How to grill without charcoal? | Detailed Guide

Charcoal or gas is the major fuel for most of the grills these days. Most people prefer these because it is much convenient and easy to use. But many people prefer to grill bbq without charcoal.

There are different types of charcoal; hence they can be easily lit up with a match or lighter with no requirements of additional fluids. But there is a downside as well, can you guess it! Yes, you will miss the natural wood smoking flavors in the food while preparing them with a charcoal or gas grill.

Traditionally, wood was the main fuel for grilling but it is not as easy to expert in those traditional ways. If you visit a restaurant, many expert chefs can accomplish that but you can also do it in your backyard. Charcoal is a type of pre-treated wood and that is the main difference.

All you need to do for using firewood instead of charcoal is setting the wood on fire, then let the flames fan down. After that, you need to use the coal embers from the wood for smoking or cooking the food on the grill grates but the main trick is to control the flames so they are contained beneath the grates. Else, you will grill the food on the flames instead of above the flames that can make your food worse.

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Let us now go into the details on ‘How to grill without charcoal?’


Types of Wood that are the best for grilling purposes –

While grilling, it is not the fresh-cut wood or the fallen twigs that you can collect and use for cooking. The appropriate types of woods required for grilling are mainly available in three main types. None of these types are freshly cut ones since they do still contain moisture within them. And, that is not ideal since woods containing water are not adequate.

The three main types of woods suited for grilling purposes include –

  •  Wood chips,
  • Wood chunks, and
  • Wood logs/Wooden planks.


Now, the type of woods entirely depends on the amount of time you want to use your grill for cooking the foods. For instance, wood chips are the ones that burn fast so, they are perfect if you want to use your grill for 15 to 20 minutes. One trick that you can apply to last wood chips a bit longer is to soak them but still, they will be ideal for faster cooking recipes.

If you are planning to use your grill for a longer period, then wood chunks can be your ideal option since they last long and you no longer need to open the lid. In this case, it is worth noting that the trick we mentioned for the wood chips will not work for wood chunks.

Coming to the last type, wooden planks, they require being soaked always before using so that the flames remain below the grill grates.

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How to cook with the aid of direct and indirect heating?

It requires a lot of practice to cook or grill with woods since controlling the flames for cooking chicken, burgers, etc. You can use two methods for grilling foods over the open flames – direct and indirect heat.

Cooking or grilling the food over an open flame is referred to as the direct cooking method while the indirect method is the same process that you do with charcoal but with the aid of firewoods. In this process, you need to let the flames fan down before the grilling process.


More about the indirect grilling method without charcoal –

So, by now, we know that charcoal is just pre-treated wood. Hence, we will now take out the pre-treatment and use direct wood as the main fuel.

You need to set the woods on fire and wait till they turn a grey color that indicates that it is burning out. The major thing to control is the flames because it is not a campfire so you will not need to start a roaring fire inside the charcoal grill. You will aim to burn the woods until they are burned to coals or embers.

After achieving this, now you will cook on the coals generated from the firewood instead of direct charcoal. For getting the smoky wood flavor, you can now add fresh wood chunks on the top (one or two) on the top of the coals.

Avoid using any kind of chemicals like the lighting fluid or others as that can make your food taste bad. Rather, use some natural fire-starters.

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List of the best types of woods that will not need any charcoal –

The different types of woods you can use for the grilling process are as follows:

  •  Camphor Laurel,
  • Alder,
  • Cherry wood,
  • Juniper,
  • Applewood,
  • Hickory,
  • Heathery,
  • Oak,
  • Maple,
  • Walnut,
  • Straw,
  • Pecan,
  • Mesquite,
  • Grape Vinewood (good for most kinds of meats),
  • Peach Wood (porks/poultry).

 Thus, you need to check the type of food you are about to grill since some wood may be good for seafood or some may be for grilling meats. For instance, a combination of hickory wood and Mesquite is good for steaks, hamburgers, or hot dogs.

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Below are the 3 ways to grill without Charcoal.


1st way: Using a charcoal grill but woods as the fuel, not charcoal –

Don’t go by the name of charcoal grill and get worried by the fact that charcoal can be only used. You can use the same pit of these charcoal grills to burn firewood down to coals and place a grill grate over it to perform grilling. You can also go with a wood-fire grill and smoker if you have bought a grill yet.


2nd way: Build a permanent fire pit in your yard –

Yes, you can build permanent fire pits with the help of bricks and there is no reason to make them large. Just make them enough wide to place the grill grate adequately.


3rd way: place a grill grate over a campfire –

This can be the most budget-friendly option as you can turn any campfire into a grill. How? Just purchase a simple stake and grill rack which comes in the form of a pole stand with a grill above it and the height of the stand can also be adjusted. So, you can change the heights accordingly to let the flames of the campfire down enough and enjoy perfect grilling.

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The Final Thoughts…

Thus, we have gone through every minute detail on how to grill without charcoal using different types of wood. Grilling with wood will retain the traditional smoky wooden flavors in the foods that make the food more delicious and yummy.


Hope this guide can clear your doubt on ‘How to grill without charcoal?’ Thanks!


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