If you search the internet for “get started with charcoal cooking,” you will most likely be overwhelmed. It seems that everyone has their opinion about how to grill “properly” with charcoal. Yes, you can hone the craft for decades, but with basic knowledge and tools, you can elevate your grilling game to epic levels quite easily.
Don’t let the chorus of charcoal aficionados or the gurus of grilling make you feel overwhelmed. Charcoal grilling is as simple as it sounds – putting food near charcoal in order to cook it. You might be tempted to join Facebook groups or follow influencers on Instagram, but do so with the right mindset.
Social media is meant to get the world to “look at me!” And it’s because of the constant pressure to come up with great content that it can discourage curious people. They can be so overwhelmed that they may never get started with charcoal grilling. So it’s in that vein that we will give you some ideas on equipment, technique and mindset so you can enjoy the beauty involved with charcoal cooking.
A Cooker That Works:
First up, you will need a cooker. This could be nothing more than a bed of charcoal in a hole in the ground. If the charcoal doesn’t have sufficient air intake, you will have a very limited amount of cooking time. You may not need much time. If all you want to do is cook “caveman steaks,” then check out this video from the YouTube channel Cowboy Kent Rollins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImVV8sA7fFI
You will see in the video that his setup is nothing more than just a hole in the ground and some charcoal upon which he places steaks. This method is down and dirty (literally), but can produce a flavorful food with an incredibly inexpensive cooker! Got a shovel? Go out, buy some charcoal and get started! If you want more options in your cooker, read on, but if you just try this one thing, your charcoal grilling world will immediately open up.
A Cooker That Works Better
If you want to do more than just cook with a hole in the ground, you may want to look into a charcoal grill. In this category we would also include laying out bricks that can withstand high temperatures. This is where your charcoal will be. Then elevate a grate (grill) above the charcoal. Now you’ve go yourself a whole new set of options. Check out this little kit you can put together yourself: https://amzn.to/30aTKwp
This will let you cook foods further or closer to the heat. That means you will be able to control the heat that you are using to cook your food. Many foods (like chicken breast for example) are easy to overcook. Being able to move the meat away from the heat source allows you to “ease” the internal temperature up to your target instead of charging full bore straight up in temperature. This little setup is a nice introduction for you to get started with charcoal grilling. The drawbacks include immobility (bricks are not known for being light), lack of a lid (unless you make one yourself) and the lack of accessories that go with the setup.
Our Pick for a Cooker:
This brings us to our top cooker choice for getting started with charcoal grilling: a 22-inch Weber Performer Charcoal Grill (check it out HERE on Amazon).
Weber has been around for a long time. Their simple (yet crazily effective) design means there are hardly any moving parts that can break. So you will have this cooker a long time. In fact, there is a growing group of people worldwide who collect old weber kettle grills and refurbish them with original vintage colors! They are made of great materials – typically on wheels (so super mobile). They have an endless array of accessories (made by Weber and third-party companies). And are inexplicably satisfying to cook with.
With a Weber kettle grill, you can grill with direct and indirect heat quite easily. You can also smoke meats and other foods with them like a pro! While Weber also makes an amazing smoker (Check out the Weber Smokey Mountain HERE), smoking in the 22-inch kettle grill is easy and delicious! The broad range of cooking techniques (which you learn over time) allows you to accomplish everything you need or want.Weber’s kettle grill is a simple cooker that has stood the test of time.
Mike (contributor for WoodCookers) bought a kettle grill 5 years ago as a “stopgap” until he was ready to invest in his next gas grill. 5 years later, Mike has no intention of buying a gas grill. We fully realize gas grills have their place in many homes. They serve a great purpose – to get people outdoors and grilling. They are convenient and allow you to enjoy the beauty of outdoor grilling. But Mike (and many other wood and charcoal grillers) experienced the beauty and fun of cooking with these simple (yet effective!) cookers and never looked back.
