How Much Charcoal Should You Use?

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It is critical to understand how much charcoal to use when lighting your grill or smoker.

If you use too much charcoal, you will squander important fuel. If you use too little, your grill may struggle to become hot enough or you will not be able to keep the temperature stable until you are through cooking.

How much charcoal do I need?

How Much Charcoal Should You Use?

How much charcoal you need for grilling, like most things, depends on what you’re cooking and the sort of grill you have.

We can’t provide you any hard and fast figures since they may not work for your specific setup, but we can propose some techniques for you to lock in the right ratios for yourself.

The first thing we recommend is purchasing a charcoal chimney. A charcoal chimney is not only the finest technique to fire your charcoal (more on that later), but it also serves as a type of measurement instrument for how much charcoal you should be using.

Think of it as your charcoal measuring cup.

How much charcoal to use when grilling

How Much Charcoal Should You Use?

Consider what you’re cooking and use your charcoal chimney to determine how much charcoal you’ll need in your hot zone.

Kingsford, one of our favorite charcoal briquette companies, suggests the following:

  • Fill about a quarter of the chimney with charcoal for delicate meats like white fish.
  • For medium heat, use half to three-quarters of a chimney for burgers and sausages.
  • If you want to sear meat or cook anything hot and quick on your grill, use three quarters or a full chimney.

Obviously, these are broad generalizations, and you’ll need to experiment to discover the ideal ratios for your specific grill.

If you remember to always turn off your charcoal grill when you’re done, you’ll be able to utilize any remaining charcoal.

How to setup your charcoal

When it comes to grilling, we love the two-zone cooking layout.

The 2-zone approach allows you greater control over your cooking environment, enabling you to cook with direct and indirect heat and finer temperature control. It also consumes less gasoline than conventional installations.

Creating a 2-zone cooking setup is easy.

All you have to do is pile your charcoal on one side of your grill. This provides a heated zone where you may cook with direct heat. The cool zone on the opposite side of your grill cooks with indirect heat.

The 2-zone cooking technique is ideal for circumstances when a nice sear on a piece of meat is required but a continual high heat is not acceptable for the whole cooking time.

A thick tomahawk steak, for example, requires a nice sear on the outside but, due to its thickness, cooking it at extremely high heat may either burn the outside or leave the middle undercooked.

When using the 2-zone approach, you may conduct the bulk of the cooking over indirect heat, getting it just short of medium-rare before searing it to a finish on the hot side, a technique known as the reverse sear.

How much charcoal to use when smoking

Smoking is a whole different beast than grilling and needs a distinct set-up as well as various quantities of charcoal.

There are two main types of smoking:

  • low and gradual Most barbecue recipes call for temperatures between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • hot and quick Anything over 325 degrees Fahrenheit, often used while cooking chicken.

Low and Slow

The quantity of charcoal to use is determined on the kind of smoker and how it is set up.

The minion technique is one of the finest ways to set up a charcoal smoker.

This is suitable for low and slow cooking times ranging from 6 to 18 hours.

Fill the charcoal ring with unlit briquettes, then ignite a small number of briquettes (about 20) and pour them over the top.

This approach is fantastic since the temperature will gradually increase (while you prepare everything else), and you can adjust the temperature using the air vents.

Once your temperature has normalized, you may run for the rest of the day (or night) without stopping.

If you have a traditional Kettle grill, the charcoal snake approach is an excellent alternate arrangement.

Place a double semicircle of charcoal briquettes around the interior of your smoker, forming a line two briquettes deep and two wide.

Then, on top of the charcoal, you add your wood pieces and fire one end of the snake using briquets started in the chimney starter. The charcoal will burn down the line, maintaining a low and consistent temperature that is suitable for smoking.

Hot and Fast

Hot and quick smoking cooks the meal at temperatures ranging from 275 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (135 to 175 degrees Celsius) while giving a smoky taste. In contrast to low and slow cooking, you’ll need to make your smoker roaring hot with a full chimney of hot coals before using the vents and air regulators to maintain a consistent temperature.

Because of the high heat and short cooking time, you may end up with a lot of partly cooked coals. The good news is that there’s no reason they can’t be reused.

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

We’ve previously gone over the differences between lump wood charcoal and briquettes, but to summarize, lump wood charcoal contains less additives, which some believe may taste your food, but it burns less reliably.

Briquettes, on the other hand, may include additives like as cornstarch, borax, and limestone, and they do create more ash, but they burn more consistently and are less expensive than lump charcoal.

If you use lump charcoal manufactured from hardwoods like pine, it will burn hot and fast but will also burn out quickly.

The best way to light your charcoal

As previously said, a charcoal chimney is not only the greatest method to measure your charcoal, but it is also the best way to fire it.

We have a whole step-by-step tutorial to using a charcoal chimney starter, but it is as easy as loading your chimney with coals, setting it over some non-petroleum fire starter, and letting airflow do the rest.

Your coals may be lighted and ready to cook in as little as 15 minutes if you use a chimney starter.

We offer a tutorial on how to start a charcoal grill if you don’t have a chimney starter or just want to learn some other approaches.

Wrapping it all up

Everyone’s cooking setup is unique, and finding the perfect quantity of charcoal to fuel yours will need some trial and error. However, if you follow our recommendations and use a chimney charcoal starter, you should be well on your way to determining the optimal ratio for you.

Do you have any recommendations for charcoal quantities for various forms of cooking, or maybe an ideal setup for a certain grill or smoker? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.


What happens if you use too much charcoal?

If you use too much charcoal, you will squander important fuel. If you use too little, your grill may struggle to become hot enough or you will not be able to keep the temperature stable until you are through cooking. How much charcoal will I require?

How long should you let charcoal burn before using it?

Depending on how much charcoal you’re lighting, let 15-20 minutes for it to thoroughly heat up before putting it into the base of your grill.

What is the ratio of charcoal to meat?

So, with that out of the way, the general rule is that you need a 1:1 ratio of BBQ charcoal to meat. So you’ll need a kilogram of briquette charcoal or 1.5 kilos of hardwood lump for every kilogram of meat.

How much Kingsford charcoal to use?

Charcoal required: 12 to 1 chimney to begin, about 50 to 100 Kingsford® Charcoal Briquets, or fire a pile of 2 to 4 lb. Kingsford® Charcoal Briquets. Use the Chimney Method, lighter fluid, or Match Light® Charcoal Briquets to light the coals.

Can you use the same charcoal twice?

Is It Possible to Reuse Charcoal? The quick answer is yes. You may and should reuse your charcoal in order to save money. The ability to reuse charcoal is a significant benefit of utilizing a charcoal smoker over other kinds of grills.

Do you leave the lid open or closed when heating charcoal?

SHOULD I OPEN OR CLOSE MY GRILL LID BEFORE I START CHARCOAL? While you arrange and ignite your charcoal, keep the lid open. Close the lid after the coals are well-lit. Most charcoal grills become hotter shortly after they’re lit.

Do you grill with the lid on or off charcoal?

If you’re using a charcoal grill, keep the lid closed while you’re cooking. The charcoal’s goal is to produce heat that circulates through and around the meat or veggies you’re cooking.

How do you know when charcoal is done?

How to Determine When the Coals Are Ready. The edges of the coals will become gray with ash once the fluid burns off. The coals are ready to use when they are largely coated with ash. Spread out the coals using tongs or a long-handled metal spatula.

Is it OK to add more charcoal while cooking?

Yes, you may add extra charcoal while cooking on a charcoal grill. The simplest method to do this is to first fire your charcoal using a chimney starter. Then, transfer the necessary quantity on the grill. If this is not an option, unlit charcoal will suffice.

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