Cooking With A Charcoal Grill (and other death defying activities)

Friday, 12 June 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,

There are certain things in life I avoid due to a fear of failure. And I don't mean big, death defying challenges like skydiving (check) or entering a rodeo (double check. Got the belt buckle to prove it), but rather small everyday things like cooking over a charcoal grill.

But with Father’s Day approaching I decided it’s a good time I get over that one. See, my dad was the king of the grill. (You may think you know some other grill king, or that you’re it, but honestly, my dad ruled supreme.) We had a Saturday night barbecue tradition at our house, when he would have multiple grills going at the same time. Me taking over would be a good way to celebrate his memory on Father’s Day.

Plus there is no doubt food cooked over charcoal produces that true smoky barbecue flavour with just  the right amount of charring that gas just can’t mimic.

But charcoal has always been a messy mystery to me. Those big heavy bags. The one time I tried to light it I didn’t get very far and how do I control the heat? And how long will the fire last? Of course, my avoidance is really just about fear of the unknown. Plus it’s always been a man job. Well enough of that nonsense.

So I’ve been practising all week and here’s what I’ve learned.

First, your shopping list:

  • A chargoal grill. I like Weber.
  • Charcoal. Don’t buy the briquette variety that’s infused with chemicals. You can taste it in your food. Go for 100% hardwood lump charcoal. It is charcoal in its purest form and it lights faster and burns hotter than briquettes.
  • A starter chimney. It’s like training wheels for your barbecue and it makes all the difference.
  • Newspaper
  • A lighter


What to do:

Turn starter chimney upside down. Roll up newspaper and line the bottom of chimney.


Now turn chimney right side and up an pour in charcoal. (Less than half full for grilling a couple of pizzas. More if you want a bigger fire for longer). Light the newspaper. It’ll smoke for a few minutes. Don’t panic. That means all is going according to plan. The smoke burns off as the charcoal begins to light.


Wait about 15 minutes until you see the charcoal beginning to turn white. Hold chimney by the handle (it’s not hot) and pour into the bottom of your barbecue bowl.





Place grill over top. Wait for the charcoal to turn white. Voila. You’re ready to grill! I whipped up a pizza with fontina and arugula in 35 minutes, including the time it took to light the grill.

Cooking over charcoal, where controlling heat is much more challenging then with a gas grill, will take some practise. Pizza is a good place to start since it doesn’t require exacting results. All you need is to see the crust blacken and the cheese melt.



Next week, your Father’s Day menu!


top of page | | back to posts |
  • Subscribe to the A&K Newsletter

  • Lindsay

    I tackled my own grill challenge just tonight…cooking a whole fish. It seemed entirely too daunting but it actually wasn’t bad at all! Here’s to overcoming fears!

    • Anna

      I second that!!