It would be very difficult to find anyone who doesn't love an outdoor barbecue. With barbecues there is something for everyone, from vegetables to whole hogs, just about any food can be cooked to perfection using a barbecue grill. Grilling with charcoals still remains a favourite method to enjoy a great and classic barbecued meal. The process is pretty easy and straight forward when cooking with charcoal; the main ingredient to making a successful and tasty barbecue is just sheer confidence.
If you're new to the world of barbecuing, you'll find this article very useful as it contains helpful tips on how to use a kettle grill. You may learn a trick or two even if you've been into barbecuing for a long time.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about using a kettle barbecue grill. With patience and practise you'll soon be a pro when it comes to cooking on a kettle BBQ.
What Is A Kettle BBQ?
A kettle BBQ is a charcoal grill that is named after its spherical shape.
The kettle grill consists of a lid, cooking grate, charcoal grate, lower chamber, upper and lower venting system and the legs. Some models have an ash catcher pan and wheels for the easy transporting of the grill around your property.
The lower chamber that holds the charcoal is shaped like a kettle, hence the name kettle BBQ. The kettle shape is designed to distribute heat evenly, and a grill reflects heat off the curved lid back onto the food and restricts oxygen flow through the coals.
The kettle BBQ was first built in 1951 by the grilling company, Weber. The original Weber kettle grill design comprises a round lid, a steel cooking grate, and two sets of vents, the bottom vents beneath the charcoal firebox and the top vents on the lid. Minor adjustments and tweaks such as changes in the grill shape, cooking grate, fuel source, etc., have been made on the original Weber kettle grill design by other manufacturing companies over time.
Kettle barbecues are designed to grill not only burgers and hot dogs, but are versatile and can be used to barbecue, smoke or even bake up any dish. All you need is basic knowledge on how to set up your grill to suit the type of cooking you want to achieve.
How to Set Up A Kettle BBQ
Use a charcoal chimney starter to get your Hot Shots charcoal before pouring them into the charcoal grate.
Remove the grill grate and transfer the burning charcoal from the chimney starter into the charcoal grate.
Arrangement of the charcoal will depend on the type of food you intend cooking and the method you want to use.
Allow the charcoal to heat up the grill for about 5 – 15 minutes.
Brush your grate with a non-stick cooking spray.
Place the food you want to cook on the grill grate and cover the lid.
Regulate the temperature of the kettle by adjusting the air vents
What To Cook On Your Kettle BBQ
There are endless choices of dishes you can prepare with your kettle grill, but as a beginner, it is better to start with simple foods like corn, burgers and dogs, and advance further to more complex recipes like whole poultry, seafood, ribs, pork roasts, pizza and cakes. You can view all of our recipes here
How To Use Your Kettle BBQ
Preheat: Always heat your grills before use, heating for about 15-30 mins. This way your food starts cooking right away. Recommended heating temperatures; for cooking on high heat is 204° - 232°C, for medium to high is 176° - 204°C and for cooking on low is 121° - 148°C.
Cover the kettle: Keep the kettle grill closed while cooking. Basically, you only need to flip the food over once or twice. While it is quite tempting to keep checking your food every couple of minutes, especially as a beginner, it is counter-productive and will unnecessarily prolong your cooking time. The more frequently you open the grill, the slower your food cooks and the longer the cooking time extends.
Use a Spatula: Always use a spatula to flip your meat, instead of poking a fork to turn the meat. Poking your meat with a fork will cause the juices to drain out from the holes left by the fork and your meat will end up dry. For a juicier and tender barbecue use a spatula or tongs to flip your food.
Fuel: Hot Shots Charcoal is the primary fuel for a kettle charcoal BBQ. However, adding wood to your grill can introduce unique flavours to your meat, and is also needed for smoking. Common wood choices in Australia would include any hardwood variety such as the Gum/Eucalyptus types. If using wood chips, soak them in water before throwing them onto the charcoal grate.
Completeness: It is quite normal to be anxious about whether your food is well-done, overcooked or undercooked. Most recipes will give you an idea of how long the dish you are preparing is expected to take.
