Learn the basics of grilling and bbq.  This page covers the following topics:

A Brief History of Grilling

The next time you think about grilling a burger or steak, be sure you think about a person called George Stephen because he is the person who was instrumental in starting the history of grilling in USA.

In the period following the end of the second world war, servicemen who returned from their tour of duty and their families started to move to the suburbs. In these places, there was plenty of space in the outdoors and so it become commonplace for these people to experiment with cooking in the open air.

Many changes from the time Native Americans cooked food over fire pits

Grilling is all about low and slow as well as indirect cooking. When the word barbeque was first introduced it referred to the wooden rotisseries and smoking platforms that were used by Native Americans to cook their meat over fire pits.

However, in the middle of the seventeenth century the English came up with their own version in which they cooked over pits and this later was to become the way we barbequed food today. This form of cooking spread to the South of the USA where notable names like George Washington and Andrew Jackson extolled the virtues of barbequing.

The brazier grills

Before grilling became known, a not so deep sheet-metal pan called the brazier gill was used to grill food. These brazier grills were not protected against the elements and did not have any vents and so grilling was not so easy in those days. Then, in the beginning of the fifties, George Stephen stepped in and being a dedicated backyard cooking expert, he came up with the idea of cutting a metal buoy in two equal parts.

He also installed vents and added a grate at the bottom while also using one half of the buoy as a lid. This was when the first covered grill was born and it offered good control over the grilling process and produced nicely grilled food items. Thus, outdoor cooking not only became more popular but also considerably more efficient and useful.

Better technology, better grilling

Since the advent of this grill, many changes have taken place and outdoor cooking technology has improved in leaps and bounds. Soon, grills that were powered by gas were introduced and they make it easy to cook meat quickly and at more stable temperatures.

Cook Delicious meals

Thanks to modern grills, it is now possible and also very easy to make meat and fish as well as vegetables. The taste of the food being grilled on these machines is also very delicious. So, the next time you bite into a piece of grilled food, be sure to pause and give thanks to the genius of George Stephen.

What’s a charcoal grill?

People were grilling food in the Americas from before the Colonial times. Here, let’s talk about the charcoal grill and its various types as well as key components. When the time comes to buy a grill, the more information you have about it, the better.

How do charcoal grills work?

The grill’s core is its cooking system. If you go with a well-constructed charcoal grill, you will notice it has a sturdy and heavy-duty as well as plated steel cooking grate as well as a charcoal grate on which you can place the fuel. Last but not least, the charcoal grill also has a lid with some air vents in it that allow air to be released.

Charcoal provides the perfect fuel for grilling and searing meats. It also helps you cook juicy and mouthwatering foods. The only thing you need to be careful about is choosing the right kind of charcoal. There are several types of charcoal and here is a brief look at some common types.

Where does charcoal come from

E.G. Kingsford, manufactured the first mass production charcoal in the United States from leftover waste wood from his cousin Henry Ford’s automobile factory.  Originally called Ford Charcoal, the charcoal was renamed Kingsford Charcoal in E.G.honor[1].  The Kingsford Company was formed when E.G. Kingsford brokered the site selection for Ford’s new charcoal manufacturing plan

Kingston Charcoal was originally called Ford Charcoal

What are Charcoal briquettes

This type of charcoal is made of bulbous pieces that have a number of components including hardwood char and coal as well as nitrates and lime and starch. To get the best out of this kind of charcoal it is important that you use charcoal that contains wood char which is obtained mainly from a hardwood. second, it is important to ensure that the charcoal contains high BTU anthracite coal as then you can enjoy a burn that does not produce any smoke and odor and which also provides a consistency in the burn. The lime in the charcoal briquettes facilitates an even burn and at the same time it produces a clean as well as white colored ash. The starch in the charcoal binds in the process of making charcoal briquettes while the sodium nitrate is required to ensure proper lighting of the briquette.

What are the Benefits of charcoal briquettes

There are several benefits to using charcoal briquettes including the fact it can be used to heat and cook as well as add flavor to the food. It also burns for much longer and is more even as compared to natural charcoal. Also, this kind of charcoal does not require much space to store and will get up to cooking temperature in between twenty and twenty-five minutes which is however twice the time taken by natural charcoal. Also, charcoal briquettes do not burn as hotly as natural charcoal.

