Detailed Guide on How Much Charcoal To Use When Grilling

How Much Charcoal To Use When Grilling

Are you also a big fan of grilling. And do you also love to grill the meat with charcoal? Then you must be thinking How much Charcoal To Use When Grilling.

Summer is around the corner. It only means one thing BARBECUE. It is a barbecue season. Yeah, I know there is another way than using a charcoal grill but tell me what is a barbecue without the smokey taste.

You do not want to be the only one to not throw these stunning barbecue parties. By the way, these barbecue parties are the hot topic for the other whole week. Now if you are a beginner then you might be wondering from where to start.

This a whole step by step guide to provide you with information and knowledge about the whole charcoal grilling. I will also explain to you how much of charcoal you will exactly be needing. The quantity is different for everything.

It depends upon many different aspects. If you are grilling chicken the charcoal required will be less then grilling meat. The amount of charcoal you will be needing is also directly proportional to the heat you required. The more heat will require more charcoal.

How Much Charcoal To Use When Grilling??

Factors that will determine the amount of charcoal:

There are many aspects that we take into consideration about the quantity of charcoal. it depends upon what are you cooking, how are you cooking and what are you using for cooking. It depends upon following factor:

Type of grill:

The amount of charcoal required is different for every grill. There are different types of grill available in the market. A smaller grill requires less amount of charcoal. Smaller grill means the grill grates will be closer to charcoal. It directly means more heat.

For example, if you are using a smaller grill such as weber smokey joe and you fill the 100% chimney with charcoal then your food will be burned because the grill grates are closer to the chimney. The more charcoal is in there the more heat it will provide to the food.


The type of food you are going to grill decides how much heat will be required which in turn decides how much coal you will be needing. For example, if you are grilling food such as if you are cooking fish then it needs constant and slow heating.

So, it does not require to fill the whole chimney. The more heat will burn your food. If you are cooking steaks then it requires high heat. So, fill up your chimney up to 100% with charcoal.

The time you take to the barbecue:

The amount of charcoal you require also depends upon the time you take to cook. I will explain this in a bit of easy wording for you my friend. This means if the coal has been lit up, so, the time you take after the coal has been lit determines the charcoal required.

For example, the 20 lit briquettes will burn are hot dog if we put them on the grill grate in 15 minutes. But the same briquettes will barely heat the hot dog if we put them on the grill grates after the 60 minutes of heating. This precisely explains my point.   

Spreading of coal:

The heat you will be needing also depends upon how you spread the coal in the chimney. For example, if you dump all the coal at one side and leave the other side empty then one side will have more heat than the other. And if we uniformly distribute the same amount of coal that was used above in the chimney then the heat will below.

So, if you need more heat then you will require more charcoal. The first method of distribution divides the grill grate into two parts one is direct heating and the other is indirect heating. Most people opt for the first method of distribution because you can grill two types of food that require a different amount of heat side by side.

For example, we can grill steaks with indirect heating because it needs slow and constant heating. So, let me explain to you the amount of charcoal we will need based on the configuration.

Direct heating:

The first configuration of coal which is not opted by most people, is laying out the charcoal in a uniform pattern. There will less heat which means slow cooking. The reason being it is important to leave out a void space unless it is extremely necessary to take up the whole space.

It is ideal for cooking seafood which requires less heat and slow cooking. You will be needing 100 briquettes that fill the entire chimney. The heat it will provide will be of temperature 450-degree Fahrenheit to 550-degree Fahrenheit.

Two-zone set-up:

This is the go-to layout for most of the people. In this, you dump the entire charcoal in one part and leave the other part empty and void. In this way, you will have two parts. One will provide you with direct heating and others will give you indirect heating. It provides you with the best of both worlds.

It gives the heat of direct heating and provides you to manage flare-up by indirect heating It is ideal to cook bone-in, boneless chicken, steaks etc. The charcoal you need will be from 50 to 100 briquettes for half to the full chimney. Moreover, you can also adjust the heat. It provides two heats 450 to 550 degree for high heat and 50 to 450 degree for medium heat.

Parallel Configuration:

This configuration has coal laid out on both sides and the centre is void. This is similar to two-zone configurations but it has charcoal at parallel sides. This is ideal to grill big meals such as turkey, whole chicken, fish etc.

The two parallel sides provide indirect heat which helps the turkey or chicken to roast at medium heat. It provides low heat of 250 to 350-degree Fahrenheit. It needs 100 briquettes to fill up the whole chimney and it might need more charcoal later.

Snake configuration:

The whole point of using the charcoal grill is the smokey taste it gives. For some extra smokey taste and slow cooking, we use snake configuration. In this method, we lay the unlit briquettes in one line parallel to the edge of grill. The centre is void.

We add hardwood chunks to provide more smokey taste. Then place lit 6 to 7 briquettes at the end of the line. This will provide you with slow and long heating. Wait for a few minutes then add your food. It can grill your food for ours. You need 100 unlit briquettes, 7 to 8 lit briquettes, wood chunks and some lit coal will be required later. It provides a low temperature of about 200 to 250 Fahrenheit.


Smoking is another method of indirect heating in which the meat can be heated for a long period of time. The wood chunks are soaked in water and then added to the charcoal to give extra flavour.

There are many smokers available in the market but all of them uses indirect heating. The temperature provided by it is low such as 200 to 250 Fahrenheit. Add 100 unlit charcoal and few lit to start the burning process.

Lightening of Charcoal:

The amount of charcoal required also depend upon how we are going to light our coal. There three ways to that first are using venting in the chimney to start the fire, other is using lightening fluid and the third is using self-briquettes. The lightening fluid consists of petrochemical which makes the coal catch fire.

This fluid is highly volatile, so, it will make your coal burn faster. If you are using lightening fluid then you might need more coals later. Other self-briquettes also contain petrochemical, which makes it burn faster. Moreover, it is expensive than the other regular coal. You might need more regular coals later when these burn out fast.


The heat you want to grill your food directly determines the amount of coal you will be needing. For example,

For low heat, fill the chimney only 25% with coal.

If you are planning to make a burger it requires medium heat. So, will 50% of your chimney with coal.

If you need high medium heat or full layout of charcoal then fill the 75% of the chimney with charcoal.

When grilling steaks or turkey we need high heat. So, fill 100% of your chimney with charcoal.

And of you want to check your heat then just stick your hard on top of it and see how much you can endure pain. If it is for 2 to 3 seconds then it is high heat.

Also Read: Charcoal Grilling Tips And Techniques


Now we are in the last part of our conversation. This is the part where we revise what have we learned so far. The amount of charcoal depends upon various factors such as heat, layout, food and the way we are using to light our fluid.

The part where you guess and put the coal without any understanding is wrong. Everything requires a different technique. Hope you understood it well and now you have zero confusion in determining how much charcoal to use when grilling.

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