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BBQ grill basics and insights cooked up by Big K

Two illustrated steaks lie cooking on a photo of a bbq grill containing burning charcoal with orange flames.

Scanning the annals of culture one thing becomes crystal clear: we love our tools. Many have become immortalised, whether it’s King Arthur and his sword Excalibur, Robin Hood and his Bow of Prayer, Poseidon and his Golden Trident, or Thor and his trusty hammer Mjolnir, We don’t think it is stretch to insert the BBQ grill into this epic pantheon.

Being intimately involved in the BBQ world, we respect the role of the charcoal BBQ grill in the cooking process. If charcoal is the key ingredient for every cook, your BBQ grill is the vehicle to make things happen. What we’re getting at is that to extract the best performance from your charcoal, you need a grill of the highest caliber.


Time for some grills, thrills and BBQ skills.

Charcoal BBQ grills, fire pit BBQ grills, portable BBQ grills, ceramic BBQ grills, indoor BBQ grills – the plethora of options is vast. So how to see the forest for the trees? A little comprehension goes a long way so let’s get into the mechanics.


How do BBQ grills work?

To put it in an overnight marinated, foil-wrapped nutshell, a BBQ grill is a bit of kit that cooks food using a fuel source. Usually the food is placed on a grill plate and the fuel burns beneath the food in a grill base. There are many ways to differentiate BBQ grills. We want to bring clarity and understanding, so we will narrow our focus, examining the real OG of all BBQ grills – the charcoal BBQ grill. These grills come in a variety of shapes and are differentiated by both their engineering, as well as the configuration of fuel and food position. These different arrangements will determine cooking temperature and therefore the speed of your cook. If you’re still a charcoal BBQ greenhorn, figuring out what to buy and what to do can end up being a dizzying exercise. But fret not. We’re going to add some illumination to your awareness, starting from – the very beginning.


A man stands over a BBQ grill with the lid in his hand revealing meat and orange flame


History of the BBQ Grill. 

While our ancestors were technically burning all types of foodstuffs over an open flame for what seems like forever, it really wasn’t until the 17th century where the first purpose-made device for grilling was observed – way before the word “grilling” actually made it into our vocabulary. Long before BBQ became a celebrated worldwide pastime, European settlers first witnessed the curious culinary tradition in 17th Century (now contemporary) Latin America.

The Arawak people native to South America and the Caribbean roasted meat on a wooden structure that was called “barbacoa” by the Spanish. Sound familiar? If it does, it’s because it was this very term that later evolved into the word “barbecue” by the 18th century, where the technique had caught on in mainland North America. Barbecue would be reinvented to become one of the United States’ most enduring customs, and would spread its appetising aroma of influence all around the world in the century to come.

Any historian or sociologist worth their sauce will point out to the fact that when a nascent art gathers forward momentum, it’s only natural that inventions and improvements start popping up. As BBQ started flourishing, an industrious American by the name of Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer patented a design for charcoal briquettes in 1897. Unfortunately for Mr. Zwoyer, an even more industrious (and shrewd) capitalist by the name of Henry Ford (remember him?) upended the invention via his Kingsford Products Company. Ford is often erroneously credited for creating the briquette – which his company made to reuse the vast amounts of wood scraps and sawdust left over from the Ford Model T assembly lines.

Quite organically, the prevalence of the briquette led to more people getting brighter ideas. In 1952, George A. Stephen, a sales manager and novice dabbler of welding at Weber Brothers Metal Works Chicago, went to task to create a device that would help people enjoy a family meal in the great outdoors – without the pesky inconveniences of the great outdoors like surging winds and sudden showers of course. He took a metal buoy and cut it in half to make a dome-shaped grill, which eventually became the world-famous Weber grill. Fast forward a few decades and BBQ grills are a science of their own, with a plethora of models and technologies on offer for every inveterate grilling impresario.

Now that we’ve had a stroll down the grilling halls of memory, let’s bite into some chops of info about the kinds of charcoal BBQ grills you will encounter on the search for your weapon of choice. Before we dive into the kinds of grills in the charcoal BBQ world, we need to reiterate a point. You could have the best grill in the world, however if you are using poor quality charcoal, your grill may as well be a confused goat holding a rubix cube. It’s of no use to anyone. We at Big K are the grandmasters of quality charcoal products. From premium lumpwood charcoal and home options to charcoal briquettes  smokeless fuels, and firelighters that get your fire going at the snap of a finger, we have everything that will make your BBQ grill feel like a king.


Charcoal BBQ Grills 

Charcoal BBQ grills are the holy grail of BBQ for every BBQ purist. If it wasn’t obvious enough already, charcoal grills are fueled by natural lumpwood charcoal or charcoal briquettes. When ignited the charcoal will transform into hot, glowing embers and radiate heat, cooking the food above it. Charcoal grills come in many forms, shapes and sizes. Let’s look at the types of charcoal grills that are widely used.


Sausages and meat cuts lie on a BBQ grill with hot glowing charcoal underneath the grill gate


Open Grill

These are the simplest (and usually least expensive) of all grills: a metal or stone box with the burning charcoal or wood at the bottom and the food placed directly over the fire. The grill grate is optional, depending on how you like to cook, but having one will definitely help you save some sweat when it comes to keeping your cookout neat and organised.

With a grill grate, the open grill is also known as a charcoal brazier BBQ grill. The grill stands on legs that are attached to the charcoal pan. This elevation helps to circulate air, feeding oxygen to the fire. This grill design is so ancient it’s even mentioned in the bible (Jeremiah 36:22–23) and is known to originate in ancient Egypt.

