A hulking, rubbed-down pork butt, thirsty for smoke and ready for the long, slow heat it needs to become so tender it shreds with a stern look.
Those glistening, deeply marbled rib eyes I wasn’t planning on buying but looked so good in the meat case and, well, sometimes you just need an expensive steak.
Burgers for my kids—no cheese, please, and not too pink in the center or else Dad will have to bring them back to the grill for a little extra cooking.
“Uncle Lew’s Chicken,” a family recipe (a variant of Cornell chicken) heavy on vinegar and poultry seasoning.
Cedar-planked salmon, an amazingly delicious Cook’s Country recipe that lets you “do the dishes” after dinner by burning the cooking plank in the embers.
These are just a small selection of things that I love to make on my Weber charcoal grill. Our top-rated charcoal grill is the fancier model that has a gas ignition, charcoal storage bin, and a built-in table, but I prefer the lower-key, smaller-footprint version, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch (both of these grills earned our coveted “highly recommended” designation). This grill makes me happy—it looks like a classic Weber grill (the core design—inspired by nautical buoys—is timeless) but has a few updates that earn big points for user-friendliness. Features I love include the hinged grilling grate that makes it easy to add extra charcoal or wood chips, the easy-to-empty ash catcher, the thermometer built into the lid, and the handle notches for hanging grill tools.
Is a charcoal grill more work than a gas grill? Yes, it is. It takes some effort to light (do yourself a favor and buy a good chimney starter to handle this task) and arrange the charcoal, and you have to empty the ashes regularly. Vents above and below need to be adjusted, oftentimes during cooking. A charcoal grill is harder to cook on, too, since you can’t just turn a mound of burning charcoal from “low” to “high” like you can with the flames of a gas grill by simply turning a knob.
But to me, the rewards of cooking over charcoal far outweigh any inconveniences. A charcoal fire is a live fire: a living, breathing thing that requires some degree of engagement to stay on top of. Wind, humidity, outside temperature, and the age and type of charcoal are just some of the variables that make every charcoal fire unique—the cook needs to be observant and responsive. Learned intuition becomes important. And, if you like to slow-smoke meats and fish like I do, a gas grill can’t compare to the Weber charcoal grill. Perhaps most important, though: The smell of burning charcoal is a powerful trigger, a mood enhancer that signals the brain to get its pleasure receptors revved up for the great food, laughter, and lightness of spirit that are on the menu. Fire up the grill!
Do you love your charcoal grill? Tell us about it in the comments. For more grilling recipes, check out our 20 Grilling Recipes That Will Make You Feel Like a Pitmaster.