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My second concern was controlling the temperatures. With a gas grill you have a knob you turn to set the desired temperature. With a charcoal grill you are dealing with one or more vents to let in more or less combustion air. My experience has been with the right grill it is a bit tricky at first, but with a few cooks under your belt you get the hang of it. The CharGriller is definitely the right grill. It seems to be tuned to hit the magic 225 (110 C) degree temperature used in smoking. The technique used with the smoker is to place 25-30 lit coals at one end of a larger basket filled with unlit coals. The lit coals ignite the adjacent unlit coals, and a long slow time release type burn is created. This is called the Minion method after it’s inventor, a competition cook named Jim Minion. I have been using this method with Kingsford briquettes because they are said to be very predictable. This is due to the consistent size and composition of the briquettes. Real charcoal or lump charcoal has some advantages, but it is trickier to manage. I’m experimenting with lump charcoal and I haven’t decided whether I like it or not. A blog topic for another day perhaps.
What I have found is you need a few cooks under your belt. Then you can anticipate when to open and close the vents to hit your mark or make corrections. You need to react, not over react. One advantage of a gas grill is if your temperatures are too, open the lid to let out some heat and turn the burners to a lower setting. with a charcoal grill using the Minion method it is easier to raise temperatures than lower them. That is because if you get more coals ignited than you need, they are going to burn hotter than the right amount would have. Yes you can open the lid and let some heat out. You can also prop the lid open to help lower the temps, but this is wasteful. On a long cook this may mean more “in-flight refueling on you part.
So the trick is to close the vents at the right time to coast up to the desired temperature. Err on the side of caution: if you settle in too low, crack open the vents a little and try again. Keeping a cooking log helps with this task (see previous KEEPING A COOKING LOG). One of the things I record is the vent position. In the remarks column I record any unusual Temperature Events. A temperature Event is my PC way of describing temps that were too high or too low, usually due to human error. Leaving the lid open too long to mop or add food, letting the temps get too high are two examples. I record what triggered the problem and what it took to correct it. I make mistakes, but I pride myself on not repeating my mistakes. There are plenty of new ones for me to make. If you play it safe and sneak up to the right temperatures from the low side, you should do all right. Raising the temperature is definitely easier than lowering it, plus you don’t waste fuel in the process. Don’t use real expensive cuts of meat for your first few cooks so you can relax a bit. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn the nuances of the grill.
So am I ready to throw out my gas grill? No way!! Weeknights during the Summer, the gas grill is my Go To Grill. Lighting the charcoal grill is now almost as easy and takes around the same amount of time, but I don’t have time during the week for the extra cleanup required using the charcoal grill. For indirect cooks NOT involving smoke, the gas grill is my weapon of choice. I also like the infra-red rotisserie burner for roasts on the gas grill. Setting a couple dials is still easier than managing vents. So what I’m saying is: DON’T throw out your Gas grill, but DO Consider a charcoal grill. You love the flexibility and I think I have the best of both worlds this way.
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