If you’re looking for a durable, portable, and convenient open charcoal BBQ grill, our portable easy grill comes through with flying colours and ticks all the boxes.


Covered Grill

Take an open grill; add a tall lid (that you can raise and lower) and you have a covered grill. While it may only be a very simple tweak, a covered grill unlocks two important live-fire cooking methods for your repertoire – indirect grilling and smoking.

The kettle grill invented by the aforementioned George A. Stephen is the quintessential covered grill. This signature design has made it one of the most successful charcoal BBQ grill designs to date. The kettle grill is comprised of a dome-shaped lid with vents, a cooking grid, charcoal grid, a lower chamber, venting system and legs. The lower chamber holding the charcoal is shaped like a kettle, giving this grill its trademark name. The ingenious design lets heat circulate around the food and locks in smoke to further enhance the flavour of the food. The kettle grill could also be used as an indirect cooking grill and a smoker. Making it one of the most versatile grills you could own.


Vessel Grill

These are deep, thick-walled ceramic grills that rely on the radiant heat of the side walls as well as the direct heat from the coals, to cook the food. Sometimes, food like breads are cooked directly on the walls or on a vertical spit positioned inside the firebox instead of the grill grate.

The ceramic BBQ grill technology, although not initially used for BBQ, has been in existence since the Japanese Edo period, roughly 3000 years ago. The defining factor of the ceramic grill is its highly efficient retention of heat and moisture. Ceramic BBQ grills are versatile grills that are adept at grilling, smoking, and slow cooking foods.


Rotisserie Grill

The rotisserie adds motion to the static process of grilling. The slow, gentle rotation of a turnspit evens out the cooking process, basting the meat, melting out fat, and browning the exterior without you having to burn precious minutes flipping your meat. Spit-roasted foods come out crisp on the outside and succulent inside to give you a very satisfying result.


Fire pit BBQ Grill 

It never hurts to go back to the basics. In its most basic form, a fire pit BBQ is a pit that’s dug in the ground containing a fire, often using wood as fuel. To make your fire pit into a grill all you have to do is fasten a grill grid over the top of your pit. It can be as simple as placing your grill grid right over the pit while using the sides of your fire pit as support, or you can also buy a grill grid made specifically for fire pits.

The contemporary fire pit has become an outdoor accessory to many homes and is the centrepiece of the outdoor patio area. They could be made with extravagant materials such as fibreglass, reinforced cast concrete, marble, or titanium to name some. Many fire pit BBQs use fuel sources such as wood, smokeless coal, propane gas and natural gas. A combination of our Au Natural Lumpwood Briquettes and Chilla Grilla Charcoal will give your fire pit BBQ the right amount of heat that burns extra long to turn out a feast for your adoring public.


How to Grill the Perfect Cut of Steak on a Charcoal Grill. 

If all the talk about different charcoal grills has churned your appetite, it’s perfectly understandable. Let’s get down to the real meat and bones of our charcoal BBQ exegesis and throw some steak on your grill of choice. You can follow these easy steps to prepare a mouthwatering rib eye steak a la delish and appease the munchies of everyone on your table.


Charcoal within a small micro BBQ grill is burning with orange flames as a steak is turned


How to Clean Your BBQ Grill 

First, let’s make a cleaning paste for your cast iron grill from everyday kitchen items you could find in your pantry cupboard. You will need:

– 1 Tbsp. Baking Soda

– 1 Tbsp. Salt

– 1 Tbsp. Vinegar

– 2 Tbsp. Water

Mix all the ingredients and use a sponge to apply the cleaning paste to your grill grate. Leave the mixture to penetrate your grate for at last 15 minutes. After this is done, use a metal or stainless steel wire brush to scrub your grill down well. Remember not to use soap on your grill. Wipe your grill down with a cloth with a touch of oil as a protective layer after cleaning it. If you wash the grates with water, make sure they’re dry. The best way to get it dry is to reassemble the BBQ back and leave it on high heat for 5-10 minutes.


How to Grill Rib Eye Steak on Your Charcoal Grill 

Woodies Natural Wood Wool Firelighters will light up your coals in half a huff. Get your grill grate on once your charcoal is lit. Make sure the coals are searing hot as your cooking time will be hot and fast! Having a meat thermometer will keep you out of the guessing game and give you all the information you need if you want your steak medium-rare or well done.


A square closed lid BBQ grill emits smoke as it is positioned on the green grass



– Four 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inch-thick boneless rib-eye or New York strip steaks (about 12 ounces each)

– 2 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil

– Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper



Pull your steaks from the fridge or freezer and let them come to room temperature. Pat it down and dry with some kitchen tissue.

Heat your grill high. Brush the steaks on both sides with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place the steaks on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the steaks over and continue to grill 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare reaching an internal temperature of 57 degrees C.

Transfer the steaks to a cutting board or platter, tent loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Voila! Steak is served! We have volumes of insight on steak so check part 1 and part 2 of our guide to BBQ steak or this nifty steak guide


There’s no question that charcoal BBQ is the purist’s preference when it comes to grilling up a delicious blowout of BBQ goodness. Whichever kind of charcoal BBQ captures your fancy, you can rest assured that your food will have the smoky aroma and impeccable flavour that a gas BBQ grill just won’t be able to dish out. If you’re hungry for more impeccably organised BBQ wisdom on charcoal BBQ, you can read our previous take on the subject or delve into our illuminating commentary on outdoor BBQ grilling

However you channel your inner BBQ guru is entirely up to you, but we’ll be there to fire up your awareness with smoking hot chops of BBQ wisdom to help you elevate your grilling credentials, every step of the way. Until we see you again on the other side of the blogosphere, bon appetite and happy grilling!