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How to cook surf and turf on your barbecue grill

A seasoned steak cooks on a barbecue grill

There are doers. And there are thinkers. Doers act. Thinkers reflect.  But which is better? We think you could argue for both sides of this coin. Action leads to change, which leads to progress. But what good is blind action if it isn’t thought through? Look before you leap and so on. Thinking first leads to selected action and better end results. However one can overthink things, leading to inertia and the purgatory of procrastination. So which approach is best for your barbecue grill?

Should you go in guns (and flames) blazing, hoping for the best? Or should you be meticulous in strategy, to the point of opening a 2-hour window of reflection to gill a simple steak?  Ok we are super over simplifying here for blog-based purposes. As we always say, life and the barbecue grill world, isn’t like a nun’s habit – black and white. It’s 50 + shades of grey. To get the best results from your barbecue grill you need a bit of both. Grilling is an art form and a science to a degree, so you need to think things through. However you obviously need to bite the BBQ bullet and act, hypothetical food has no flavour after all. Knowledge holds the key. The more you know about grilling, the more effective and rapid the thought process, leading to quicker and more beneficial actions.  It’s a confidence game with wisdom as the catalyst. Wrap your BBQ brain around this quick and easy guide to grilling just about anything. It’s definitely a barbecue grill power up!


Charcoal burns at the base of a barbecue grill


How to grill barbecue?

We have gone over the barbecue grill rack basics countless times. Here’s an in depth barbecue grill deep dive blog for you as well as everything you need to know on setting up your charcoal. We’re all about safety at Big K so here’s Celebrity Chef Theo Michaels top BBQ safety tips  to ensure the fire brigade won’t need to be called in for assistance. However we never want to leave you empty handed in the moment, so here’s a lightening quick recap for you.


  • Choose your charcoal barbecue grill type

Ok this is super obvious but you can’t do any grilling without a barbecue grill. Well you could try but you’ll probably end up in a padded room in straightjacket. Now then, the mechanics of grilling have remained pretty much unchanged since man discovered fire and cooking over flame 1.4 to 1.6 million years ago.  We’re talking about a basic thermodynamic system consisting of a fuel source that emits heat, and a grill upon which food is placed to cook. Grills come in all shapes and sizes from smokers and vessels to open or covered.

Quick tip: if you’re looking to cook low and slow (this is perfect for ribs and brisket) or roast bigger cuts of meat, then a smoker or a covered barbecue grill is the way to go. This is because they are set up to optimise cooking with indirect heat at lower temperatures. Indirect heat is created by placing your food adjacent to your fuel source, rather than directly above it.  The food then cooks indirectly (hence the name) via the heat that moves around it. Some simply want to grill the usual selection of steaks, burgers and sausages – a basic open barbecue grill does the trick.  Your meat cooks with direct heat from charcoal sitting directly beneath the food. Here’s more detail on direct and indirect cooking  as well a review of the main different types of grills out there.


  • Select your charcoal for your barbecue grill rack

Obviously this is a topic close to our heart. We have discussed the important role of charcoal in the BBQ process so many times. The great thing about the truth is that it never gets old, so we’re going to reiterate the facts. Your charcoal holds the key to your BBQ success. It is the very thing that determines every aspect and detail of your food, from flavour and texture to aroma and aesthetics. Therefore common sense dictates that your charcoal must be of the highest quality and calibre at all times.

To make things succinct, try to buy high quality sustainably produced charcoal made from coppiced wood or forestry commission approved wood where possible. Obviously there are other products out there that you can try on your barbecue grill, such as instant light charcoal.

It simply boils down to what floats your BBQ boat. Yes we are passionate about al things BBQ, however when it comes to charcoal it’s our time to really shine. You see we are charcoal experts. And we don’t just say that lightly. We know charcoal. We understand it. We’ve spent over 50 years developing, producing and refining all our charcoal products – adhering to the highest quality standards. You could say that it’s a true love story. And thanks to our special relationship with charcoal, we have produced a range of superior quality products for everyone, from the seasoned professionals to the part time grillers and BBQ newbies.  Whether you’re looking for premium restaurant grade charcoal and more sustainable options, to minimal smoke outputs  and disposable choices ,we’ve got you covered at That’s the fundamentals covered. Let’s get to the food.


