When it comes to grilling, the way in which you position the charcoal in the grill can make a tremendous difference in how your food comes out. While a large percentage of the foods we grill require high heat and short cooking time, others require indirect cooking, long cooking times, or a combination of hot and cool temperatures.
As such, Grillocracy's put together a quick pictorial of some of the more popular setups for charcoal, each with its own unique benefits depending on what you’ve got grilling!
DIRECT HEAT GRILLING
The most popular charcoal setup by far, an even layer of charcoal across the entire cooking area is perfect for grilling quicker cooking proteins, vegetables, pizzas, etc. Simply pre-heat the charcoal, lay it evenly across the bottom of the grill, and adjust the lower vents to get the perfect cooking temperature.
Created by placing all of the pre-heated charcoal on one side of the grill, the 2-zone cooking method creates both a hot and a cool side so that food can be moved back and forth as needed. This is the perfect setup if cooking multiple items that require different levels of heat and/or different cooking times.
When cooking foods that require long cooking times such as a pork loin, ribs, a prime rib, or whole chickens, an indirect charcoal setup is perfect for the job. By placing the pre-heated coals on opposite sides of the grill, the item being cooked above the center portion without fear of burning the exterior due to direct flame and eliminating flare-ups from dripping fat. When cooking with this method, a disposable aluminum pan is often placed between the two piles of hot charcoal then filled with water to add moisture when the grill is closed.
Just because you don’t own a smoker doesn’t mean that you can’t do true low-and-slow barbecue on the grill. Known as the snake or fuse method, this charcoal setup can maintain a consistent temperature over 10+ hours without adding more charcoal. To create, a semi-circle is formed along the perimeter of the grill by stacking three layers of unlit charcoal (2 briquets wide on the bottom, 2 in the middle, and 1 on the top). Wood chunks can then be added on one side of the “c” for additional smoke flavor and as with the indirect grilling method, an aluminum pan filled with water can be added to the center to create moisture during the cooking process. When ready to use, simply pre-heat 4-5 briquets, place them on one end of the “c” (start with the side containing wood chunks if they are being used), and open the bottom vents slightly to achieve a temperature of 225-250 degrees inside the closed grill. Place the pork butt, brisket or other large cut of meat in the center of the main cooking grate, cover the grill, and allow the snake/fuse to slowly burn around the circumference of the grill.