BBQ Debate: Time to Go Charcoal?

30 Apr 2018 Cottage Meals

rusty bbq
The barbecue is one of the most important appliances we have at the cottage. In fact, for some cottage owners, the BBQ is the number one piece of cottage equipment.

Time for a BBQ upgrade?

Barbecues come in a wide variety of sizes, options, and price points. The right one for your cottage depends on how passionate you are about cooking on the barbecue, how many people you need to feed, and of course, how much money you have available to spend.

Old-school charcoal BBQ
A popular trend in cottage country is the move back to the classic charcoal kit. Is this the right decision for you?

Pros
Hard-core BBQ cooks will tell you a charcoal barbecue is really the only choice to make if you want to get the right flavour for your cottage meals.

You can use regular charcoal, lump charcoal, or add in some wood chips to get a specific flavour you desire. This gives you a wide variety of options whether you are cooking fish, chicken, beef, or pork.

These cookers tend to be easier on the pocket book, although charcoal is making a comeback and you can go high-end if you so desire.

Charcoal BBQ Options
Here are two charcoal barbecues and a wood pellet system that cover a full range of budgets.

Cons
Using the charcoal BBQ requires some extra planning.

First, the supplies have to be all set and ready to go at the cottage. This might mean carrying the charcoal bags up the forty stairs from the dock to the deck, although that’s not going to be any heavier than hauling a full propane tank for the existing BBQ.

Second, you need some time to let the charcoal heat up to the point where the coals are white hot. It sounds simple, but try convincing a starving family that they have to be patient might not be easy, especially if they are accustomed to the propane system.

Finally, charcoal barbecues require some extra safety measures. Using lighter fluid to speed up the process when you want to get the coals going can be dangerous, and the BBQ has to be placed in a spot where it won’t be knocked over by the dog or the kids.

In addition, the barbecue should be far enough away from both the cottage and the forest to ensure a gust of wind won’t launch a few sparks and start a fire.

Extra tips
Get a charcoal barbecue with a lid. This allows you to control the heat, ensure you get the most flavour out of the process, and gives you the ability to smoke fish, or ribs.

Don’t lift the lid too often. It’s tough to leave things alone, as you don’t want to burn the food, but frequent checking can mess up your meal, especially when you are using the BBQ to slow cook.

Learn to use the vents to control your heat. The vents should be open when you are starting the fire to get the charcoal burning quickly, but slowly closed off until you get the right temperature for the food you want to cook.

Article and photo by Andrew Walker

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