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Cooking with Charcoal

May is National BBQ Month, so what better time to consider making the switch from gas grilling to cooking with charcoal! Charcoal can be intimidating, but trust me – it’s easy! Here are some pointers that we think you should know before you make the switch.

Types of Charcoal

There is probably no greater debate in the world of barbecue than “Lump vs. Briquettes.” They are two sources of charcoal that are used to create similar results on the grill.


Made by burning wood in a low oxygen environment, lump charcoal is the choice of traditional grillers. Lump burns hotter than briquettes and creates less ash. The downside is that it burns quickly and is usually more expensive than briquettes.


Made from wood by-products like sawdust that is compressed together using glue and other binders, briquettes certainly don’t sound as nice as lump charcoal. Their benefits are that they are cheaper than lump and burn longer.

Use a Chimney Starter

Stop! Slowly and carefully put the bottle of lighter fluid down. There’s a safer and easier way to light the coals; it’s called a Chimney Starter. There are several on the market, but many consider the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter to be the gold standard.


A chimney starter is used to light charcoal quickly and easily. Dump your charcoal into your grill and light some combustible material underneath it (something like a newsprint or a fire starter cube – available at any hardware store). After about 15 – 20 minutes, your charcoal will be completely ashed over and ready to cook!

Two-Zone Setup with Charcoal

Once you lit your charcoal, dump the charcoal into your grill and prepare to grill on it. We’ve already learned the importance of a two-zone setup – with a “hot” side and a “cool” side, and that still applies with charcoal.


Pile your charcoal to one side of your grill to create the “hot” side, and the side of the grill without charcoal will be your “cool” side. It’s great to have a spare set of tongs around to help you stack and move the lit charcoal inside your grill. Make sure you clean the grill and tongs you are using before cooking your food.


 Using a two-zone setup, you can quickly sear food like steaks over direct heat and then move them to the indirect side to finish coming up in temp. You can also add wood chips or chunks to your charcoal and smoke food on the indirect side.

How to Adjust Temp

One downside to using a charcoal is that it is more complicated to change the cooking temperature of your grill.

Most grills will have vents on the top and bottom of their grill. These vents allow air in and out of the grill. Since we’re cooking with fire, the rules are simple: less air = less fire = less heat. 

If you need to increase the temperature, open the vents to allow max air in and out of your grill.

If you need to lower the temperature, close the vents to allow less air in and out.

Bottom line: this is one area where you will need to practice using your grill to learn what works best for you.


Clean Up

While your grill is still hot, use your Wooden BBQ scraper to clean your hot cooking grates. When you have finished cooking, close all the vents to restrict airflow and allow your charcoal fire to slowly choke itself out. Do not throw out any charcoal ash for at least 48 hours to ensure the fire is completely out.


Showcase your Creation

Once you have grilled the perfect piece of meat, it’s time to show it off and share it with family and friends. Highlight your cooking and enjoy food with the whole family by checking out our charcuterie boards. Our boards are hand-crafted from sustainable Tamarack (Juniper) wood. Our boards are great for family gatherings and come in sizes from small to extra large. 

Finish off your board with some other cured meats, soft cheeses, fresh fruit, and so much more for you and your friends and family to enjoy!