Last Updated on October 12, 2021
Ever since the first briquette was invented back in 1897, charcoal grills have always been the appliance of choice for backyard and outdoor grilling. While many outdoor chefs are now turning to gas and electric alternatives, the traditional charcoal grill still tops the list as the go-to option.
If you were to give a seasoned griller a thousand bucks to dump their handy grill for a more modern option, we are dead sure they won’t budge. In any case, nothing can replace the rustic charm these traditional grills have to offer.
Besides, charcoal grills tend to sear better than modern options and they give so much smoky flavor not available anywhere else. Above all, using a charcoal grill is fun and exciting. The whole process of setting up the grill, loading coal and firing up is more than exhilarating.
Amid all the praise, one question tends to pop up every time – are charcoal grills safe? Well, let’s find out.
1. Setting Up Your Charcoal Grill
Using a charcoal grill might seem like a piece of cake, but the truth is that it’s more complicated than you think. To learn how to use these grills, you have to understand how they work. So let’s break it down for you.
A typical charcoal grill consists of three main parts. These include:
- The cooking grate/surface
- Charcoal urn
- Metal tripod stand
Some more advanced grills come equipped with a lid, warming area and a tiered cooking surface.
The cooking surface is where you place your food while grilling and the urn is the container where you load your charcoal. The metal tripod stand provides support and keeps the grill in place as you sear your steak, pork chops or lamb.
Before you can start using your grill, you have to choose the best type of charcoal depending on what you intend to cook. In this case, you have two options between charcoal lumps and briquettes.
Charcoal lumps are made from whole pieces of wood. They light very quickly and burn hotter, making them the perfect choice for grilling chops and steaks. Conversely, briquettes come from compressed wood. Even though they take long to fire up, they burn longer, making them ideal for slow cooking.
To set up your grill, position it outside on a flat surface away from any structures or hanging trees.
Next, remove any old charcoal or ash from the grill and clean away any grease left behind from the previous cooking. Old charcoal may make it hard to light your grill and even absorb odors that will transfer to your food while ash will block the air vents, thus reducing the strength of your fire.
If you have a chimney starter, position it on top of the grill grate and add fresh charcoal. Rolls a few pieces of paper, place them underneath the chimney starter, and then light them up carefully using a stick lighter.
Allow the charcoal to burn for about 20 minutes until it stops smoking heavily. Wearing safety, heat-resistant gloves, remove the cooking grate and transfer the burning coal from the chimney to the grill. Spread the hot charcoal and replace the cooking grate accordingly.
Open the lid vents and cover the grill for about 15 minutes. Your charcoal grill is now ready for grilling!
2. The Dangers of Charcoal Grilling
Grilling with charcoal is generally safe, and it is the preferred method of cooking worldwide. After all, charcoal grills like Weber, Pk Grills, Camp Chef, and Masterbuilt have been the standard cooking appliances for grilling since time immemorial. Because of the long history of grills, many types have been produced like the portable charcoal grill that’s ideal for car trips, or if grillers want flexibility, they can use a combo grill to sear their steak with either charcoal or gas fuel.
However, new research suggests that grilling with charcoal is potentially harmful to your health as well as the environment. Here are possible risks of using a charcoal grill.
3. Safety Precautions When Grilling with Charcoal – The Dos and Don’ts
From the sounds of the searing chops to the inviting smoky flavor of the charred steaks, no doubt, grilling with charcoal offers a more authentic barbecue experience. However, as you enjoy the BBQ season, it is important to follow safety guides and avoid mistakes when cooking with a charcoal grill.
In any case, charcoal grills are only as safe as you want them to be. If used improperly, your favorite grill could turn into a safety hazard. Here are the dos and don’ts of grilling with regular charcoal, briquettes, and charcoal lumps.
4. The Pros and Cons of Charcoal Grills
Charcoal grills have their fair share of upsides and downsides, but the biggest advantage of these traditional grills is that they are the least expensive. You won’t have to pay through your nose to buy a charcoal grill. In fact, you can find a good quality charcoal grill going for less than 30 bucks. The cost notwithstanding, here are the pros and cons of charcoal grills.
Charcoal grills can be messy, and they require a lot of work to use them to great effect. In the same breath, they are hotter and cook better than other modern options. If you remember the inviting aroma coming from the charring meats and burgers, it is hard to imagine if we can really do without charcoal grills.
However, cooking with charcoal is akin to playing with fire. And if you play with fire, you must be ready to get burned. This means that if you use your charcoal grill inappropriately, it could cause great harm to you, your household and the environment around you.
Fortunately, by adhering to the above-mentioned safety guidelines, you can use a charcoal grill safely without much hassle. This would also apply for homemade charcoal grill. It is now up to you to commit yourself to do the right thing by practicing safety. Happy grilling!