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Video:Outdoor Charcoal Grilling Tips

with Jonathon Stewart

Cooking outdoors over an open flame is a great way to infuse meats and vegetables with loads of delicious flavor. Take this step-by-step tour to see just how easy and fun grilling can be.See Transcript

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Transcript:Outdoor Charcoal Grilling Tips

Hi, I'm Jonathon Stewart for About.com Food, and today it's all about outdoor charcoal grilling.

From the days when our distant ancestors sat perched over open flames with whittled twig-skewers, outdoor grilling remains one of the most tasty and fun ways to cook today.

Benefits of Charcoal Grilling

While there are many great ways to cook food outdoors, today we're going to focus on the charcoal "kettle" grill.

As grills go, they're the least expensive, and since your food will be cooking over the smoke of burning coals, the flavors they retain will tend to be richer and more robust than food cooked with other grills.

Tools Needed to Grill

To get us started, we'll need a few essential tools:
  • a pair of heat-resistant gloves
  • a stainless steel spatula
  • tongs
  • fork
  • a sturdy grill brush for cleaning up when you're done
  • a couple sheets of newspaper
  • matches
  • a long-stemmed lighter
  • charcoal

Select the Charcoal

There's a raging debate among grilling aficionados as to what type of coals to use, and how to light them. Here's my advice: Keep it simple, and keep it green. Use 100 percent all-natural lump charcoal, and one last tool, the charcoal chimney.

While self-starting briquettes and lighter fluid are a tempting option due to their ease of use, by going the all-natural route, you can not only call yourself an eco-friendly griller and know that your food is guaranteed not to be tainted with potentially hazardous chemicals, you can also drastically increase your odds of not catching your eyebrows on fire.

Make Two Newspaper Rings

Start by making a donut-shaped newspaper ring by unfolding a sheet of newspaper, then rolling it from corner to corner and bringing the two ends together.

Repeat with a second sheet, and place the two rings in the bottom of the chimney.

Generally, two sheets of newspaper should do, but if you're having trouble, try coating the newspaper with a thin layer of spray-on vegetable oil first.

Light the Charcoals in the Charcoal Chimney

Fill the chimney with charcoal, and light the newspaper in a few places with a match or long-stemmed lighter.

After the newspaper has burned completely, carefully check to see if the charcoal has started by feeling for heat from the coals.

Once the coals catch, give them about 20 to 25 minutes to light completely, depending on how much charcoal you use.

Spread the Hot Coals in the Grill

By now, the coals should have an ashy surface, which means they're ready to go. Making sure both the top and bottom grill vents are open, spread them evenly over the center of the bottom grate, replace the top grate, and you're all set.

Cut Food Into Small Cubes

Finally, it's time to cook! Charcoal grills are great for meat, chicken, or fish, and you can even grill vegetables to perfection either in aluminum foil, or directly above the flame.

For a delicious medley of flavors, try cutting your food into small cubes and cooking them on a wooden skewer.

Think of your charcoal grill as a sort of upside down broiler. Since you're dealing with a relatively high heat, you'll want your food to be no thicker than an inch and a half, so you don't end up with a singed outside and raw inside.

Use the Grill's Lid and Vents

Using the lid can also help to grill thicker cuts of beef or chicken more evenly, and partially closing the vents will lower the grill temperature and slow cooking time even further.

Flip steaks and chicken with your tongs and fork, and use your spatula for the more delicate fish.

One chimney of coals should give you about 45 minutes to an hour of cooking time.

Clean and Store the Charcoal Grill

When you're finished, give your warm grate a good scrubbing with the brush, and close the lid and both vents, being sure to never touch either with your bare hands.

Once your grill has completely cooled, you'll want to remove the ash and keep the grill in a dry, protected place. But that's all for later. Now, it's time to eat!

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