Chicken pieces cook on a barbecue grill


How to barbecue chicken breast on charcoal grill?

Are you feeling plucky? Ok we’ll put the poultry puns firmly back in the drawer. Now then there’s a reason why everyone fires up the grill and reaches for the chicken. It’s quick and easy to cook, offering titillation for the taste buds. However don’t be fooled. There is an art to getting succulent pieces of chicken. If you go in all willy-nilly you’ll inevitably end up at two destinations – undercooked or overdone. We’ve explored the BBQ chicken basics in depth here . Enjoy this quick refresh.

Chicken is best cooked on a charcoal barbecue grill at lower temperatures using indirect heat. Simply set your charcoal to one side rather than covering the entire base of your barbecue grill. This will create a cooler indirect heat zone for your chook. To reach the promised land of crispy skin and internally moist magic, you need to get your timing on point. Here’s a handy guide.


Chicken breast, bone-in – 10 – 12 ounces – 30 to 40 minutes over indirect medium heat.

Chicken leg or thigh, bone-in – 30 to 40 minutes over indirect medium heat.

Chicken wing, bone in – 10,12 ounces 20-30 mins over indirect medium heat.

Chicken breast, boneless, skinless – 6 – 8 ounces – 8 to 12 minutes over direct medium heat.

Quick word on doneness – look to the temperature. Why? This is because it is the heat that destroys all the harmful bacteria within the meat. The safest option is to insert a well-calibrated instant-read thermometer into the meat as you approach the end of your specific cooking time. If it reads between 165°F (74°C) and 175°F (80°C), your chicken is a go for munch off.  Cook breasts at 165°F for some hyper-super juicy goodness, any higher and you’ll be in dry territory.  Thighs, legs and wings usually straddle the 170-175°F zone


How to barbecue a whole chicken on the grill?

We have a lot of food get through, so we can’t get into all the steps and prep here. The main thing to know is that for the best results, you should grill-roast your whole chicken using a covered barbecue grill and a dual-zone direct-indirect heat charcoal configuration. These two elements combine to create a low temperature and controlled environment ideal for roasting.

Simply place the chicken breast side up in the centre of the grate with coals on either side underneath the grate itself. Then just close the lid and let your chicken cook for an hour without opening the barbecue grill cover. Once the hour has passed you can open the lid every 10 to 15 minutes checking the doneness using an instant-read meat thermometer. You want to be hitting the 165°F sweet spot.


Perfectly cooked shrimp lie in the barbecue grill


How to barbecue shrimp on the grill?

You can definitely count on shellfish to add a taste of summer into the BBQ mix. The good news is that shellfish and shrimp are super simple to grill, offering a lighter taste than meat.  Aim for the 145°F apex temp.

Shrimp: Grill over direct heat for 1-2 minutes per side.

Scallops: Grill over direct heat for 1-2 minutes per side.

Perfectly cooked fish sits on the barbecue grill

What’s the best way to grill fish on your charcoal barbecue grill?

When it comes to fish, keep it simple. You want to keep your cooking time short and sweet. Just so you know, fish needs to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F which usually only takes a few minutes. Feast your eyes on the below.

Fillets (¾- to 1-inch thick): 3-5 minutes per side.

Steaks (¾- to 1-inch thick): 3-5 minutes per side.

Love lamb on your barbecue grill rack?

We’re picking up the pace now, with plenty more info to come. So no need to beat around the blazing bush of briquettes as it were. Here are some cooking times.

Chops (½- to 1-inch thick): Grill over direct heat for 3-4 minutes per side.

