Gather Grills

12 Charcoal Grilling Tips to Add Sizzle to Your Grill Game

Charcoal in the gather Grill

If you are used to grilling with gas, using a tabletop charcoal grill could feel intimidating at first. But don’t worry; with a little practice and some dinner-saving charcoal grilling tips, you’ll soon be getting the most out of your charcoal grilling game. So, beef up your confidence and be ready to impress your family and friends with these 12 easy and smart charcoal grilling tips!

If you’re going to do it, do it right. The tabletop charcoal grill, smoker, griddle, and fire pit from Gather Grills makes for a cookout you and your guests will never forget. Warning: May contain legendary good times.

1.     Consider using a chimney starter

Among the grill masters’ best charcoal grilling tips is using a chimney starter. When you get your coals going in a chimney starter, they can get red hot and ready to grill in 15-20 minutes. Chimney starters require only matches and a fire starter (like paper) to get your coals going. In addition to speed, using a chimney starter doesn’t require the use of lighter fluid. That means you’ll avoid the toxic chemical taste and smell of lighter fluid. If you’re cooking on the Gather Grill, then we recommend using hard lump charcoal.

2.     Use the right amount of charcoal

Using the correct amount of charcoal is essential for achieving the right temperature. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to use because it depends on the type of grill you have and how hot you need it. The hotter you want it, the more charcoal you’ll need. Use your chimney starter as a measuring device to help you get used to how much your particular grill needs. Tender meats such as fish won’t need as much, and high-heat searing for steaks will need more. Charcoal burns in an outward direction, so if you want to cook something low and slow, you can light the charcoal from one side and let it slowly move across your fire pit grill. Remember, hard lump charcoal that doesn’t burn away can be reused. While you can always add more charcoal if you need it, it is difficult when you already have food cooking.

3.     Dry meat for a beautiful crust

One of the easiest charcoal grilling tips to implement is to dry your meat. The drier, the better! Be it steaks, chops, chicken, or fish, if the meat’s surface is dry, it will crisp up much better. A chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction causes that beautiful and delicious browning of your meat, and it only activates when the surface temperature of the meat has risen. But if the meat is moist on the surface, the energy you want to direct towards the Maillard reaction will be hijacked by the moisture. You’ll want to blot your protein dry or leave your meat uncovered overnight in the fridge.

4.     Brine for max moisture and tenderness

One of the greatest tabletop charcoal grill tips is to brine your chicken or pork. Marinating your meat in a 5-8% salt solution prior to cooking has several benefits. Some of the liquid is absorbed by the meat, the brine dissolves muscle fibers, and denatures proteins. This results in moist, tender meat coming off your tabletop charcoal grill.

5.     Oil and preheat in the right order

Cooking your steak on a cold grill takes a lot longer, and guarantees overcooked meat. You’ll also lose out on those scrumptious grill marks. But if you put your meat on a hot grill, it will stick to it. The best tabletop charcoal grill tip to avoid this is to oil the grill before putting it over the hot charcoal. You can also lightly oil the meat itself before it goes on the grill. If you oil the grill after it’s hot, the oil will drip down and cause flare-ups.

6.     Don’t always trust the built-in thermometer

It’s very common for the built-in thermometer on a grill to be insufficient to measure the high temperatures produced using charcoal. You’ll want to double-check the accuracy of your built-in thermometer using an external one. You might try a clip-on thermometer that can be attached to the grill grates for a more accurate measurement.

7.      Watch your vents

You will want to pay close attention to charcoal grilling tips that involve temperature control. Controlling the heat on a tabletop charcoal grill means managing how hot the coals are. You do that by venting, or moderating the flow of air by opening and closing the vents. Opening the vents will allow for more oxygen to get in and produce a hotter grill. Trimming down the vents will reduce the inflow of oxygen and cool down the grill. If the grill is too full of ash, it can obstruct the vents and reduce the temperature.

