How to Set Up a Charcoal Grill for Smoking Just in 5 Steps

How to Set Up A Charcoal Grill

Smoking is nothing but traditional BBQ. In short, it is cooking the meat at low temperatures on live coal and hardwood that is added to get that appetizing smoky taste. No matter if you have your own standard kettle-type grill or a smoker, this is a technique that can be mastered by anyone and is a perfectly simple answer to the question, ‘’How to set up a charcoal grill?” 

Step-1. Preparing the Coals for Slow and Long Cooking

Smoking is a type of indirect cooking method which requires heating the food item for long hours on low temperatures. You can make use of indirect configurations of coal and a combination of unlit and lit coals to make sure that the fire burns over a long period of time.


Let us have a look at some coal configurations:

Charcoal Snake- This is one of the most popular coal configurations for slow and long smoking on a standard kettle grill. For creating a charcoal snake, you should lay the unlit briquettes all around the grills edge in a single row. Once the first row is created, add two more briquette layers over the first. Also add wood chunks or chips for additional smoky taste. Now, take a foil pan with hot water in it and place it in the center of the briquettes.

Then, light about 6-8 briquettes. When done, pile all the lit briquettes at the top of charcoal snake. This will allow the coals to burn slowly for long hours. After waiting for a few minutes, add the meat for a slow and long smoke. If you want the coal to burn for a longer duration, you can easily add coal to the snakes end.

Parallel Configuration- For this configuration, light an entire chimney full of charcoal and then divide the lit coals on both the sides of grill. Make sure that you leave an empty space in between. Now, take a foil pan with hot water in it and place the pan in this empty space. This will help in adding moisture and regulating the temperature of the grill.

Burn-Down Method- If you have a smoker, the burn-down method is an excellent way for low and slow cooking. Fill the charcoal bed of your smoker with unlit coals and then light some of the top ones. The lit coals at the top will slowly light the coals below and the smoker will burn slowly over a long period of time.

Importance of Water Pan

If you have a kettle grill, then it is very important to use a hot water foil pan. It helps in creating a moist and hot environment, which is very important for smoking. Also, it helps in maintaining the temperature by retaining the heat to prevent any dramatic temperature fluctuations that take place while using a kettle.

Step-2. Adding Smoke Wood

For how to set up a charcoal grill and get that delicious woody flavor, add some hardwood to the grill. Remember that the flavor imparted to the meat will depend on the type of wood that you use. You can use mesquite, oak or hickory wood to add a bold flavor to pork and beef. Cherry, apple and other types of fruit woods add a subtle flavor and are excellent for chicken and pork.


Step- 3. Smoking at 225°F- 250°F

Maintaining a consistent temperature is very important while smoking. For majority of the smokers, the ideal temperature range lies between 225°F- 250°F. An easy way to monitor the temperature is to use a meat thermometer and place it in the top-most vent of the grill. If you see that the temperature is climbing above 250°F, close some of the vents to reduce the temperature, and if the temperature falls below 225°F, open some of the vents to allow more oxygen to enter into the grill.

Step-4. Maintaining the Fire

Remember that one of the most important steps in how to set up a charcoal grill and cook delicious meat is to maintain the fire. Especially, if you are about to smoke pulled pork, brisket, or ribs, they will need smoking for long hours and you will certainly need more coals to maintain the fire. There are two ways to add more coal to the grill. First is by simply adding unlit coals when the temperature starts falling and the lit ones will start the unlit ones. Second method is adding lit coals to the grill when you want to increase the temperature of the grill quickly. While using a grill, always keep the chimney in a ready position to lit a new batch of coals. Make sure that you are very careful while pouring coal to the grill and it is recommended that you should use tongs.

Step- 5. Do NOT Peek

One of the most difficult things while using a grill is to not lift the lid to have a glimpse of the meat. Every time someone lifts the lid, a good amount of smoke and heat escapes. Thus, it is very important to resist your temptation of lifting the lid. Only lift the lid when you want to pour more coal or monitor the internal temperature.

If you are new to grills and don’t know how to set up a charcoal grill, this short and useful guide will make sure that you are successfully able to cook your favorite meat with utmost safety and efficiency.

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