Does Natural Charcoal have benefits?

Using natural charcoal is beneficial in a number of ways as it offers greater heat with temperatures reaching anything from eight hundred to one thousand degrees. Also, a pound of natural charcoal produces twice the heat of a charcoal briquette. Natural charcoal is also hundred percent wood and is often made from renewable hardwood. It is easy to light and offers a clean burn as well as does not produce much ash. Best of all, the fire from such charcoal reaches cooking temperature in a matter of between just seven to ten minutes but it burns for a shorter time as compared to charcoal briquettes.

Who makes the Best charcoals

When identifying the different types of charcoal, you can include the aforementioned briquette, natural charcoal as well as flavored briquettes and more. Which charcoal works best for you depends on your grilling style as well as personal preferences. Overall, Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes are considered the best charcoal while if you opt for natural charcoal, then it makes sense to choose Weber Natural Hardwood briquettes. If you want to use lump charcoal, then go with the Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

How to choose a grill

When choosing your charcoal grill, you need to ensure that it has an efficient grease or ash collection system to ensure the heat source does not get clogged and to ensure it remains free from run-off juices that can ruin your charcoal grill otherwise. Another aspect to choosing your charcoal grill is ensuring it is constructed solidly and it should feel sturdy even when you shake it. Also, make sure you go with a charcoal grill that is easy to assemble. If you pick a good brand, then you can be sure that assembling the grill will be easy. Other less well-known brands may require lengthy assembly. Also, when you buy your charcoal grill from a reputed brand, you can rest assured the brand’s customer service will be up to the mark. 

Key features to have in a charcoal grill 

When choosing your charcoal grill, you need to look at its features before making up your mind. Each feature makes the grill more convenient to use and it also makes your cooking that much easier.

The first feature to look for is whether the charcoal grill is mobile or mounted. If you want to mount one that you can place near your outdoor kitchen, then you may want a mounted grill while if you want to hide it from sight, then you can go with the mobile option. Next, you need to look at a feature called the plate setter which is a flat piece of ceramic that is put in the grill above the charcoal fire. This plate directs the flames away from your food and thus ensures more consistency in temperature throughout the inside of the grill. With a plate setter in place, you can also put a pizza plate or rack on top to hold the ribs.

If you don’t want to burn your food, then make sure your charcoal grill has a grill light. You can choose between a free-standing grill light and one that is attached to the grill.

Next, you want to look at the benefits of using a cast iron cook grid as it is durable and easy to clean and best of all, it leaves the ideal sear mark on your steak. Charcoal grills with V-racks are also a feature worth looking at as these racks can be used to hold the ribs when upright. If you flip the rack on its head, then it can hold a roast or poultry upright.

Consumer Reports Grill Buying Guide is a good reference

Ceramic BBQ smokers

Ceramic BBQ smokers are one of the category for you to choose from. These grills are very versatile because the ceramic chamber is capable of retaining heat and moisture with utmost efficiency. Barrel grills look like you have sliced a barrel into two equal parts in a lengthwise direction. The kettle grill contains a lid and cooking grid as well as a charcoal grid. It also has a lower chamber and venting system as well as four legs. In some models, you will come across an ash catcher pan as well as wheels. The charcoal is placed in the lower chamber which looks like a kettle and hence the name, kettle grill. 

Vertical BBQ Smoker A vertical BBQ Smoker is a good option when you want to preserve your food longer and also when you want to give your food a different flavor. It can be used for both cold and hot smoking. The horizontal BBQ smoker on the other hand is perfect for cooking delicious pulled pork and mouth-watering briskets. It has a nice cooking chamber that allows for low or slow or even high temperature grilling.

What to look for in your charcoal grill?

If you are going to use a ceramic grill, then the best charcoal for you is the Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal and for the most affordable charcoal option, be sure to go with Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes.  

After you’ve mastered the basics of grilling, feel free to visit our Advanced grilling course.  


[1] https://www.thehistorygirl.com/2013/08/mysteries-of-history-lets-have-cookout.html [2] https://www.thespruceeats.com/charcoal-details-334062