How To Set Up Charcoal

BBQ 101

How To Set Up Charcoal

Setting up Charcoal for Grilling and Smoking

In this guide, you will learn how much charcoal to use and how to set up your charcoal to achieve the right temperature and final results that you want! First, you'll need to purchase a high-quality charcoal. Look for something that provides consistent heat and can give your food an incredible smoky flavor. Now, how much charcoal should you use? That depends on how much you're cooking and how hot you want the grill. If you want high heat, around 450°F to 550°F, you'll want about 100 briquettes or a full charcoal chimney. For medium heat, around 350°F to 450°F, you'll want about 50 briquettes or a half full charcoal chimney. For low heat, around 250°F to 350°F, you'll want a fourth full charcoal chimney or about 25 briquettes. Maximum temperature and length of the cook depends on how you spread out your coals. If you spread lit coals in a thin layer, your temperature will be lower, and the heat will dissipate faster. If your coals are more concentrated, your temperature will be higher and stay hot longer.

Why Charcoal Setup Matters

The process may seem simple, but it's the foundation upon which every grilled meal is built. Whether you're a seasoned grill aficionado or just embarking on your grilling journey, understanding how to set up charcoal properly is essential. Charcoal placement is a critical factor in controlling temperature while grilling with charcoal. The arrangement of charcoal in your grill can significantly impact the cooking temperature and the distribution of heat. Below, we will go over some common charcoal placement methods for temperature control.

Remember that the placement of charcoal alone is only one aspect of temperature control. You also need to adjust the grill's vents to regulate airflow and manage the temperature.

Direct Grilling

For direct heat grilling, you'll want to place your coals in a single layer across the bottom of the barrel. This technique is ideal for high heat cooking or thin cuts of meat.

Indirect Grilling

For indirect grilling, sometimes called two-zone grilling, you'll want to put your coals to either the left or right side of the grill and leave the other side empty. The hot zone is ideal for searing, while the cooler zone is suitable for slower cooking or finishing foods without direct heat. This technique also helps manage and control potential flare-ups. Temperature can be adjusted by adding or moving charcoal within the hot zone or by adjusting the airflow through the grill's vents.


To offset smoke, you'll place the charcoal directly into the Side Fire Box or you can use a charcoal chimney. All of the techniques discussed can be lit using fire starters or a charcoal chimney. Offset smoking with charcoal is an excellent method for smoking and slow-cooking as it provides a consistent and indrect heat source. For more on how to offset smoke, be sure to check out our blog post: a comprehensive guide to offset smoking. Setting up charcoal can seem tricky at first, but with a bit of practice, you'll get the results you need every time!

The Char-Griller Smokin' Champ has a Side Fire Box which allows for offset smoking. Adding a Side Fire Box to a compatible grill gives you the ultimate Texas-Style smoking ability. You can also make the Side Fire Box the ultimate, portable grill by detaching it and using the included legs.

About the BBQ 101 Series

Susie Bulloch founded Hey Grill Hey in 2015 with one desire: to help people make better BBQ. Char-Griller and Kingsford partnered with Susie and Todd to bring you this series of content, BBQ 101, to help you become a better backyard bbq pro.

Offset Smoking Snapshot

Texas-style smoking in your own backyard? It’s possible with Char-Griller’s line of offset smokers. Equipped with Side Fire Boxes for going low n’ slow just like classic pitmasters, Char-Griller’s offset smokers will help you create the best pork butt, the most epic ribs, fall off the bone smoked chicken and so much more.