Weber has a full line of gas and charcoal grills, but if you’re looking for charcoal kettle grills (and we think it’s an amazing place to start), look no further than these:
- Weber Performer Charcoal Grill – Check it out HERE
- The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill – Check it out HERE
- Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill – Check it out HERE
- Weber Original Kettle Grill – Check it out HERE
Get These Accessories First
Part of the fun of cooking with these Weber kettle grills is the broad accessories available through Weber and third-party companies. But again, the basics will get you going. Let’s start there:
- Charcoal Chimney – While these are not necessary, they greatly shorten the amount of time getting the cooker ready. Check it out HERE.
- Weber Char-Basket Charcoal Briquet Holders – These come with many Weber kettle grills, but they are worth buying especially if you’re new to this. They help keep the charcoal where it needs to be and also provide separation of heat from your food if that is what you need. Check it out HERE.
- Utensils – You may already have them, but a good solid set like THIS makes the experience even better!
That’s about it! Along with charcoal, you will have everything you need to produce amazing charcoal-grilled food. The flavors of charcoal-grilled food are distinct and brings it to a whole new level!
Get These Accessories When You Can
But, if you’re wondering just how deep the rabbit hole goes, here are some of our favorite accessories that only scratches the surface:
- Instant Read Thermometer – Getting to know when meat is done will take some time. Unless you’re counting how many charcoal pieces you use and measuring the distance of your food to your heat source, an instant read thermometer like THIS comes in super handy.
- Weber iGrill 2 Thermometer – If you’re a little nerdy like we are, it’s always fun to keep an eye on the temperature of your grill and the temperature of your food. Eventually, you will get a feel for how long to cook something should take without looking. Or you might just start to get a feel for how hot the grill is (or needs to be) by watching what temperatures do over time. This little grill thermometer lets you monitor things going on in your grill from the app on your phone! Check it out HERE.
- VORTEX (IN)DIRECT HEAT – We NEARLY included this product in the “must have” list, but we didn’t want to confuse things. This little guy uses physics to turn your kettle grill into an inferno that reaches up over 600 degrees (F) with indirect heat. Why is this important? There are times when you need even HOT heat. For example, in order to give chicken skin the right texture, it needs serious heat. The Vortex cone does just that. It also distributes evenly across entire cooking surface – giving your chicken wings the crispiness you are looking for. Check it out HERE.
- Slow ‘N Sear – This great little accessory gives your already versatile cooker even MORE versatility – making operation of your kettle grill even easier!
- KettlePizza Basic Pizza Oven Kit – Turn your kettle grill into a pizza oven! This great little addition to your Weber can give you a wood-fired taste without the need to buy a large pizza oven! Check it out HERE.
- Kettle Rotisserie Ring Kit – Just bank the pile of charcoal to one side (or directly below depending on needs) and use the rotisserie for even cooking all the way through! Check it out HERE.
- Vinyl Disposable Gloves – These make food prep easy. It’s nice to not have to wash your hands every time you handle something messy. Check these out HERE.
- Weber Gourmet BBQ System – This is a nice accessory that allows you to remove the middle part of the grate. When used in conjunction with the Vortex, the direct (and intense!) heat won’t corrode the middle of your grill – causing it to rust. We have used this grate for years and take for granted how good it it… until we try using the stock grate included with many grills. Check it out HERE.
- Insulated Food Delivery Bag – This carrier bag is a great way to get your grilled food from point A to point B hot! Once you build a reputation for being a charcoal queen/king, you will be invited to a lot more parties. But you will be given the task of bringing your delicious charcoal-grilled food. This bag allows you to keep your food hot until you get to your destination. Check it out HERE.
There are plenty more accessories out there. Just check out what Amazon offers HERE! But you don’t need any of them to get started with charcoal grilling. Just stick to the basics and discover the fun and flavor that comes from cooking food from charcoal with the basic kit:
- Weber Performer Charcoal Grill – Check it out HERE
- Charcoal Chimney – Check it out HERE
- Weber Char-Basket Charcoal Briquet Holders – Check it out HERE
- Utensils – Check them out HERE
Have fun! Learn. Enjoy the ride.