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July 23, 2012

Extra Charcoal Grate – make charcoal last longer

by BBQ Insanity

Here’s a neat trick I picked up from Gary Wiviott’s excellent barbecue book “Low & Slow” to make your charcoal last longer!

One of the biggest pain points when using lumpwood charcoal is that unlike a briquette it is irregularly shaped. Depending on the quality of charcoal you purchase and how badly bashed up the bag got in the shop, the size of each charcoal lump can vary considerably.

You may find some pieces that are too large, but more commonly, you’ll find
about a quarter of the bag full of really small pieces.  What then happens is that you see lots of pieces of charcoal fall between the grate without getting a chance to contribute to whatever you are cooking.  And, as charcoal burns, it gets even smaller.  So you have the problem that lit pieces of charcoal will fall between the charcoal grate, into the bottom of the barbecue with the rest of the ash.  Not only will you get less cooking time than anticipated, you may even get less heat as the coals fall away from the grate and into bottom of the bowl.

This is no problem if you have plenty of bags in reserve, and plenty of money to buy more charcoal, but if like me, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, you’ll need make sure you get as much fire and heat from every single piece of charcoal.

A really simple remedy to this is to invest in an extra charcoal grate.  Set the grate crosswise over the original charcoal grate in the bottom of your barbecue.  This creates a mesh which retains more of the burning charcoal, for longer, resulting in a hotter and longer burn with less waste.  And you don’t necessarily need to buy a brand new cooking grate.  I actually use an old grate from a cheap & nasty mini barbecue I bought years ago. The barbecue itself wasn’t much good, but a grate is as good as a grate…  The second grate is smaller than the original, but it’s big enough to cover a large enough are to be effective.

Double Charcoal GrateLater on I’ll write a full review of Gary Wiviott’s “Low & Slow” – it’s full of other tricks of the trade with plenty of top notch recipes and Gary has a unique writing style to say the least.  But in the meantime, let us know how this works for you or if you have any other tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your charcoal!

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