8.     Know when to use direct heat and indirect heat

Direct heat on a tabletop charcoal grill means putting the food directly over flames or hot coals. This is perfect for cooking items like vegetable skewers, pork chops, hot dogs, etc.   It leaves the popular charred lines or grill marks on your meat. For cooking with indirect heat, the food is kept on the grill away from the flame. Cooking with indirect heat is best for smoked foods and tender meats. With the large capacity of Gather Grills like the Entertainer and the Reunion, using direct and indirect heat at the same time is a breeze. For the ultimate charcoal grilling experience, try the reverse sear method where you smoke food to the perfect temperature, and then throw it on direct heat to crisp up the exterior part of the meat.

9.     Avoid and control flare-ups

Another thing to learn about using a tabletop charcoal grill is how to deal with flare-ups. Flare-ups are caused by excess fat or sauces dripping into the burning charcoal. Among the best tabletop charcoal grill tips to keep in mind regarding flare-ups is to never spray water on them. This can cause explosions and the water will soak your food. Most flare-ups are short-lived and go out on their own, so don’t panic. Put the lid or hood down over the area if necessary, until the flare calms down.

If you want to reduce flare-ups, here are a few more charcoal grill tips: you can trim excess fat from your meat before grilling so there’s less to drip. Avoid cooking in the wind and regularly clean your grill – old grease residue will contribute to fresh flare-ups.

10. Build a two-zone fire

Flare-ups, burning, or scorching of food can be simply controlled by building a two-fire zone on your tabletop charcoal grill. Building a two-fire zone is one of the best charcoal grilling tips that many people don’t follow, but it really is simple. Just stack the charcoal onto one side of your grill and leave the other side empty.

When you start the fire, the side of the tabletop charcoal grill with no coal also becomes hot but less intense than the side with coals. This allows you to shift your food between direct heat and indirect heat, or cook with both at the same time. This also reduces flare-ups, burning, ash-blowing, and scorching. With the rotating tabletop charcoal grill from Gather Grills, moving your food from one zone to the other is a breeze – just give it a turn with no need to disturb your food.

11. Add wood chunks the right way

Among the best charcoal grilling tips that you can use to improve your grilling game is adding wood. Adding wood brings a beautiful smoke flavor to your grilled food. Another important tabletop charcoal grill tip is do not soak the wood chunks. It is a common myth that soaking the wood chips in water will help them smoke longer. When you soak wood chips it actually delays the production of smoke as the heat has to vaporize the water first. If you want your wood chips to burn less and smoke more, you can put them in foil, a metal box, or a smoker pouch or bag. Larger wood chunks will also burn for longer and provide more flavor. It’s important to use quality, dry wood chunks without mold or mildew in them.

12. Cleaning the tabletop charcoal grill

One of the most often missed charcoal grill tips is cleaning the grill grate thoroughly every time you use it – not just the top of your grill grate but the underside as well. Old grease or oil residue can drip onto fresh, hot coals during a later cooking session. This can cause flare-ups that will leave your perfectly grilled food covered in unpleasant tasting dust and soot. When old residue burns, the flavor can get into your food as well and it is not very nice.

Ready to implement these charcoal grilling tips? Try them out with Gather Grills.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of grilling with charcoal or just warming up to the idea, you’ll fall in love with Gather Grills. As the only tabletop charcoal grill, fire pit, griddle, and smoker with a rotating grill grate and seating for up to ten diners, Gather Grills is redefining what it means to cook out. With four sizes to choose from and unlimited possibilities, Gather Grills looks forward to helping you make memories for years to come. Before long you’ll be sharing your best charcoal grill tips with your friends.

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About us

When Jed Strange bought a fire pit in February of 2020, he had no idea that it was about to inspire him to create one of the most innovative multi-function outdoor cooking devices available today.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown closing operations at Strange Farms, a family-run corporate and private retreat venue, Jed found himself with some extra time on his hands. He sat down and looked at his new fire pit. His goal of gathering people around it physically was put on hold, but the desire for connection remained.

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