Briquette basics

May 18, 2009

charcoalchickenGrilling is unquestionably one of the most popular ways to quickly cook a great-tasting summer weeknight dinner. Although most of us love (and need!) easy dinners from Monday to Friday,  many people (including me!) are rediscovering the joys of cooking food slowly over a smoldering charcoal fire, on weekends and especially long weekends like the one I hope you are enjoying right this second!

What’s the attraction?  For me, it’s like aromatherapy; in the time it takes the briquettes to turn from black to ashen, I’ve taken time to inhale the wonderful smoky smells in the air and wind down.

If you’re thinking about giving charcoal grilling a whirl, you might want to read this primer on briquettes.  You don’t have to douse the barbecue with starter fluid or be frustrated by the fire cooling down when your chicken is half-cooked if you follow these guidelines:

•    It takes 30 briquettes to heat enough area to cook one pound of meat.
•    A five-pound bag of briquettes contains 75 to 90 briquettes.
•    To shorten the time it takes to ignite and burn down the charcoal, stack the briquettes in the base of the barbecue in a pyramid shape before lighting. Or, use a ‘chimney’ to start the fire. It’s easy, safe and my personal preference.
•    Start cooking when 70 per cent of the surface of the briquettes is ash-covered.
•    Charcoal briquettes typically maintain temperature for about an hour. To extend the cooking time, add five to six briquettes to the perimeter of the coals every 45 minutes. Most charcoal grill grates have hinged sides to allow the charcoal to be refreshed safely.

What do you prefer? Charcoal or gas grilling? If you grill using briquettes, are you a recent convert or a pro who can offer all of us some tips?



PS:  I’ll be featuring grilling tips and tricks tomorrow on CHEX TV in Oshawa and on Daytime Durham so tune in to hear more about outdoor cooking if you are in the area.