There are many benefits to cooking with natural wood charcoal. Natural wood charcoal burns very hot with temperatures reaching between 800 - 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One pound of natural wood charcoal produces the equivalent heat of two pounds of charcoal briquettes, so it will also save you money.
Features of natural wood charcoal:
Another popular method for cooking with charcoal is using charcoal briquettes. This is often viewed as the easiest, most convenient option.
Features of charcoal briquettes:
While natural charcoal is comprised of hardwood, briquettes are made up of several components: hardwood char, coal, nitrates, lime, and starch. Each component serves an important purpose, giving briquettes each of their distinctive qualities. Some cooks favor briquettes because of these qualities; others find that briquettes emit a chemical odor. Their environmental impact is also a concern for some consumers.
Hardwood Char: When grilling, you'll want wood char exclusively from hardwoods. Hardwoods do not contain the resins present in soft woods.
Anthracite Coal: High BTU anthracite coal yields a smokeless, odorless, consistent burn.
Lime: Lime facilitates the evenness of the burn. It also yields a clean, white ash as the charcoal burns.
Starch: Charcoal manufacturers use food starch as a binder in the process of making charcoal briquettes.
Sodium Nitrate: A very small amount of nitrate is necessary to facilitate lighting the briquette.
When selecting fuel, it's important to know what you need and what options will deliver the desired results. Below is a quick outline of the advantages of charcoal. Remember that if charcoal doesn't work for you, wood is always an option.
Before lighting charcoal and starting a flame, it's important to understand how to cook with it. Improper use can ruin food and endanger employees, customers, and the surrounding area.
How much charcoal you need depends on what temperature you want the fire. Using a charcoal chimney is an easy way to start. A charcoal chimney is a metal container with ventilation holes that's designed to help portion and light charcoal. Most chimneys hold approximately 100 briquettes, which will provide high heat (450 - 550 degrees Fahrenheit) if full. To reduce the heat of the grill, simply use less charcoal. For medium heat (350 - 450 degrees Fahrenheit), try filling half or 3/4 of the chimney. For low heat (250 - 350 degrees Fahrenheit), about 25 briquettes, or a 1/4 full chimney should suffice.
1. Prepare your grill. Empty any remaining ash from the grill and clean the grates. Preheat the grates to prevent food from sticking, and then light the charcoal. Make sure to oil the grates before adding the food.
2. Light the charcoal. Using a charcoal chimney, portion the charcoal and add a wadded up newspaper to the bottom of the chimney. Light the newspaper as instructed by the chimney manufacturer. Once flames are visible on top of the charcoals, pour them into the grill.
3. Create two cook zones. Move the charcoals to one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. For high heat cooking, use the side with charcoal. For lower and slower cooking, use the side without charcoal.
A charcoal fire can technically reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit; however, when used for cooking, charcoal usually burns up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. To easily modulate heat when cooking, adjust the oxygen level. With more oxygen, coals burn hotter and faster.
Charcoal usually burns for 40 to 45 minutes on an open grill. It can burn for several hours in a closed smoker due to the limited oxygen.
As the second consideration when choosing wood for cooking, the type of wood determines the flavor transferred to the cooking food. This means that pairing the wood with the ingredient is an integral part to creating the desired flavor profile. Examples include apple, cherry, and hickory.
Deep, bacon-like flavor and strong aroma
Rich, earthy flavor with a zesty twist
Milder than hickory and mesquite, but richer than fruity woods
Mild, fruity flavor with a hint of sweetness
Mild, versatile flavor with a sweet undertone
Once the type and flavor of wood are selected, make sure to use it properly. When cooking, the form of wood used determines how it's used. Wood chips and wood planks, for instance, are used very differently.
Wood chips are small, irregular pieces of wood that have been hand selected, graded, and fully seasoned to ensure you are getting the maximum flavor and the most consistent burning wood.
Gas and electric grills: Soak wood chips in water, drain, and place in a wood chip smoker box. If you do not have a smoker box, you can wrap the chips in aluminum foil, poke holes in the foil, and place them directly on the heat source underneath the cooking grid.
Charcoal grills: Soak wood chips in water, remove the cooking grid, stack charcoal in a pyramid, and light. Drain chips and scatter over hot coals when the charcoal is ashed over. Once the chips begin to smoke, replace the cooking grid and start grilling.
Wood logs are ideal for use in large, wood-fired grills, barbecuing pits, smokehouses, and large smokers. When cooking in a firepit or with a grate or spit, it's common to arrange the logs into a teepee or log cabin shape. Whichever shape you choose will require the use of tinder and kindling.
Wood grilling planks are cut from high-quality, clear-grade western red cedar. To use, first soak the plank in warm water for 15 minutes and season your protein. Place the plank directly on the grill, and flip it after 2 minutes. After it begins to crackle, add the meat to the plank. Then begin grilling; avoid flipping the food. Use the plank as a serving piece for enhanced food presentation.
If properly cared for, wood planks can be used 3 or 4 times. It is recommended, however, that they be designated for a particular type of food. For example, if using a plank for salmon, designate that plank for cooking fish.
Use a combination of charcoal and natural wood for the convenience of charcoal and the flavor of wood smoke. A mixture of the two fuel sources also promotes efficient heat transfer.
Outdoor Grill Buying Guide
Whether you're barbecuing meat or preparing hamburgers and hot dogs for your tailgate party, having the right outdoor grill for your menu and business model is imperative to successful grilling. This guide will go over the outdoor grill styles, grill sizes, and grill accessories needed so you can purchase the best grill for your establishment with confidence. Shop All Outdoor Grills Use the following links to navigate this guide and learn more about outdoor grills: Types of Outdoor Grills Charcoal vs Gas Grills Grill Dimensions BTUs for a Gas Grill Grilling Accessories
Outdoor Cooking Equipment Buying Guide
One of the most enjoyable parts of summer is taking advantage of the warm weather and cooking outside. Grilling burgers, smoking ribs, or even cooking eggs on an outdoor griddle allows you and your guests to enjoy the great weather and a delicious meal simultaneously. Whether you're looking to make some new additions to your outdoor dining space or spicing things up with a new outdoor kitchen , look no further. Our commercial outdoor cooking equipment buying guide will help you find what you need to start making all your favorite summertime staples. Shop All Outdoor Cooking Equipment Use the following links to learn about types of outdoor cooking equipment: Outdoor Grills Outdoor Pizza Ovens Outdoor Griddles Outdoor Smokers Outdoor Deep Fry
Outdoor Pizza Ovens Buying Guide
A staple piece of equipment for your outdoor kitchen setup is the addition of an outdoor pizza oven. In addition to baking delicious pizza, these versatile ovens can bake bread, desserts, meats, and vegetables. Given the popularity of pizza, an outdoor pizza oven is a perfect item to add to your equipment list for your pizzeria , food truck, or catering service. Below are details on the different types of outdoor pizza ovens, fuels, sizes, and accessories. Shop All Commercial Outdoor Pizza Ovens