Flavorful Food 101: Get The Most Out of Your Charcoal Grill
Part of the joy of cooking on a charcoal grill is the ability to play with flavor. But first, you need to know the basics of how to get flavor into your cooks in the first place! There’s a few fundamental techniques for grilling on charcoal that you need to know: smoking with wood chips, using a marinade or dry rub, and basting.
Smoking with WoodWe’ve covered cooking with wood chips or chunks in previous blogs, but for first-time readers, here’s a refresher:
- Soak the wood in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent the wood from burning.
- Scatter the chips over hot coals sitting in your charcoal basket.
- Monitor the temperature of the grill and adjust the vents to maintain a consistent temperature, usually between 225-250°F. This will allow the wood chunks to smoke for a longer period of time and infuse your food with more flavor. An external thermometer can be a handy tool.
Like with most cooks, avoid opening the grill as much as possible to maintain an even temperature and trap the smoke inside the grill, ensuring your meat or veggies are infused with flavor. In other words, let go and let God, or, let go and let the laws of thermodynamics do their thing.
Marinades and Dry Rubs
There are several ways to marinate meat or vegetables on a charcoal grill:
Mix together ingredients such as olive oil, acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar), herbs, spices, and flavorings (such as garlic or ginger) to create a flavorful marinade. Then, place the meat or vegetables in a resealable bag or a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat or vegetables.
A dry rub is a combination of herbs, spices, salt and sugar that you rub on the meat or vegetables before grilling. Dry rubs can be made with many different ingredients, such as smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper, among others.
A brine is a solution of water, salt, and sugar that is used to flavor and moisten meats, poultry and fish. Brines can also include other flavorings such as herbs, spices, citrus, and aromatics. Brining time can vary, but usually between 30 minutes to 2 hours.
An injection marinade is a flavorful liquid that is injected into the meat using a meat injector. This method allows the marinade to penetrate deep into the meat, infusing it with more flavor.
Remember that not all meats and vegetables need the same marination time. For example, fish and seafood are more delicate and need less time to marinate, on the other hand, a brisket or pork shoulder can be marinated for a longer period of time. You can of course choose whether to smoke or grill meat after it has been rubbed or marinated.
Lastly, basting is a technique that involves brushing or spooning a flavorful liquid, such as a marinade or barbecue sauce, over meat or vegetables as they cook on a charcoal grill. This can help to add an extra layer of flavor, as well as keep the food moist.
Here are some tips for basting on a charcoal grill:
- Use a long-handled basting brush or a small ladle to apply the basting liquid. Be careful not to open the grill too often, as this will release heat and prolong cooking time.
- Baste the food occasionally, rather than constantly. This will allow the basting liquid to be absorbed and prevent the food from becoming too soggy.
- Be careful not to baste too early. Wait until the food has been cooking for at least 20-30 minutes before basting. This will help to prevent the food from sticking to the grill.
- Use a separate brush or ladle for the basting liquid than the one you use for the marinade or any other liquid that has come into contact with raw meat.
Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat to know when it's safe to eat, and also to avoid basting the meat too close to being done as it can cause flare-ups and can burn the sauce or marinade.
You may want to use a Kick Ash drip pan for bastes or marinades, especially on fattier cooks like ribs. Some of that fat and grease that drips down can be used as the base for a sauce or gravy, and the pan will save you some of the mess of cleaning up.
Ready to flavor with flair? Check out our range of baskets, accessories, and rubs to start injecting some Kick Ash flavor!