Many backyard chefs firmly believe there is nothing that compares to the taste of grilling with charcoal, while others, who possibly had a bad experience, prefer gas. With a few simple tips, nearly anyone can enjoy the flavor provided by charcoal when cooking on their outdoor grill.
One of the most troubling aspects of cooking with charcoal is knowing how much charcoal to use. Typically, 25 to 30 briquettes are used for every pound of meat to be grilled.
It is also important to note that when cooking for a large group, not all of the meat will be cooked at the same time and the number of briquettes can be increased as they are needed.
Another concern is the taste of the food sometimes carrying the taste of the charcoal lighter fluid, even when using self lighting briquettes. This is the result of the cook’s impatience and not waiting until the briquettes are ashed over before putting the meat on the grill.
There are two types of cooking on a grill: direct and indirect. Most barbecue fare, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, use the direct method. This is when the meat is placed on the cooking surface directly above the hot coals. For larger cuts of meat, including chicken, ham and roasts, the indirect method works best.
For this, once the appropriate number of briquettes is ashed over, they can be divided into two piles, on each side of the charcoal screen with a space left in the middle. Aluminum foil can be placed between the two piles to catch drips, and then the meat is placed on the cooking surface between the piles to indirectly cook the food.
Other tips can help keep the food safe and prevent food-borne pathogens from ruining the cookout. Quite simply, once the food is thoroughly cooked, it should be placed on a clean plate. Using the same plate on which the raw meat was carried to the grill, exposes the cooked food to any pathogens from the raw food.
Applying barbecue sauce can also spread pathogens if done incorrectly. Sauce should not be applied t the meat until the final minutes of cooking, just long enough to get hot.
If the sauce is applied to the meat before it is cooked, and then the same brush is used to apply additional sauce once the meat is cooked, there is the risk of transferring germs from the uncooked meat to the sauce and then back onto the cooked meat.