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Charcoal BBQ’s 101

Hello everyone DanO here again!
Summer is getting closer lads, and with that comes BBQ season. YeeHaa! Long days and warm nights of yarns and beers by the BBQ.
Now, there will be many of you who will be making the brave transition from a gas grill, to a charcoal BBQ, be it a Weber, kmado grill or an offset smoker.
The first time you use it can be a little daunting and result in many questions being asked for instance – How do I control the Temperature? How much fuel do I need? and various other questions.
So here’s hoping this list will help you out a little bit.
1) With any Charcoal bbq you obviously have a light the coals to get the heat you need. I recommend using a Chimney starter which you fill up with charcoal with some lighter blocks underneath it as seen in the picture. This will reduce the amount of time it takes to light the charcoals. Keep in mind though that you still need to wait for the BBQ to get to temp, once you tip the lit coals into the bbq. It also will enable you to top up your coals if you start losing heat or they burn out.
2) Which brings me to the next point. Make sure you give your grill time to heat up properly. My rule of thumb is, I give it until the temp gauge reads 200 degrees C and then leave it for another 20mins. By this time, it should be hot enough and you should hear that ear pleasing sizzle when the meat hits the grill.
3) If you can, try stick to a particular brand of charcoals, this will make your cooking a bit easier as you will get to know how hot the coal burns and how long it takes to burn down as well. This will be helpful when you get into those longer cooks that can lat for 12 – 18 hours sometimes.
4) BE SAFE – I tend to avoid lighter fuel when lighting my charcoals. I don’t like the taste and it can be very dangerous if used improperly. I little blocks of compressed wood chips that light easy and do not effect the flavour of whatever it is I have on top of the grill.
5) Keep a notebook – If you are into making your own dry rubs and sauces etc, you’ll eventually come across something you really like, and you’ll wish you have made a record of it. So, keep a recipe note book, that way you can read back and re-create that magic bbq sauce or that award winning dry
6) Get creative – Your BBQ can be used to grill meat and veggies sure, but it is also an oven and can be used the same way. Home made pizzas on a pizza stone on the grill are a big family favourite of mine. I have baked bread in the BBQ, sourdough and corn bread comes out with a nice hint of smokiness. Get creative, anything you can cook in your oven  you can cook inside your BBQ as long as it has a lid.
7) Your air flow controls will generally sit at the bottom of your BBQ and on the top. You adjust theses to control your heat. I tend to leave my bottom vent at a set place and use the top vent to control how hot I want. Fully open, is lots of heat, closed off is not much heat. To kill the fire, you close off all the air vents and leave the lid down, eventually the charcoal will choke itself out.
8) How much charcoal do I need? – this will depend on what you are cooking and for how long. Sausages a few steaks, the sort typical Kiwi family BBQ you may only need a few hand fills. I tend to tip a quarter to a third of the bag in whenever I cook as the great thing about charcoal is that you can reuse it the next time you want to use your BBQ.

Have fun with your BBQ and it will bring you plenty of joy and full stomachs. Learn how it operates. Learn how hot it gets when your bottom vent is slightly open and your top vent is open all the way. Its the getting to know how it works that allows you the freedom to light it, put your meat on, set your vents and walk away for a few hours knowing the temperature isn’t going to fluctuate too much and you’ll still have a delicious result at the end.

Once again, thanks for reading and if you have any questions, queries, hints or tips, be sure to leave them in the comment section and I will respond when I can.
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