Congratulations! You have taken the leap, and are now the new owner of a charcoal grill. It’s true that grilling on charcoal can have a bit of a learning curve, but this guide will help ensure you have everything you need for success. From essential gear to fun add-ons, plus plenty of recipes perfect for beginners, we've got you covered.
I Just Got a Charcoal Grill. Now What?
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All the Essential Gear
In addition to the grill itself, you’ll need a few key pieces of equipment for any grilling session:
- A grill cover. If your grill lives outside, you’ll need to protect it from the elements–rain and snow are bad for your grill, making it vulnerable to rust and corrosion. Look for covers that are made from thick, waterproof material and have ties to keep them securely fastened so they don’t blow off in a gust of wind.
- A chimney starter. A chimney starter is the easiest way to make sure that all your charcoal gets lit. Here’s a guide for how to use it. (Never use lighter fluid–it’s bad for the environment and for you, and imparts odd, chemical-y flavors to your food.) Our favorite is the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter.
- Newspaper or a charcoal starter. Stick one of these under your chimney and light it to get the charcoal burning. Our favorite is the Weber Lighter Cubes—they make lighting charcoal without newspaper so much easier.
- Charcoal. We develop all our recipes with Kingsford Original Briquettes, as they are inexpensive, widely available, and can be used in a number of configurations for different heat levels. But you can use any type of briquette or lump charcoal in your charcoal grill, provided you keep an eye on the temperature they produce–you may have to use more or less charcoal than indicated in our recipes if you do.
- A grill brush. Use this before and after each cook to clean the grates. Our favorite is the Weber 12" Three-Sided Grill Brush.
- Paper towels and oil. Use a folded paper towel or two, dipped in canola or vegetable oil, to oil your grates once they’re hot–this is a really essential step that prevents your food from sticking.
- Grill tongs. You’ll need these to oil your grates and to add, remove, and flip food on the grill–they’re extra long to keep your hands away from the heat. Our favorite is the OXO Good Grips Grilling Tongs (and they're way better than anything you'd get in a set).
- Grill gloves. These will protect your hands as you dump out hot charcoal from the chimney, or as you move food on and off the grill. We love the ones from Steven Raichlen.
- A galvanized steel trash can. Once you’re done cooking, you’ll want to dispose of the ash that remains from your charcoal. A steel trash can is ideal for the job. It can hold ash from many grill sessions, so you don’t have to empty it into a bag every time you cook. It’s also great for safely holding hot charcoal, which you may want to do if you’re in a hurry to put your grill away instead of letting your charcoal burn down after you’re done cooking. Just add the hot charcoal and seal the lid tightly so that no more oxygen can get in—this will make the charcoal stop burning. If you do this, be sure to store the trash can in a flat, open space–a patio or driveway is ideal–where the heat from the charcoal will not burn anything nearby.
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Optional Tools and Add-Ons
Depending on what you’re cooking, you may also want to have a grill spatula, barbecue basting brush, metal skewers, or a spray bottle full of water to extinguish flare-ups.
For safety, consider having a fire extinguisher nearby. And if you need to keep track of your food temperature, use an instant-read thermometer (for quick readings) or either a clip-on probe thermometer or remote probe thermometer for monitoring longer-cooking foods.
Wanna get fancy? A bunch of fun tools extend the capabilities of your grill:
- Rotisseries let you spit-roast chicken, lamb, and pretty much anything in between. They’re motorized so you don’t have to do any of the turning yourself.
- Pizza grilling kits make it especially easy to make great pizza on your kettle grill, taking advantage of charcoal’s higher heat.
- Planchas turn your grill into a flattop grill, letting you sear smaller foods easily, or even flip pancakes or make grilled cheese.
Grilling Recipes to Start with
When in doubt, start simply. Try some of our most basic and beloved grilling recipes. Here are three to get you started.
From left: Husk-Grilled Corn, Grilled Chipotle Shrimp, and Grilled Stone Fruit
- Husk-Grilled Corn: You don't even have to peel the corn for this recipe—leaving it in its husk traps just enough moisture to lightly steam it and protect the kernels from toughening over the high heat of the grill.
- Grilled Chipotle Shrimp: No rubbery, overcooked shrimp here. Using jumbo shrimp threaded tightly onto skewers ensures the shrimp stays tender and flavorful.
- Grilled Stone Fruit: You already have your grill out for dinner, why not make dessert too? Peaches, nectarines, or plums all work well here. Brushed with butter and a little char, they're perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.