Charcoal grills are the most traditional choice for barbecue. The first step in understanding how a charcoal grill works and its benefits is understanding its fuel.
Charcoal is a piece of wood that has been burned down to the point that all water and resins have been removed. At this point, the wood becomes pure fuel. Because of this process, charcoal has the ability to reach much higher temperatures than wood with much less smoke.
The high temperatures reached by charcoal – up to 700 degrees F – makes charcoal the ideal fuel for creating a good char on the outside of a meat while keeping the inside pink and moist. For that reason, charcoal grills are the number one choice for grilling steaks, burgers, and other meat such as lamb.
Since charcoal is a radiant heat fuel (instead of warming the air, heat comes out of the charcoal and is absorbed into an object), charcoal is also the ideal fuel for long and slow cooking processes. The radiant process also infuses the delicious smoky BBQ flavor into the food.
Charcoal grills are the top choice for BBQ pitmasters and enthusiasts. However, the nature of the charcoal grill can make it tricky for a beginner. Unlike gas grills, it is difficult to control the temperature of a charcoal grill so it can take a bit of practice in order to acquire your desired temperatures.
Another drawback to charcoal grills is the prep and cleaning time. You must first prepare and light the charcoal and then, once lit, it usually takes a minimum of 20 minutes to heat up to grilling temperatures. Charcoal grills must also be scraped after every cooking and the ashes must be removed on a regular basis.
While it often takes more practice to get it right, most barbecue diehards swear by the cooking process and taste of the charcoal grill.