How Much Charcoal Should You Use?

Jason Webster
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How much charcoal do I need?

There’s an exact science to choosing how much charcoal to use. To make sure you’re using the right amount of charcoal, follow these simple steps.

First, figure out how many kilos of meat you’re cooking. Also, take into account how much “wet” your meat is. For example, a bone-in brisket is going to weigh a lot more when cooked than a steak.

Figuring out how much charcoal you need becomes easy when you’ve got the amount of meat figured out. The general rule of thumb is to calculate 14 to 15 kilograms of charcoal for each kilo of meat.

That gives you a minimum amount of how much charcoal you should add to the fire, as everybody wants a little extra charcoal to up the heat of the grill.

It’s also a good idea to prepare with plenty of charcoal. If something unexpected happens while you’re cooking, like you’re out of charcoal, the meat will be sitting there without heat and may start to spoil.

Always have a good stock of charcoal on hand to avoid such a drastic situation.

How much charcoal to use when grilling

Everyone who has grilled or barbecued knows that charcoal briquettes are perfect for this and that, although every griller has a different opinion on how much charcoal is the right amount this is the only recipe you really need.

The process that charcoal goes through in the manufacturing process goes like this.

The first step is harvesting a sustainable, renewable, and biodegradable source of carbon, whatever that might be.

It can be as simple as burning wood or it can be as complicated as carbonizing soybean husks. Either way a saturated carbon compound is produced.

This carbon compound is then ground and pressed into a solid form.

They are then left lying around in fun, colorful shapes until you buy them.

The number of briquettes you use is only limited by the size of your grill.

It’s best to assume that you’ll need more than you need and to not run out.

To be safe, most of your charcoal should be briquettes, even if you’re using wood.

Briquettes burn at a consistent heat and are the right size to evenly cook on the grill. If you’re using charcoal are coals, be prepared to guesstimate leftovers.

How to setup your charcoal

Grill for a seafood feast!

If you want to grill some of the freshest seafood, you’ll want to make sure you have some great seafood recipes, something to get those juices flowing! How can you grill seafood?

First you’ll need to get your charcoal loaded into the grill. This can be done two ways.

If you are starting your charcoal from scratch, you’re going to want to pile the charcoal in the center of the grill, with the coals on the sides, and leave both side vents completely open.

This allows the fire to get strong, and hot with a ton of oxygen.

If you have some previously grilled charcoal, you can put the unburned coals to the sides and light the center of the bed.

After you’ve gotten the charcoal into your grill, it’s time to settle down and get comfortable for this long process.

Typically, you will want to start with a hot fire, where the temperature is about 300-600° and the flames are 1-2 inches high. If you are using charcoal lighter fluid, you will want to wait until the fire has burned out or turn off the propane tank.

You can then go ahead and restock your charcoal and adjust up or down as needed for your cooking.

How much charcoal to use when smoking

One of the first steps in successful smoking is getting the charcoal to the perfect temperature. Obviously, the temperature depends on the type of meat, time it takes to prepare and the taste you want to achieve.

Here are some guidelines that I used when smoking meats and fish.

Smoking Fish

In general, the longer the smoking time, the more woody the end flavor will be.

I use 1––2 handfuls of hickory charcoal for a perfect result. I usually smoke my fish for 60––75 minutes, depending upon the size and quantity of fish.

If the fish is going to be exposed to smoke for less than an hour, my recommendation is to soak two handfuls of wood chips in a cup of water. Fill the water pan with the water and place hermetically sealed and wood chips soaked in the water pan.

The duration of smoking will determine how much wood chips you’ll need. You can always add more wood chips and soak them in water again.

Smoking Meats

The larger the meat, the longer the smoking time. I usually smoke meats for 1––3 hours depending on the tenderness I want to achieve. The longer the smoke time, the more intense the smoke flavor will be.

Low and Slow

Most grills come with a small measuring cup that lists the amount of charcoal needed for one hour of cooking time. One charcoal chimney is the equivalent of one chimney full of hot coals, 0.25 pounds or 0.11 kilos of charcoal.

So a chimney full of briquettes would be equal to about 1.2 pounds or 0.55 kilos.

A half chimney full would weigh about 0.6 pounds or 0.27 kilos.