However, several factors could make your food come out undercooked or overcooked despite adhering to the time stipulated by the recipe; factors such as the cut of meat, the temperature of your grill and your personal preferences.
Use a meat thermometer to clear any doubts when grilling. Other natural pointers that will indicate well-done meat include the aroma, grill marks, firmness of the food, etc.
Safety: Take care not to burn your fingers. Use tongs (not a fork) to flip the food, and don't touch the side of the grill or the grill lid with bare hands until the coal has cooled down. Or purchase protective BBQ gloves.
What To Consider When Buying A Kettle Grill
Choosing the right size of kettle grill depends on what you intend cooking on it and the number of people you are cooking for.
Go for a kettle with a well-fitted lid, quality enamelling, while the lid should feel solid and weighty.
Also, a good quality kettle grill would allow you to dampen the flow of air and extinguish the burning charcoals, which can be re-used later. We recommend a Weber Charcoal Grill
What To Consider When Buying A Kettle Grill
In the grilling and barbecuing world, you will be encountering these two terms a lot of the time: direct and indirect cooking. By way of introduction, the terms direct and indirect are the two basic methods of grilling. As a rule of thumb, any food that takes less than 30 minutes to cook can be grilled directly over the coals, a cooking method referred to as direct cooking. While foods that require longer cooking should be grilled with the coals on one side of the charcoal grate while the food is on the grill on the opposite side, a method known as indirect cooking. You will need to place an aluminium drip tray underneath to catch any fat drippings and prevent flare-ups.
Direct cooking: different varieties of foods from meat to vegetables, can be grilled directly over burning charcoals. Direct grilling means that the food should be placed directly over the heat source. Hot dogs, pork chops, lamb chops, boneless chicken breast, beef tenderloins, all types of fish, shrimps, etc. , can be cooked on direct heat.
Grilling directly over high heat sears the food, and gives it a crusty and crunchy exterior, whilst leaving its classic barbecue grill mark and adding a tasteful flavour.
Please note: you need to monitor your food closely when cooking on direct heat so it doesn't get burnt.
Indirect cooking: this method refers to grilling foods slowly with the heat source shifted away from under the food. Cooking in this way ensures the meat is slowly and evenly cooked and no part is left undercooked or overcooked. The heat radiating from the opposite end of the grill gradually cooks the meat thoroughly. This is the perfect method for grilling large cuts of meat, whole birds, bony chicken parts, ribs and large roasts.
Low and Slow cooking (Or Smoking): The low and slow method is about enhancing all of the flavours in a perfectly smoked meat. The goal is beautiful tender meat that falls off the bone.
The key to the low and slow cooking process is the ability to manage the temperature. This usually means managing a lower temperature over an extended period of time. The use of our good quality Hot Shot briquettes will retain the heat throughout the barbecue for a lot longer.
For low and slow cooking, not only is setting the correct temperature important but maintaining it all the way through the slow cooking process is equally important. Monitor the thermometer on the lid to see what the internal temperature is at any stage.
This is the perfect method for grilling large cuts or whole smoke are ribs, brisket, lamb and chicken.
Preparing Your Kettle Grill for Different Cooking Methods
Cooking on Direct Heat: Distribute the charcoal in a layer across the entire bottom of the grill.
Cooking on Indirect heat: Distribute the coals on one side of the charcoal grate and leave the other side empty, and place your food on the side without charcoals underneath.
To add smoke: distribute some wood chips or chunks on top of the coals. Allow the wood to catch and then replace the lid, and using the top vents adjust the smoke density to the level you desire. Opening the vent slightly will give a low but dense smoke, while opening it halfway will yield quicker but lighter smoke.
How to Pre-heat your Kettle Grill
Before preheating, open the vents on the bottom of the kettle and on the lids.
Remove the top grilling grate and take it off the handle.
Fill your chimney starter halfway with charcoal, about 40 – 60 briquettes
Place 2 lighter cubes under the chimney starter and light them.
