gas grills very few models have stainless
steel bodies. But many do come with built-in tool hooks, work shelves, and
some even have gas ignition. All those things are nice, but remember, first and
foremost – tight, solid construction! Avoid loose lids and wobbly dampers, doors and legs. Once you find the charcoal grill of your dreams, come back to early and often for tested recipes, tips and techniques, and everything you
need to know about outdoor cooking. And if you really want to have some good old barbecue fun, check out our Pitmaster Club, 16,000 members and growing. Grab
your tongs and jump in. And while you’re at it, sign up for our free email newsletter: Smoke Signals! It’s the best way to keep up with our new articles, new
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barbecue website in the world.

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