9 Useful Charcoal Grilling Tips for Beginners

Most men and many women claim to be master grillers. They’re constantly boasting about how good those burgers or brats turned out last weekend. But, when you put them up against the wall and ask them their secrets, they’ll likely tell you it’s something like instinct and it simply cannot be taught. 

That’s just not true!

Just because your dad, brother, or neighbor grills a lot, doesn’t mean they’re an expert when it comes to charcoal grilling tips. That’s why we’ve compiled this great guide with all the best charcoal grilling tips and techniques to get you pointed in the right direction so you can craft your own delicious meals. Keep reading to learn more!

Charcoal Grilling Tips From the Pros

Charcoal grilling is very different from cooking with gas/propane. 

We’ve asked some of the most experienced grilling pros for their top secrets when it comes to cooking with charcoal. Here’s what they had to say. 

Preparing Your Gear

Whether you’re a beginner on the grill or an experienced back porch commandant, you’re going to need the proper gear.

Make sure you have the basics like a grilling apron (or towel at very least), a long handle spatula, tongs, and a grill brush.

Preparing Your Foods

Different foods require different prep to ensure they come out just right off the flame. Depending on whether you want crispy edges or tender centers will also depend on how you prepare the foods before you place them on the grill grate.


For the perfect grilled burgers, create a thick patty. The number one trick to get them juicy and cooked to perfection is to simply indent the center of the raw patty with your thumb or a spoon. This will make the meat rise in the middle as it cooks which creates a nice thick burger that is sure to satisfy.


For a savory steak, regardless of cut, douse it with some butter and your favorite seasonings after it has soaked for at least 6-12 hours in a tenderizing marinade. Cook over an open flame to start and then let it simmer under the lid for the last few minutes. Mmmm. Pure goodness. 


For easy kebobs, use two skewers to prevent the food from shifting when you flip them on the grill grate. 

Bonus Pro Tip: soak your wooden or bamboo skewers for a half an hour before you place them on the grill to prevent them from burning and/or catching fire.


The easiest way to cook fruit and vegetables on the grill is to use a grilling basket. We’ll get into that more in a minute.

Cooking With Charcoal

Learning how to cook on a charcoal grill can be a bit tricky on your first attempt. You don’t want to use too much or not enough lighter fluid. Your food either won’t cook or it will taste like propane. Here are a few more pro tips to enhance your experience.

Lighter Fluid

To light coals without lighter fluid, simply douse the charcoal in a Z-shape pattern no more than 3 times across all the charcoal. Use a long-stem lighter to start a flame in the center and corners and wait a few minutes for everything to catch fire. Let the lighter fluid burn off before placing food on the grill grate.

Chimney Starter

One of the easiest ways to get a flame started is to use a chimney starter. Place it in the middle of your charcoal, light, and watch the magic happen.

Using Wood for Flavor

One of the best things about using a charcoal grill vs. a propane or gas grill is the option to enhance your foods’ flavor with wood. Fruitwoods like cherry and apple, or hickory, and mesquite are the most popular for outstanding flavor. 

Preparing Your Cooking Grate

Before you can start your flame, you should have cleaned your grilling grate. This is where your tools come in handy. You can use your spatula to scrape the grate, but a wire grate brush is even better. 

Next, wipe it down with a small towel soaked in butter or oil. This will not only keep your foods from sticking but also make it easier to clean later.

Using a Grilling Basket

Remember your fruits and vegetables? They’ll cook much more evenly and easier with a grilling basket. Grease it up with a little butter or cooking oil to keep the foods from sticking so you can shimmy and shake it to tender, juicy, goodness.


Perhaps the trickiest part of grilling with charcoal is getting the venting right. You can’t control temperature on a charcoal grill like you can with gas so proper venting is essential for thoroughly cooked foods. 

Keep in mind that opening the vents creates a hotter grill as it allows more oxygen to flow through the charcoal and flame. Closing the vents, just slightly, will help reduce oxygen and keep things cooler.

Charcoal Grilling

Another great aspect of charcoal grilling is the ability to create two-zone fires for direct vs. indirect heat. Of course, the entire grill will be hot, but you can easily move foods from one side to the other as they become more or less cooked to get the perfect effect.

Taming Flare-Ups Safely

Flare-ups are inevitable with a charcoal grill, but you can tame the flare-ups with that two-zone fire. Also, keep a spray bottle on the mist setting nearby to spritz the flames when grease drips.

Timing is Everything 

Remember, food continues to cook for at least a few minutes once it is removed from the grill so it’s important to time your meals. Invest in a meat thermometer and know the difference between done and well done so you can gauge your timing appropriately.

Grill Like a Pro With Charcoal! 

Don’t forget to let the food rest for at least 15 minutes once it comes off the grill before serving for the perfect, delectable dish that everyone will love.

Keep these charcoal grilling tips in mind next time you step up to the grill and you’ll be grilling like one of us in no time!

We hope you found this post helpful and informative. We invite you to stop back by when you’re looking for the best tips about everything food-related! We’re passionate about food and we want you to be, too!

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