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mtigges

Charcoal Grilling Question

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I just bought a new weber grill. I have no experience cooking with charcoal. I'm planning on indirect grilling a chicken today. My question is, the book that I'm trying to learn from, by Raichlen, says that after an hour I'll need to add more "fresh coals". It's not clear to me if this means toss some more charcoal into each basket or start up a new batch in the chimney starter, and then pour those into the baskets.

Advice please? Dropping unlit charcoal into the baskets is easier, but will likely cause some acrid smoke and drop the temperature. Lighting new coals means having to remove the grill grate to pour them in to the baskets. Kind of a pain!

Thanks in advance.

Mark.

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I just bought a new weber grill.  I have no experience cooking with charcoal.  I'm planning on indirect grilling a chicken today.  My question is, the book that I'm trying to learn from, by Raichlen, says that after an hour I'll need to add more "fresh coals".  It's not clear to me if this means toss some more charcoal into each basket or start up a new batch in the chimney starter, and then pour those into the baskets.

Advice please?  Dropping unlit charcoal into the baskets is easier, but will likely cause some acrid smoke and drop the temperature.  Lighting new coals means having to remove the grill grate to pour them in to the baskets.  Kind of a pain!

Thanks in advance.

Mark.

I've cooked a turkey breast this way for Thanksgiving, which went over well even with this crowd.

Light them before adding the coals. The grate on my Weber had a little flip area on the side I could open to add more coals. Otherwise, there's not really a very good way to lift the grate. My trick with the grill is a pair of leather gardening gloves. Welder's gloves would be good too. You could juggle lit charcoal with them, if you wanted to. Makes opening that grate up a lot less painful.

Also, drop a meat thermometer through the smoke outlet on the top of the grill. It'll give you a rough idea of the air temperature inside so you can roast at a constant 300 (or whatever).

-- Mike

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I'm a potter ... I have gloves that allow me to handle 900 C pots. I can pick up the grate ;) And I bought the fancy grill with the table and integrated charcoal storage bin, it came wit the thermometer.

So, one more question, do you pour the charcoal into the baskets without removing the cooking grill? I'm not sure I'd be able to get them through, kind of small little openings in the flip up sides. Plus I'd be kind of worried about ash flying onto the bird.

Thanks, Mark.

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I intepret his meaning of fresh coals as "unlit".

You should be able to add prelit coals into the flip up grate openings, just use some care. If your using prelit coals started in the chimney, start them about 20 minutes before you anticipate needing them.

Glad you got a grill, you'll like it I'm sure. Some of us use Hardwood Lump Charcoal to do grilling, they produce much less ash than the Kingsford types of compressed charcoals.

woodburner

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My old Weber pre-dates the flip-up openings - there's just a small opening beneath each handle on the grate. I've always just dropped handfuls of unlit (lump) charcoal in at intervals, and have had great success with indirect cooking of small turkeys, large roasts etc. for many hours.

It takes some experience to figure the intervals at which to add the coals, though - for my grill/charcoal, about 40 minutes was right.

good luck!

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I'm in woodburner's camp -- I would add unlit charcoal. Adding coals that are already smoldering will cause a temperature spike. Conversely, I wouldn't worry about a drop in temperature. It's not like you're adding a pound of frozen peas to the fire. Just opening the lid will cause more of a dip than the slight bit of energy expended to ignite the new fuel, and it will all stay inside the dome, anyway. As for acrid smoke, I don't believe that's a concern unless you're using one of the quick-light briquette brands (and I think we're all hoping you're not).


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I purchased some of the namibian charcoal, but compressed into briquettes. Lot's of ash. I got some lump charcoal this after noon from whole foods. Much cheaper price - I'm pretty sure it's lump. So, maybe I'll start with the briquettes, and then add a couple hunks of the lump every now and then.

Thanks for all the advice.

We had some really nice New Yorks last night, tossed some sweet potatoes right into the coals, and made a pouch for some green beens, mushrooms and onion. All very delicious. It didn't take long to hook me.

Mark.

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I've never added lit coals when adding to a grilling or smoking project that's in progress -- always unlit.

And, I've found tongs to be most useful for raising those little hinged things on either side of the grate, and with tongs, you can sort of poke the unlit charcoal into the place where you want them!

mtigges, you didn't mention whether you got the grate with the hinged areas on either side. If you didn't, you might want to run out and get one!

And, congrats on the Kettle purchase. We've had ours for over 25 years, and it's going strong. We've replaced the bottom vent thing, but not until it hit 25 years. Given some practice (and some advice from me!), you can even successfully smoke stuff at a kettle temp as low as about 180.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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at the risk of confusing the issue further i would say that you should add only charcoal that has been lit and has begun to turn grey when there is food already cooking. Putting unlit briquettes could give off an unpleasant taste to the food. As charcoal comes up to heat there is a lot of incomplete combustion which releases carbon monoxide and other gasses and odors depending on what the charcoal was treated with. this is less of a problem with lump charcoal but much more of a problem with briquettes. This is also why you should always wait till the coals are well lit before starting to cook at the start of grilling.

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At the risk of confusing the issue even further :biggrin:, I bring you the Minion Method:

http://virtualweberbullet.com/fireup2.html

If there's a controversial aspect of The Minion Method, it's that it contradicts the conventional wisdom that says all charcoal briquettes must be fully lit and covered with gray ash before cooking begins. Everyone knows how bad charcoal briquettes smell while lighting, so some people assume that this smell permeates the meat during cooking, since fuel is lighting continuously over many hours. Interestingly, The Minion Method does not seem to affect the appearance, aroma, or taste of food, and it is used with great success by many winning teams on the barbecue competition circuit.

There are some individuals with sensitive palates who claim they taste an off-flavor in food cooked using The Minion Method. If you find yourself in this group, or if you have health concerns about cooking food over charcoal that is not fully lit, use the Standard Method instead, replenishing the cooker with pre-lit coals every 4-6 hours.

I only use The Minion Method when cooking at 225-250°F for more than 6 hours, but some people use it for shorter cooking sessions, too. When finished, close all vents to extinguish the fire. When the charcoal is cold, sift out the ashes and save the remaining unburned fuel for next time.

It's safe to say that I've spent far too much time over at alt.food.barbecue!

And to the OP, if you ever catch Raichlen's show on PBS you'll see that his "fresh coals" are pre-lit in a chimney sitting around on one of the many grills on his set...


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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The Minion method rocks with the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Lasts longer and is ready faster, uses a lot less charcoal.

When I charcoal grill chicken (usually pieces or halves), I like to not use the charcoal baskets. I build the fire at one side of the grill and indirect roast the chicken on the other side. As time passes and the fire cools somewhat, I gradually move the chicken closer to the fire. I end up finishing the chicken and browning the skin (with a little sauce) right over the now greatly reduced in heat fire. I find this helps me get a nicely browned finished product. I have also found that I prefer not to add smoke chips when doing chicken, or if I do, just a little bit. Too much smoke overpowers chicken and makes the skin rubbery.

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