Charcoal Grill FAQ Grilling a Steak

Grilling with charcoal is a time-honored tradition dating back centuries and for good reason. The delicious smoky flavor and aroma of solid fuel like charcoal BBQ grills are tough to beat. As fat and other liquids are rendered out of your food and fall on the hot coals underneath, they vaporize and infuse your food with an incredibly rich taste alongside the natural smoke released by the charcoal itself.

While gas grilling may offer a greater degree of convenience and ease of use (and we're big fans of cooking with gas as well), knowing how to get the most out of your outdoor charcoal grill takes a bit more expertise. However, even a beginning grill enthusiast can make delicious food on a BBQ charcoal grill with a bit of research and practice. We've collected some of the most commonly asked questions here and provided some answers and info to help you capitalize on the delicious taste that BBQ grill charcoal can offer.

How Do I Light a Charcoal Grill?

Lighting your outdoor grill charcoal can seem like a daunting hurdle if you've never done it before, but with just a bit of know-how, it's actually quite simple. While many charcoal grill owners will make use of lighter fluid, this can cause unpleasantly flavored smoke to taint your food. Instead, we recommend the use of a chimney starter or an electric charcoal starter.

If using a chimney starter, fill it with charcoal and some form of tinder like newspaper, light the paper and give the flame time to spread. Once the charcoal is fully ignited, simply dump it into the grill. Electric starters are even easier to use. All you need to do is place them in contact with the charcoal and allow the electrical heat source to ignite the charcoal. You'll be grilling like a master in no time.

What Type of Charcoal Should I Use with My Grill?

Lump Charcoal

We recommend the use of natural lump charcoal for all types of charcoal grilling. It burns hotter and more efficiently than briquettes, making it a better way to achieve excellent grill marks and top-notch results. Lump charcoal is made from natural hardwood, which is burned in the absence of oxygen, removing all of the sap and moisture for completely clean burning fuel. It creates less ash than briquettes as well, making cleaning up a breeze.

Lump Charcoal Briquettes

Briquettes are made using chemical additives which allow them to burn longer, more evenly, and more predictably. While this may be more convenient, these additives can potentially cause your food to take on a slightly chemical flavor. They're also sometimes more difficult to light and are prone to going out unexpectedly if they're not carefully managed.

Can I Use Wood Chips or Chunks in a Charcoal Grill?

Wood Chips and Wood Chunks

Absolutely, and we recommend it for infusing your food with even more smoky flavor. We carry a wide range of wood chips and chunks for use in barbecue grilling, either in a smoker or grill. By tailoring your wood choice to the type of food and flavor profile you're going for, you can enhance the finished product by leaps and bounds.

While most grill masters like to experiment with different flavors, we recommend the following pairings of wood types to food:

Wood TypeFlavor ProfileGreat For
AlmondNutty and Sweet with little ashPoultry 🐔
AppleSweet and FruityPoultry🐔, Pork🐷, Ribs🐖
CherrySweet and FruityPoultry🐔, Pork🐷, Ribs🐖
HickorySweet and StrongBeef🥩, Pork🐷, Ribs🐖
MapleSweet and SubtlePoultry🐔, Fish🐟, Pork🐷
MesquiteStrong, Earthy, and SmokyBeef🥩
MulberrySweet, Tangy, and Berry-LikeBeef🥩, Poultry🐔
OakTraditional Smoky FlavorBeef🥩
PecanSweet and MildBeef🥩, Poultry🐔, Ribs🐖
WalnutStrong and BitterBeef🥩, Pork🐷, Ribs🐖

What Can I Cook on a Charcoal Grill?

The answer: just about anything. Many people think that charcoal grills are only good for burgers, hot dogs, and brats, but the truth is that by managing your fuel and heat levels correctly, you can cook almost anything on a grill, just the same as you would in an oven or on the stove. Many of the grills in our collection feature adjustable grill grates, which allow you to move the food closer or farther away from the heat, and dampers, which let you manage airflow to control the coal heat directly.

For quick, high-heat searing of steaks and chops, we recommend placing your food directly over the smoldering coals to absorb heat as fast as possible and get those dark, delicious grill marks that everyone craves. For cuts of meat that are better cooked slow and low with indirect heat, simply move the coals off to one side of the grill and place the meat on the other side. Then by managing the dampers to move hot air across the grill, you can capitalize on convection heating to get perfect pulled pork, ribs or whatever your heart desires.

What Are the Best Brands of Charcoal Grills?

Charcoal Grill Brands

Here at Kickass Grills, we've curated a collection of only the best brands on the market. Every grill you see on our site is one we're proud to offer, and they provide an experience much better than some cheap charcoal grill from a big box store. The most popular charcoal grills in our inventory come from Napoleon, Bull, Blaze, Fire Magic, Coyote, and Everdure. For more tips on the top options, take a look at our guide to the best charcoal grills.

More Questions about Charcoal Grills?

Charcoal grills are a hot commodity for many reasons, and many of our customers want to know how to get the most out of them. We've tried to answer the most common questions here, but if you'd like to learn more about charcoal grills, don't forget to take a look at our charcoal grill buying guide.