Chops (1- to 1 ½-inch thick): Grill over direct heat for 4-6 minutes per side.

Ground Lamb: Grill over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side.

The meat of the matter – How to grill steak on your charcoal barbecue?

Despite this whizzing of words, we feel like we should take a breather and talk a little more about steak. Beef is one of the most popular meats to grill amongst the masses after all. Here’s what you need to know. The thickness of your BBQ steaks will shape your barbecue grill approach. This means you should choose either a 1 or 2-phase technique. Got steaks less than ¾ of an inch thick? Cook them in 1 phase over direct heat. Packing some meaty steaks that are 1 inch thick or more? Cook them in 2 phases. Phase 1 requires searing over direct heat. Then you shift your BBQ steaks to indirect heat to cook for phase 2.


Arrange your charcoal for your chosen grill technique

A tiny bit more explanation here: if you have thin BBQ steaks (less than ¾ inch as previously discussed) simply set up your charcoal for cooking with direct heat. It’s basic BBQing, you see direct heat radiates from a flat and even spread of charcoal in your charcoal barbecue base.  So ensure all your pieces are on level versus any kind of gradient or slope.

For those thicker juicier BBQ steaks (thicker than one inch) you should set up your charcoal for the 2-phase technique. This means forming two heat zones – one for direct heat and one for indirect heat. As mentioned before, just move your hot charcoals to one side of your charcoal barbecue and then flatten the pile. This pile is your direct heat zone for searing (phase 1). The void on the other side of your charcoal barbecue rack is your indirect heat zone for the rest of the cooking (phase 2).


Steaks under ¾ inch thick. One phase technique over direct heat


Level of doneness Cooking time (approximate)
Rare (120-130 °F)


2 minutes each side
Medium Rare (130-140°F) 3 minutes each side
Medium (140-150°F) 4 minutes each side
Medium Well (150-160°F) 5 minutes each side



Steaks over 1 inch thick. Two phase – searing over direct heat, then cooking over indirect heat 

Thickness 1 inch 1 ¼ inches 1 ¾ inches Each additional ¼ inch
Rare (120-130°F)


4 mins sear + 4 mins cook

Total 8 mins

4 mins sear + 6 mins cook

Total 10 mins

4 mins sear + 8 mins cook

Total 12 mins

Add I minute to cooking time
Medium Rare (130-140°F) 4 mins sear + 6 mins cook

Total 10 mins

4 mins sear + 8 mins cook

Total 12 mins

4 mins sear + 10 mins cook

Total 14 mins

Add 1 minute to cooking time
Medium (140-150°F) 4 mins sear + 9 mins cook

Total 13 mins

4 mins sear + 11 mins cook

Total 15 mins

4 mins sear + 13 mins cook

Total 17 mins

Add 1 minute to cooking time
Medium Well (150-160°F) 4 mins sear + 14 mins cook

Total 18 min

4 mins sear + 16 mins cook

Total 20 min

4 mins sear + 18 mins cook

Total 22 min

Add 1 minute to cooking time

Lovely grilled fish sits on the barbecue grill

How to get your veggie on?

The health consciousness of the BBQ community has grown exponentially over the last few decades. That being said more and more barbecue grills are being transformed into colourful grill gardens. Absorb the pointers below.

Onions (½-inch thick rings): Grill over direct heat for 5-6 minutes per side.

Mushrooms: Grill over direct heat for 4-5 minutes per side (think whole button or Portobello mushrooms).

Bell Peppers, Squash, Eggplant, and Zucchini (½-inch thick slices): Grill over direct heat for 4-5 minutes per side.

Corn Cob, Husked: Grill over direct heat 6-7 minutes per side.

Corn Cob in Husk: Grill over direct heat 14-15 minutes per side.

Romaine Hearts: Grill over direct heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute per side. Here’s some veggie recipes for inspiration.


Wow. We’ve covered surf, turf and everything in between. You’ve got the BBQ tools. It’s time to get to work.