How To Cook On A Small Charcoal Grill

Small charcoal grills are convenient and portable. They are well suited for small families and cooking on the go. While they are perfectly suited for grilling over direct heat, cooking over indirect heat can be a challenge. Follow these tips to get the most out of your small charcoal grill.



Choose A Safe Location For Your Grill

Choose A Safe Location For Your Grill

Before beginning, make sure your grill is located in a safe place, away from overhanging plants or buildings. It should sit solidly on a flat, level surface with no wobble.


Starting The Charcoal

Open the vent on the bottom of the grill and remove the lid and grilling rack. Build a pyramid out of charcoal in the center of the grill. Use approximately 30 briquettes for each pound of meat you intend to cook. Allow extra charcoal if the weather is wet, windy, or cold.

Sprinkle each briquette with lighter fluid, using about 2 ounces for the entire stack. Carefully light the charcoal and allow them to burn for 20 to 25 minutes or until the charcoals are covered with white ash.


Grilling Over Direct Heat

Grilling Over Direct Heat

Spread the hot charcoal out evenly over the bottom of the grill, using long-handled tongs. Lightly oil the grill rack with a brush or paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and place it on the grill. Give the grill surface a few minutes to heat up before putting food on the grill.


Grilling Over Indirect Heat

Grilling over indirect heat is more of a challenge on a small grill since the coals are always close to the meat. Indirect heat is needed for larger pieces of meat that require longer cooking times or for meat that needs lower heat. Use indirect heat for brisket, roasts, whole or halved chickens, turkey, duck, and fish.

Distribute the charcoals around the outside of the grill, leaving the center empty. You can put a drip pan in the center, if desired, to catch the fat or sauce dripping off the meat. You can add a quarter inch layer of water to the bottom of the drip pan.

For indirect heat, keep the meat in the center of the grill, away from the coals. Keep the lid closed except to check on the food or baste it.

For foods needing long cooking times, you may need to add more charcoal after each hour of cooking time. Put 16 to 18 additional briquettes on top of the hot coals. Do not use lighter fluid, the coals will heat up after about 20 minutes on the hot coals. Be sure to add them early so they have time to heat before the old coals die out.


Controlling The Temperature

Controlling The Temperature

You will use the vents to control the temperature of the grill. Open the Vents to increase the heat, close them partially for lower heat. Do not close them completely until you are ready to put out the fire.

You can also control the heat by placing the food closer or farther from the coals. In most cases it is best to place the food and leave it alone until the bottom is done, then turn it only once. Turning food too often can tear it apart and may prevent that nice crispy crust from forming.

If you need more charcoal, add dry briquettes directly on top of the hot coals. They will need about 20 minutes to get hot. Never add lighter fluid or briquettes soaked in lighter fluid to a hot grill. The flames could flare up and burn you.


Controlling Flare-Ups

Most flare-ups are easily prevented by trimming excess fat from the meat and controlling the temperature. Small flare-ups that die quickly rarely need attention. But large flames can char your food and leave behind unpleasant flavors.

Keep a clean spray bottle of water available for spraying any large or sustained flare-ups. Do not reuse spray bottles that have previously held chemicals or cleaning products.


Cleaning The Grill

Cleaning The Grill

For easy cleaning, allow the grill to completely cool before cleaning. If you must empty the grill while the coals are hot, take special care. Remove each coal with a pair of long-handled tongs. Bury the hot coals in sand or water. Do not allow them to stand on the ground surface where someone might come into contact with them.

Scrub the grill grate with a wire brush to remove any charred remains. Sweep out the bottom of the grill with a wide broom or a stiff brush.


Small grills may take more practice learn to use them properly. They hold only a limited amount of food and charcoal, but for a small family or for use while traveling, they are ideal. Follow these tips and you will quickly become a grilling pro on your small grill.

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