I want to get into charcoal cooking. I've always cooked on a gas BBQ and won't be ditching my Beafeater anytime soon but I want to try charcoal for bigger pieces of meat when we host friends. Can anyone give some tips for a newcomer? I'm a little torn between getting an old-style kettle BBQ and something a little fancier like a Char-griller. Also, where is the best place to get fuel and how long does it tend to last?
I'm sure Workshop community members will be keen to share their advice and experiences. This might also be a great opportunity for new user @MoonshineBen to share his amazing BBQ knowledge.
Here's a couple of previous discussions you also might be interested in:
Take the plunge, you won't regret it. The taste difference can be amazing. You don’t need to spend a lot. But as previously mentioned, there’s a couple of extra things I’d recommend you get to make life easier. Definitely get a BBQ Starter – basically a cylinder with lots of holes for air circulation which makes it really quick and easy to get your charcoal (or heat beads if you must) nice and hot so you can get cooking quicker. Similarly, grab a Looftlighter, which are a bit like a high-powered hair dryer to get the fire cranking. You don’t want to use firelighters and have your food tasting like lighter fluid.
A kettle is a cheap way to get started and you can get some great results. But if you think you do want to do slow cooks regularly using charcoal, consider a ceramic kamado cooker. Because they are really well insulated, they don't need much fuel and stay hot for a really, really long time. Not only does this make them much cheaper to use but it also makes it easier for you to regulate the temperature (and therefore cook) which you might find really important as a beginner.
Charcoal cooking is the way to go. Since I've been cooking over coals, I havent really looked back.
A kettle is a good way to start, as you have the option of both hot and fast grilling over the coals, or indirect low and slow and smoking by creating heat zones.
Weber kettles, or the like are great, and there are also things like the ProQ. You want to make sure you get one with a decent thick wall to hold the heat, and porcelain enamel. One of my earlier smokers got so hot once that it peeled the powder coat enamel off the inside, which isn't good for anyone....
I use combinations of fuel depending on the cook. Heatbeads are pretty consistent given the uniformity, and I find I can get about 5 or 6 hours of consistent heat out of them (about half a bag). They're also pretty cheap.
I also use lump charcoal, which is a little harder as far as consistency goes, but can often burn longer and hotter. You can also add some chunks of fruit woods to smoke with as well.
Let me extend a very warm welcome to Workshop. It's great to have you join the community. I hope you find it informative, inspirational and plenty of fun.
Many thanks for joining in the discussion and making your first post. I understand you have a great deal of barbecue experience, knowledge and skill that you can share with the community. I'm certainly looking forward to reading more of your posts soon.
Thanks for the replies everyone.
I saw one of these "in the flesh" the other day - looked amazing. http://chargrilleraustralia.com.au/products/akorn-kamado-kooker-2/ Apparently they are very well insulated as @MartyH said.
Great tips about fuel @MoonshineBen. Many thanks for your help.
Still haven't done anything about this! But I must get to it. Am tempted by the new Heston BBQs as they self-start so you don't have to mess around with a chimney. Expensive though!
It's been really interesting to see the rise of charcoal cooking in Australia in recent years. Gas will always remain popular because of its convenience, but we're becoming a lot more adventurous with "low and slow" cooking. There's now a great range of smokers available in Australia, and even hybrid models that allow you to cook with gas or charcoal.
It would also be great if you could share your tips for getting into charcoal cooking by replying below.
This is another option to dip your toe into the water - https://www.bunnings.com.au/diy-advice/innovative-products/cook-with-charcoal-in-your-gas-bbq