Barbecuing with charcoal

by PETE KRUER
Rockford Ace Hardware

Last time, we looked at the history and the different styles of BBQ,so our next step is to delve into the original BBQ technique: wood (charcoal).

There are two types of charcoal: lump and briquette. Lump charcoal has been made for thousands of years and is consider the purest form. Briquette charcoal is basically sawdust bound by starch and other binders. Henry Ford did not invent briquette charcoal, but he put it on the map as the most popular charcoal used by American consumers. That’s right, Henry Ford of Detroit!

You wonder why would Henry Ford be involved in charcoal production? Well most automobiles used a lot of wood in their bodies up to the early ‘30s. Ford was camping in northern Michigan and was telling Thomas Edison he had all this sawdust in his Kingsford, Michigan sawmill. So, Ford got the idea of making charcoal briquettes and marketing for barbequing. That’s right: Kingsford charcoal! Kingsford is not in Kingsford, Mich. or owned by Ford anymore, but it is one of the top selling briquette charcoal in the U.S.

Briquette charcoal burning temperature is around 810 degrees Fahrenheit, while lump charcoal burning temp is up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Briquette charcoal burns longer, but lump is easier to control temperature and does not have any additives.

In starting your charcoal, you have many options, such as a chimney, charcoal lighter fluid and alcohol jell. The preferred methods are charcoal chimney (newspaper) or jelled alcohol, and both are odorless.

The flavor comes from the juices of the food dripping on the coals and vaporizing, and also from any flavor wood you add for smoke.

There are many type of grills that use charcoal, from kettle or box to kamado style. You can smoke with all styles, but box and kamado are the most popular for that cooking technique. Most smoking purists use the box style, but the kamado does a wonderful job. Floyd Havemeier at Herman’s Boy has done a great job with the Green Egg, and I also have had success with my Kamado Joe in smoking food.

Cooking with charcoal is much easier if you have a thermometer in the cover of your grill. That way you know your temp and can adjust your dampers.

There is an old BBQ saying: “When you’re looking you’re not cooking.” Ha! Ha!

So, when you are looking for a grill, pick one that fits your lifestyle and taste.

Next time we will look at some great recipes for cooking with charcoal. Have fun!

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