Charcoal is a fine black powder made by charring a material, such as wood or cocoa pods, in the absence of oxygen. Manufacturers make it by crushing and cooking the charcoal until all the impurities have been burned off, leaving just carbon behind.
In order to burn on its own, charcoal must reach a point of ignition. This is generally about 450 degrees Celsius (842 degrees Fahrenheit) inside the charred material. At this temperature, volatile chemicals in wood begin to vaporize and escape, causing smoke. However, once ignited, the charcoal will continue to burn slowly even when exposed to air or water because it continues to produce carbon monoxide gas, which does not support combustion. The temperature inside the charcoal will continue to rise until it reaches its ignition point, becoming ash at around 650 degrees Celsius (1,202 Fahrenheit).
Charcoal is used for cooking foods over low heat either directly on top of or just beneath glowing coals. It burns up all oxygen in the process, so you need to place your food on a grill or rack above it. Charcoal also produces tar and carcinogens when heated to very high temperatures for extended periods of time in non-ventilated places such as in an automobile engine.
How to Burn a Charcoal Grill or Smoker
Build the charcoal fire. Place crumpled newspaper and kindling in the bottom of your grill and arrange coated charcoal briquettes around them.
Light the newspaper. Use a match or lighter to set the paper ablaze.
Allow the coals to catch fire and grow red on all sides. Use long tongs to push the coals into a pyramid shape. Leave an empty space in the center of the pyramid for your food grate, which you must have readied ahead of time by placing atop two bricks or metal bars that are elevated above the coals.
Allow the coals to burn until they are glowing red and surrounded by a thick bed of ash, which will take about 20 minutes. Use tongs to push the hot coals into an even layer along the bottom of your grill before placing your food on top of your grate.
What’s the secret to making charcoal burn for a long time?
If you want your charcoals to burn longer than usual, you should expose them to an acidic environment before using them. This can be achieved by placing them in aluminum foil and sprinkling them with cola or lemon juice. You can also wipe each charcoal with vinegar or another acidic liquid before lighting it. Cola is particularly useful because it has not only an acidity level of 2.4 pH but also sugar and caffeine, which speeds up the process even more.
The acidic environment causes a chemical reaction that changes the structure of the wood’s carbon molecules. As a result, these new porous charcoals have more surface area for burning than normal ones. Also, the acidic environment causes the wood to break down into smaller components that are easier for oxygen to bind with. This results in charcoals that burn more quickly, but also longer due to more sustained burning time.
Also, it is important not to store your charcoals in a bag or box because this will make them harder to light. You should keep them in a container with holes or mesh wire so that the volatile components can escape.
Dozens of brands are available, each varying in weight, size, and material makeup. The best charcoals are made from 100 percent manufactured sawdust without additives or other formulae except for perhaps paraffin, which is used to speed up the ignition.
Most charcoals are made of two components: coconut husk and coal dust or wood sawdust, depending on the brand. Coconut husks are very porous and act as an excellent fuel; they burn hot and fast, but not for long. Coal dust is less porous than coconut husk, so it provides a longer and steadier burn.
Charcoal vs. Gas: Which One is Better?
Both charcoal and gas grills can be quite useful for backyard barbecues, but they do have their own unique benefits and disadvantages. Generally, gasoline provides a faster and easier clean-up process than charcoal because you can simply turn on the faucet to wash it down. Gas grills are also less messy because they don’t produce any ash or lingering odors, which can happen when you use lighter fluid to start your charcoal grill.
Charcoal has the advantage of producing a stronger smoky flavor that will make your barbecued meats taste better. It’s also more economical than gas because it requires less energy.
But there are some disadvantages to using charcoal, too. The messy ash that gets left behind is actually full of micronutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. As the ash breaks down into smaller particles after it’s exposed to oxygen, these elements are more readily available for the roots of plants to absorb.
How long should charcoal burn before cooking?
The general consensus is that you should let your charcoals burn for about 40 minutes so they have enough time to turn into embers. If you’re cooking something on the grill, however, it’s best to start with hot charcoals. This also applies if you want to use instant grilling techniques like flash grilling or lamp grill.
When cooking on the grill, you should place your charcoal into a chimney starter or electric charcoal starter before lighting. This way it will be ready when you need to cook. If you have extra charcoals left over after your meal, wait until they turn completely white and cool down before disposing of them in a metal container with a lid.
How Long Does Charcoal Last?
It has been estimated that 100 pounds of charcoal will last approximately 4 hours when used to grill food at a constant rate for that period of time. When grilling is done more sporadically, however, it can last up to 7 hours. It all depends on the temperature at which you’re cooking and the number of coals that are being used.
Do not use lighter fluid to start your charcoal grill. This is because the oil in the fluid can drip down into your food, contaminating it with substances that can lead to cancer. They also give off noxious fumes that smell and taste bad. You should use a charcoal chimney instead.
In addition, do not add lighter fluid when you’re grilling. Apply it to the coals instead before lighting them up to give your food that extra charred flavor.
How long does Kingsford charcoal last?
One pound of Kingsford briquettes can yield around 2 hours and 15 minutes of total cooking time.
How long does it take for charcoal to go out?
It takes between 3 and 5 hours for charcoals to burn out. It really depends on the size of the charcoal and how much is used. However, if you’re planning on grilling overnight, you should use a starter fluid-like lighter fluid because the oils in it are especially created to burn for a long time.
What is the best way to start a charcoal grill?
Use an electric charcoal starter or chimney starter. This allows you to easily light the charcoal and start grilling. It also keeps your hands away from the fire so you don’t burn yourself and spread oil-based contaminants to the food.