Wait for 10 – 15 minutes, until the charcoals are coated with ash
Evenly dump the burning charcoal onto the charcoal grate, arranging them according to the type of cooking method you desire.
Replace the cooking grate.
Cover the grill with the lid and make sure that the lid vent is completely open.
Preheat for 10 – 15 minutes.
After preheating, use the hook on the lid or the lid bale to hang the lid off the kettle grill.
Place your food on the cooking grate and cover the grill completely.
When your food is done, take it off the grill and allow to rest for a while. A rule of thumb is to let the food rest for about 20% - 30% of the time it took for cooking. For example, if it took 1 hour to grill your chicken, allow it to rest for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.
Brush the grates clean using a stainless steel brush, giving special attention to the inside of the kettle lid.
Empty all ashes and unburnt charcoals from previous cooking out of the kettle bowl and ash catcher before you use the kettle grill again. This way your charcoal will burn better and the grill will cook more effectively.
Cooking with the lid on prevents flare-ups, allow heat to circulate evenly around the food as it cooks, and help the charcoal smoke flavours seep into the food.
Other Accessories for Grilling
Accessories you'll need when cooking with your kettle barbecue grill include:
Chimney Starter: a metal tankard with a grill at the bottom that allows you to measure out the right amount of charcoals and get them burning evenly and quickly. You can also top up coals in a burning grill with a chimney starter.
Thermometer: helps you to know when your food is cooked just right.
Meat claws: for shredding barbecued meat.
Flavour injector: for injecting marinade into your food.
Grate Lifters: for lifting the grates. It protects your hands from getting soiled.
Basting brushes: for rubbing spices or marinade on the meat.
Tongs: preferably long-handled tongs.
Aluminium roasting pan: for catching drippings.
Pair of gloves.
Lump Charcoal or BBQ Briquettes
You will have to decide between using lump charcoal or BBQ briquettes for your grilling. Whichever one you use, it needs to be suitable for an outdoor barbecue.
Charcoal Briquettes: are uniform in size, burns longer, lights up easily and more economical. You should wait until you see a film of ash on the top of the briquettes before placing your food on the grill.
Lump Charcoals: are easy to light, produces less ash, cleaner option, very responsive to oxygen thus making it easier to control the temperature. Lump coals give the food a natural smoke flavour, burns hotter but does not burn longer as briquettes do.
Lump Charcoal or BBQ Briquettes
To Light your chimney starter:
Place your charcoal briquettes into a charcoal chimney starter.
Pour in some lighter fluid on the charcoal.
Strike in a match and let it burn for about 20 minutes.
As a general rule, the charcoals are ready to use when white ash forms around the outside of the briquettes.
Tips for Grilling on your Kettle Grill
Preheating: always preheat your oven
Prepare: make sure all the ingredients and utensils are ready and handy. Grilling proceeds quite fast.
Flavour: add extra flavour to your food by marinating, using spice rubs, wood etc.
Use adequate fuel: use the quantity of coal that will serve you at least through the most part of your cooking. You can also replenish when running out of the heat. Use a chimney starter to burn the charcoals and top up in the grill.
Maintain the heat: maintain a steady and consistent temperature throughout the grilling time by adjusting the dampers, stirring up the burning coals to shake off the ashes and get the heat going or topping up the charcoals when they are going down.
Monitor your grill: don’t leave your food unattended, large flare-ups may turn into flames and burn your food.
Check for completeness: test if the food is done 10 – 15 minutes before the end of the estimated cooking time. Use an instant-read thermometer for thick chops, roasts and whole poultry.
Charcoal grate/grid: where you arrange your charcoal in the grill.
Cooking grate: for placing the food to be cooked.
The lid: the cover for the kettle grill. The top vent is also located on the lid.
The vents/dampers: adjustable openings that serve as outlets/inlets for air within the kettle grill. The oxygen that supports the burning charcoals enters the grill through the vents. The bottom vents allow spent charcoal and ash to fall into an ash catcher underneath the charcoal grate. The top vents also allow smoke to escape.