How to Use a Weber Charcoal Grill

If you are new to barbecuing, or just new to using a Weber grill, you may feel a little dismayed to discover the grill comes without instructions. At least that was the way I felt when I bought my first one. So, I decided to give you a quick, no-nonsense, layman’s guide showing how to use a Weber charcoal grill from set-up to cooking.

The way you use a Weber charcoal grill depends on the cooking method you want to employ. There are two different ways to cook on a Weber charcoal grill. The first is “Direct Cooking” and the second is “Indirect Cooking”. How you set up the grill depends on which cooking style you intend to use. Let’s look at how you should set-up and use your Weber charcoal grill based on your chosen cooking method.

How to Use a Weber Charcoal Grill Based on Cooking Method

As mentioned above the method for setting up and using your Weber grill depends on how you plan to cook with it.

There are two distinct ways to cook using a charcoal grill that are as follows:

  1. Direct cooking
  2. Indirect cooking

Let’s take a look at what these are and how it affects the way you will use your grill.

Direct cooking

weber grill - how to use a weber charcoal grillThis way of preparing your food is pretty simple and straight forward. As the name implies you will cook your food directly over the charcoal.

The coals will burn directly under the grill plate and your food will be placed on the grill over the charcoal.

Indirect cooking

Indirect cooking involves the use of an additional cooking tool. Certain foods do not cook well using the direct method and require a certain protection from the raw heat generated by the charcoal.

For this reason indirect cooking requires you to place your food into a container. The container is then placed on the food grill.

Preparing Your Weber for Use

If this is the first time you have used your grill then these instructions will not apply.

However, every time you use your grill in future you will need to follow this routine so it is in your interest to read this section now.

Reusing charcoal

Charcoal burns to ash when it is fully used.

Many times when you to clean the ash from your Weber grill you will find pieces of charcoal that have not been fully burned and are still hard to the touch which have fallen through the grill grate (if you have one) into the bowl.

These pieces of charcoal and be reused and should be placed in the Kettle before you put in fresh charcoal.

Please do not attempt this directly after you use the grill as the charcoal will still be hot. Only recover unburnt charcoal before you next use the grill.

Clean out the ash tray

ash tray - how to use a weber charcoal grillOnce you have recovered reusable charcoal it is time to remove the ash from the bowl.

On your Weber grill there is a mechanism known as the One-Touch® cleaning system.

This system comprises of a stainless steel lever that when you pull back and forth forces the ash from the bowl into an ash pan beneath for emptying.

This saves a lot of time having to scoop ash out of the bowl.

Most users only need to clean the ash pan after every 2 – 3 uses but it is fine cleaning it before every use if you so wish.

Clean charcoal grill with steel brush

There are usually 2 grill/grate plates in a Weber grill (but not always – your grill may have only one).

One is used for placing your food on for direct cooking (or placing your food container on for indirect cooking).

Obviously this grill gets dirty and and if not cleaned will almost definitely lead to food poisoning. Therefore it needs cleaned before every use.

You can use crunched up aluminium foil for grill cleaning or a simple wire brush can be used to clean the grill plate of the main debris. Grill cleaning brushes can be purchased from most local stores or pretty inexpensively from online.

Don’t worry about any remaining debris on the grill as it will burn off when you preheat the Weber.

If you have a charcoal grill plate then it will sit several inches below the food grill where the burning charcoals sit – the charcoal sits directly on top of this grill.

If you don’t have a second grill then the charcoal will burn directly into the bowl.

As the charcoal burns and is reduced in size the used charcoal falls through the grill allowing room for new charcoal to added.

Using the Kettle

The grill kettle, thus named because it reassembles a kettle, is used to light the charcoal that will fuel your grill and cook your food.

kettle - how to use a weber charcoal grillUsing the kettle is a very simple process as outlined below.

Place loose paper under the kettle

Start by placing some paper in the bottom space underneath the base of the kettle.

This will be used to light the charcoal.

Don’t bunch up the paper too tightly or it will not burn.

Keep it relatively loose but still packed into the under section of the kettle.

Place Charcoal in kettle

Then put into the kettle any unused charcoal you recovered when cleaning the grill of ash.

On top of this “used” charcoal place new charcoal until you have filled the kettle with a space at the top.

Don’t try to overfill the kettle or put charcoal into to its brim as it will get very hot and you don’t want any spilling out.

At this point, or at some stage before, the grill plate that you place your food on should be removed from the Weber.

Light the Paper

Now light the paper at the bottom of the kettle and place the kettle on the charcoal grill (bottom grill) or somewhere where it will not be a fire hazard or be dangerous to children, pets etc..

It will take approximately 15 minutes for the charcoal to get to a temperature for cooking.

In the kettle there are holes that allow air flow into the kettle to ensure the charcoal keeps burning. These holes let you see the charcoal.

When the charcoal is burning red it is ready to be placed into the Weber.

Prep for Cooking

Now you are almost ready to start cooking.

Putting in the Charcoal

charcoal kettle - how to use a weber charcoal grillYou can place the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grill and place your food, on the food grill, directly over the burning charcoal when using the direct cooking method.

However, most people will either place the charcoal to one side of the grill or line the edge in a circle fashion leaving the middle of the Weber with no charcoal.

Make sure you use appropriate gloves when doing this as the charcoal is literally red hot and thus the kettle is extremely hot also. You can see the type of gloves you need here.

Replace Food Grill & Lid

You can now place the food grill back into the Weber.

The heat from the charcoal will clean any remaining debris from the food grill and kill any remaining bacteria on it.

Place the lid on the bowl with the vent open.

Wait for 5 – 10 minutes so it heats up to about 400 degrees.

At this stage you can give the food a grill another clean with your wire brush to remove any lingering bacteria-harboring debris though the 5 – 10 minutes preheating will usually be enough.


Cooking on a Weber grill is very straightforward.


To sear your food place it directly over the burning charcoal for a few minutes turning to get both sides done.

Leave the cover off so you can see how the food is searing.

After the sear move the food to a place on the grill that has no charcoal underneath it.

after the sear - how to use a weber charcoal grillIf you leave the food directly over the charcoal you will end up with a burnt taste to the food.

After the sear

Once you have seared your food and moved it to a part of the grill that is not directly over burning charcoal you should replace the lid.

Your food will now cook and you can adjust the temperature by opening or closing the vent on the lid.

You can also use a Weber grill to smoke your food for that authentic barbecue taste.

Now all you have to do is enjoy the food!

Controlling the temperature

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