Cooking Over Coals

Love a good BBQ? So how many times have you felt let down when the taste on the plate hasn’t lived up to the smell? It could be a fault in the methodology so here are a few useful ways to get the best tasting food when slaving away over hot coals.

food on a grill

Preheat The Grill

Every cook knows to preheat the oven but many people get impatient with indoor or camping grills. They need to be really hot to create the char and seal in the food’s flavor.  Experts say charcoal grills generally produce better and more consistent taste once the coals turn a vivid red color and produce a very high temperature of at least 500 ° F and is coated with a layer of gray ash. To find out, hover your hand around six inches above the charcoal’s surface. If it’s hot enough you’ll pull your hand away within three seconds. For gas, preheat 10 to 15 minutes to the maximum.

Go For Gas Grills For Perfect Char

Experts claim gas grills are better than charcoal grills if you enjoy the perfect char flavor. Gas grills generate more steam, allowing for better sear and smoked taste. Vegetables are easier to grill but even a minute away will take you from beautifully charred to burnt. They are ideal for cooking vegetables to prepare a burnt vegetable stock to add deep flavors to sauces and braises.

sausages on a grill

Put A Lid On It

The grill covers allow you to create smoky flavors. They are not just a lid but an integral part of the smoking process. Being made from trees, different kinds of charcoal produce different flavors in smoke that percolates through food. Using mesquite and hickory charcoal produces a fantastic full-flavored smoked taste. With the lid down the more steam there is, the tenderer the meat will be as the moisture collects flavor compounds as it circulates around the grill.

Take Advantage Of The Smoker

Charcoal grills with smokers are great for slow cooking roasted foods such as brisket or chicken. Root vegetables such as carrots, corn and potatoes are best wrapped in foil. Slow cooked sweet potato is an absolute must. With this method after hours of cooking, they are soft and sweet with the concentrated flavors.


Select The Right Meats

Any meal is only as good as the ingredients and nowhere does this apply more than to meat. Some beef cuts don’t do well on a grill but there are still plenty around that do. Look for fat marbling on steak not just fat on the edges. The fat threads liquidate when they get hot and moisten and baste the meat fibers as they cook. Sirloin and tenderloin are good charring cuts that don’t go tough, as is the most popular favorite, the ribeye.

There are plenty of lean cuts on a cow that might not have heard about that are just as juicy and tasty if you know how best to cook them. The petite tender is a cut from the shoulder that is juice-rich, lean and comparable to tenderloin. It’s better grilled quickly over a very high temperature.

Remember Safety First

1. Grills are hot. Obviously and as such, they are dangerous although the biggest threat to health around hot coals is not burning. It’s poor food hygiene. To avoid bacterial contamination, experts suggest using designated raw and cooked food utensils, cooked and raw meat kitchen knives and chopping boards and a different set for vegetables. It is also sensible to check bulky food has reached the correct internal cooking temperatures using a thermal thermometer. And, regularly wash your hands.

2. Cook on a clean surface. The first move for any kind of safe grilling is to clean and prepare the grill using a wire brush to get rid of old char. Wipe them off using vegetable oil on paper towels. This will gather any remaining old char particles so that your next cook gets a clean char and cooked is unadulterated by stale flavors.

3.  Make the grill naturally non-stick. People often cover their grills with oil but another healthier way to ensure a non-stick crust is to rub half a potato over the hot grates.

4.  Let meat rest chilled before and after grilling. This is critical with bigger, thicker cuts such as a porterhouse or a big bone-in ribeye but no meat, not even the burgers should ever be cooked on a grill straight from frozen. Refrigerate and allow to thoroughly defrost overnight that way you’ll get to enjoy an even cook and the fullest release of all the flavor.


Charcoal has been used for centuries for cooking over fires to produce tender and flavorful food. Because of the way it was processed even way back then, it’s almost pure carbon so it burns long and hot making it ideal for smoking and preserving meat. Mainly, they made ham and bacon. Since the charcoal making process involved piling huge amounts of earth over live wood and slow burning it for days in low oxygen the process removed impurities.

Today, charcoal is processed in much the same way and we have come to appreciate how it retains and then releases the oils according to how much oxygen is available and how they give meat the flavor to the wood. Discovering the unique properties of charcoal could be considered one of mankind’s greatest technological advances. With charcoal came the energy to power up enormous steam engines to develop transport systems and kick start mass industry. But if you wanted to, you could still get back to basics and cook a lump of meat outdoors over coals in a fire pit.