What does this mean for me?

This means that if you are grilling one hour for example, you actually only need one half to one-third of a charcoal chimney. This works out to be about 25 briquettes. That is how much charcoal you need for one hour of cooking time. That is a good thing, especially if you need to strike a match before you start cooking, right?

If you want to grill for over an hour, add another half to one-third of a charcoal chimney.

If your grill is just a little longer than the length of one charcoal chimney, fill it half way with charcoal.

If you want to find out how much charcoal you need to order from the store, use a charcoal shovel or a gallon out to get the exact amount of charcoal you need for your grill. Now you know!

Hot and Fast

Cooking or Slow and Low?

What is your favorite way to barbecue? Perhaps low, slow and hot or fast and hot? I’ve used both methods for years. And of course, there are definitely times when I want to cook a piece of brisket or pulled pork quickly and hot.

But with a little patience, you can set up a two-zone fire that will allow you to smoke lox, ribs and brisket along with tomatoes and peaches. About 90% of the time, I’m cooking on the Char-Griller Smokin Pro or the Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker. When it comes time to cook for a crowd, these fires are great for putting on a large amount of food quickly.

Tripod grills and many kamado grills are also two-zone grills. Two-zone grills allow you to sear steaks or chops over the direct heat and then move them to the indirect side to finish cooking.

You can set up a two-zone fire by putting fresh coals in the back and slowly adding coals in the front as you’re cooking. A large kettle grill has more than enough room to create two zones.

Does the type of charcoal affect how much you should use?

That depends on what you want to grill.

The type of charcoal you use will help determine the intensity of your grilling. For example, if you don’t want your grill to get too hot, but an inferno is too much, you may want to opt for lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal comes in chunks whereas briquettes are pressed into a uniform shape. Lump charcoal burns for a long time, but it’s less intense than briquettes.

If you don’t need the heat, then perhaps lump charcoal is for you. This comes as a uniform size, so it works better as a cold supplement to add to hot charcoal rather than a standalone product.

On the other hand, briquettes are great for consistent heat. When you need to get the grill hotter to get the desired char, briquettes are the way to go.

You probably noticed that charcoal comes in various brands. All the brands use their own grading system, but the main difference between charcoal products is the amount of wood and additives in the product, which will determine the intensity and flavor of the final product.

The best way to light your charcoal

You may ask: how much charcoal should you use to your own charcoal grill?

Well, if you are interested in burning wood charcoal to enjoy its smoky flavor, then there are a few things you have to consider before you light up.

Wood isn’t like charcoal gas, which is made from petroleum by-products. Wood charcoal is lighter and breaks apart easier when it burns.

Charcoal burns best in a clean, preheated grill so we have to ensure that the pockets of unburned charcoal are burned away before you start serving food.

Start by covering the bottom of the meat with a clean layer of charcoal and light it. Close the lid to allow the grill’s heat to concentrate and to make sure that the layer of loose charcoal inside the grill “lights” better.

You can be a little more flexible when you start cooking your first food.

As an alternative, you can add a few briquettes at a time, sprinkling as before, so that the barbecue grill slowly fills. This way, you can add fuel to the barbecue grill when you need to.

When you’re dealing with barbecue briquettes, you can always run out of fuel.

Wrapping it all up

There you have it: the simple science behind why charcoal is full of awesome benefits. Now you know why charcoal is so effective. With a little hocus pocus to make it even more awesome, you can harness the cleansing and purification powers of charcoal and use it to make your home more healthy, your skin clearer, and your body and mind lighter!

In the next chapter, I’ll help you understand the importance of doing those important things that your body needs, the everyday essentials such as getting enough sleep, eating well, flushing the system, and keeping the weight down. After all, it’s only when you feel good that you can give your best. This chapter is all about YOU.

Smoked Paprika Guide

How to Smoke Paprika?

When making any type of smoked paprika, there is one simple rule to follow: use the right amount of charcoal.

Be it an old t-shirt, a metal pipe or an electric chimney, you just need to find what works for you.

I haven't tried many of these, but here's a few. Use a small metal pipe, such as the one used for smoking tobacco.

You don't want to burn up the banana leaves. So, you will have to put a different temperature. The last step for the best smoked paprika recipe is to smoke overnight.