Best Food to Grill on Charcoal for Max Flavor

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a charcoal grill, all fired up with some prime cuts of delicious food getting slowly cooked to perfection.

But if you’re a little unfamiliar with which foods are absolutely the best ones to go on a charcoal grill, or if you’re looking for a few simple grilling recipes, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are the absolute best foods to put on a charcoal grill.

Slow-Cooked Pork Butt

best pork butt grilled on charcoal grill

Now, the secret to cooking an amazing pork butt is to do it slowly, controlling your heat throughout the entire process. 

Many people believe that it’s not really possible to control your heat well on a charcoal grill, but they’re dead wrong.

First, you’ll want to season your pork butt. You can choose any type of seasoning you want, dry or otherwise, but we recommend a mix of salt, pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon, chili flakes for medium heat and some barbecue sauce if you’re feeling adventurous. If you really wanna impress, use some of our famous Dickey's Rubs

Once you’ve got your charcoal grill nice and hot, use a pair of BBQ tongs to sort of make a clear space in the middle, pushing those coals to the edges of your grill. Next, place your pork butt in the center, close the lid and wait a few hours for it to cook, turning it every now and then.

Try not to turn it too much, because you don’t want to open the lid too often and release all that heat.

This is a perfect recipe for summer grilling as you can let the grill stay nice and hot throughout the entire cooking process. Making a slow-cooked pork butt is definitely one of the best foods for a charcoal grill.

Grilling Steaks

best steaks for grilling

A true classic. For die-hard meat-lover fans, there’s almost nothing better than a perfectly seared cut of steak cooked to perfection.

For choosing your cut of steak, you can choose any kind you prefer. Some enjoy flank steak over more traditional cuts like NY Strip or T-bone. But, our philosophy on steak is the fattier the better, and there’s no fattier cut of steak than the ribeye.

Characterized by its trademark marbling, a good ribeye is about 1-½ inches thick. For seasoning, nothing more than a little salt and pepper to taste is required.

Next, you’ll want to get your charcoal grill nice and hot, around 450℉ then throw those steaks on the grill. Give them about 6-7 minutes a side, then once they’re done wrap them in tin foil and allow them to rest for exactly 10 minutes.

When a steak is cooked, the meat tends to tense up, becoming tougher and harder to chew. By letting it rest without cooling it off too much, you’re allowing that meat to relax and for the juices to spread out through the steak.

Glazed Grilled Salmon

grilled salmon on charcoal grill

Simple is best when it comes to grilled salmon on a charcoal grill. 

Prepare a basic Dijon mustard and lemon juice glaze with some salt and pepper, before heating up your grill.

You can make the glaze the night before, to save some time. But when it comes to grilling the salmon, simply dress the fillet with the glaze on the non-skin side, place the salmon skin-side down and grill with the lid closed for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill.

Salmon tends to dry out very quickly, and can also be eaten on the rare side if you so wish, so there’s not much risk in giving it a little less time rather than overcooking it.

This way, you’ll trap in all the delicious flavors from both the cut of fish and the glaze. Rather than using a gas grill, what makes glazed salmon one of the best charcoal grilled food is that it will absorb the wonderful smoky grilled flavor of the charcoal.

Grilled Shrimp

grilled shrimp on charcoal grill

Like salmon, the biggest thing to watch out for with shrimp is how quickly it can dry out and gain a rubbery texture. The best way to solve this problem is by controlling your heat in the charcoal grill by pushing your coals to the edge of your grill.

Prepare the shrimp in a marinade consisting of tomato paste, salt, pepper, olive oil, oregano and chili powder. But make sure you don’t let the shrimp sit in the marinade for more than 20 minutes, otherwise, the shrimp will become too soggy and fall apart.

Spear onto skewers and cook for roughly 3-5 minutes a side, slightly less for the second side.

Grilled Lamb Chops

grilled lamb chops on charcoal grill

Lamb can be somewhat gamey-tasting, but an easy way to cut through that gaminess is by allowing the lamb to marinate in a very aromatic blend of spices, ideally overnight.

Simply prepare a marinade made of olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic, crushed coriander seeds, a bit of cumin, cinnamon and a dash of turmeric.

Then, fire up the coals on your charcoal grill and cook until medium-well, about 8 to 10 minutes aside. Lamb can be eaten slightly rare, but it’s best-served medium-well.

Grilled Chicken

grilled chicken on charcoal grill

Grilled chicken is usually very simple, but the main thing to watch out for is undercooking the chicken. It’s possible to overcook the chicken and dry it out, but by using chicken breasts or chicken thighs that still have the bone inside, you have more wiggle room to maneuver.

A light seasoning of salt and pepper with some lemon juice and maybe a bit of dried rosemary and garlic often does the trick, but feel free to use your own sauces or marinades as grilled chicken is one of the most versatile types of meat in terms of the flavor you can add. Because of this, you can get really adventurous with the rubs you choose. 

So feel free to simply slather in BBQ sauce or chili and lime. Depending on the type and size of chicken you’re making, cook times can be as long as 30 minutes.

Capping Off the Best Food for Charcoal Grilling

Charcoal grilling has many other types of food that are great for cooking over those hot, smoky coals. Vegetables, baby back ribs, pork chops and briskets are all good options. So grab your favorite side dish, your favorite grilling selection, and fire up that charcoal grill.

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