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How to Light, Use And Cook With A Gas or Charcoal Grill!

Updated on August 26, 2013
Ashed over coals are ready to use
Ashed over coals are ready to use | Source

Everything You Need to Know

This article will cover:

  • How to cook using a gas grill or charcoal
  • How to (properly) light charcoal
  • Great grilling tips and techniques
  • How to take care of a grill

Ever since the discovery of fire, mankind has been cooking food by flame. Since then it has evolved to become one of the greatest pastimes and preferred cooking methods for many the world over. The flame cooked taste is unmistakable and truly delicious. Whether you are vegetarian or carnivore, grilling has something to offer everyone. Grilling is not only a time to cook a meal, but to gather together with friends and family to share in enjoying each others company. This article discusses all the how to's of grilling as well as many helpful tips. Let's get started!

How to Use a Gas Grill

Gas grill
Gas grill | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Propane tankOpen hoodTurn dial to start gasClean your grill grate before you use it
Propane tank
Propane tank | Source
Open hood
Open hood | Source
Turn dial to start gas
Turn dial to start gas | Source
Clean your grill grate before you use it
Clean your grill grate before you use it | Source
Grill cover
Grill cover | Source

There's nothing better than a brand new shiny gas grill. And while they are much more expensive than a charcoal grill, they will last longer and provide more convenience than a charcoal grill. Gas grills are ready to cook in just a couple of minutes after turning them on, whereas charcoal takes longer for the coals to be ready.

To use a charcoal grill:

  1. First turn on your gas at the tank under the grill.
  2. Open your grill hood.
  3. Turn on the burners. Some gas grills automatically light when you turn on the burners, but some require pushing a lighting button to light the gas.
  4. After a few minutes with the gas lit, clean your grill grates using a grill brush.
  5. Ready to cook!

Remember to cover your grill after you're done cooking and the grill has cooled down. This will help prevent rust and corrosion and will add life to your grill.

How to Use a Charcoal Grill

Charcoal Grill
Charcoal Grill | Source
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chimney starterchimney startercharcoal in chimney starternewspaper in bottomlighting newspaperchimney starterchimney starter
chimney starter
chimney starter | Source
chimney starter
chimney starter | Source
charcoal in chimney starter
charcoal in chimney starter | Source
newspaper in bottom
newspaper in bottom | Source
lighting newspaper
lighting newspaper | Source
chimney starter
chimney starter | Source
chimney starter
chimney starter | Source

While not as convenient to use as a gas grill, many who grill with charcoal agree that the taste is better when you grill with charcoal. To begin grilling, first you must ignite your charcoal. You can use either lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. The best way to light the charcoal is to use a chimney starter. A chimney starter is a cylinder shaped tool with a handle on the side.

To use a chimney starter:

1.Fill the top portion with the desired amount of charcoal you need.

2. Stuff the bottom part with some kind of flammable substance. Usually old newspaper works best. Place the chimney starter on a surface that you won't mind getting a little burned. I usually set mine down on the ground or in the grass.

3. Using a lighter, light the newspaper until it is completely on fire. This will light the charcoal that is in the top portion of the chimney starter. The newspaper will be completely burned and should have the charcoal started. At this point, carefully move the starter to the grill and make sure all the burned newspaper is out of the base.

4. Set the chimney starter down into the base of the grill and wait until all the charcoal is lit.

5. Once the charcoal has become completely lit, carefully pour out the coals into the base of your grill and install your grill grate.

How to Light Charcoal Without a Chimney Starter

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Charcoal briquettesCharcoal pileCharcoal pileApply lighter fluidApply lighter fluidLight charcoalInstall grate
Charcoal briquettes
Charcoal briquettes | Source
Charcoal pile
Charcoal pile | Source
Charcoal pile
Charcoal pile | Source
Apply lighter fluid
Apply lighter fluid | Source
Apply lighter fluid
Apply lighter fluid | Source
Light charcoal
Light charcoal | Source
Install grate
Install grate | Source

Grilling Tip

It's important to place your charcoal into the grill to one side of the base. This creates grilling zones. The zone where your coals are is high heat, the zone in the middle is medium, and the zone opposite the coals is low heat. This will help you when you grill to cook your food at the appropriate heat.

Safety Tip

It's always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby when grilling, especially if you have little or no experience with cooking on the grill. Always use caution when working with fire.

While I prefer using the chimney starter method, you can also use the old lighter fluid method for getting your coals lit, which many who grill still use. To get your coals lit using this technique:

  1. Make sure your grill is clean of all old ash and debris.
  2. Place your coals into the base of your grill. How many you use depends on how much food you are cooking and how hot you want your fire to be. Add more coals for a large amount of food, however do not completely fill your grill base with coals. A good size lump to one side of your grill should be all you should need.
  3. Apply lighter fluid. Caution!: Be careful with this step you should only apply enough lighter fluid to completely soak your coals. Do not pour a puddle of lighter fluid into the bottom of your grill!
  4. Allow the lighter fluid to soak in for a few minutes before lighting.
  5. Carefully light your coals. Using a grill lighter with a long nozzle to keep you as far away from the coals as possible. Light a few different places in the coal pile. The pile should be on fire and all coals should be burning.
  6. Install your grill grate over the burning coals and wait for them to mostly ash over before cooking.

Cleaning grill grate
Cleaning grill grate | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tongs and paper towelDip paper towel into oilOiling grill grate
Tongs and paper towel
Tongs and paper towel | Source
Dip paper towel into oil
Dip paper towel into oil | Source
Oiling grill grate
Oiling grill grate | Source

Preparing the Grill for Cooking

Before you get started grilling, take just a few minutes to prep your grill for food.

  • Clean your grill grate - After you have installed your grill grate onto your grill and allowed it to get hot, use a grill brush and scrub the grate thoroughly. This works much better after the grate has been over the flames and has had a chance to heat up.
  • Oil your grill grate - After you have cleaned your grill, lightly oil your grill grates. This will help your food not get stuck to the grill when you are cooking. The best way to do this is to use a pair of tongs and some paper towel. Fold up the paper towel and dip it into the oil using the tongs and then brush it back and forth on the grill. Do not spray the grill with cooking spray!


Cooking on the Grill

Alright! You're ready to start cooking! Now that your grill is going and ready for food go ahead and cook it according to your recipes instructions. Remember your grilling zones. If something is to be cooked fast on high heat, this will be the side with the coals. For medium to low heat this will be the middle and opposite sides accordingly. Happy grilling!

READ ALSO: How to Grill the Perfect Burger


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