How to Grill Hotdogs on a Charcoal Grill

You must have heard grillers say, “It’s not you. It’s the grill.” When it comes to barbecuing smoky, delicious hotdogs nothing beats a charcoal grill. Charcoal creates a lot of smoke and grilled meat absorbs it to make your burgers and sausages extra tasty and tangy.

For most barbecue parties, hot dogs, chicken wings, and burger patties are thrown side by side over the grill. Thighs and ribs take longer to cook. Mixing them with sausages can ruin the hotdogs and causes them to become shriveled, dry or split at the ends.

Although charcoal grills offer great taste, they are slightly difficult to operate; you need to have some technical skills to prepare a barbecue on them. In this blog post, we share some top tips for grilling amazing sausages on charcoal grills.

Charcoal Hot dogs

Thaw Your Sausages to the Room Temperature

This first step goes for all types of grilling meats. Since meat spoils quickly, many people keep it frozen and directly pour the frozen sausages on to the grill.

This can cause the sausage to become over crispy on the outside while it remains uncooked and raw on the inside. If you cook the sausage for too long, it can get burnt on the outside and becomes too dry on the inside.

When you are preparing for the barbecue, keep the sausages on a tray at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Not only will this reduce your cooking time, but it will also ensure that your sausages are thoroughly cooked on the outside and crispy on the inside.

Select the Right Charcoal

Unlike most other types of grills, the fuel matters for charcoal grills. Beginner level users should only use charcoal briquettes instead of irregularly shaped lumps. Coal briquettes burn evenly and make it easier to control the heat being applied to the sausages.

More experienced users can get irregular hardwood lumps. This type of charcoal packs more power and can create a higher burning temperature. It burns hotter and there is a good chance that you will get searing on your barbecue.

Another thing to note is how much charcoal to use for the barbecue. It really depends on the number of sausages or other food you are planning to grill. A regular medium-sized grill can hold about 3 lbs of charcoal which should be enough to cook for two servings of barbecue. If you are planning to throw a bigger party, adjust accordingly.

Setting up the Grill

Charcoal grills used to require more time and effort to set up than a gas or propane grill. Getting the coals lit was also difficult. Thankfully, most modern charcoal grills come with an automatic fire starter system that makes it very easy to get them going.

Make sure that the fuel pit is clean and fill the fire chimney with coal right to the top. Place one (or two, depending on the size of the grill) fire starters between the coal. You can find these fire starters at the local retail stores for less than a dollar. You can also use old newspapers or rags for starting the fire.

Light them up with an electric igniter or a long match. Let the fire-starters burn until the coals catch fire. Wait for them to burn red and allow a thin layer of white ash to form on them. It takes about 10 – 15 minutes for this to happen and shows that your coals are ready for grilling.

Control the Heat and Create Two Zones

Unlike gas grills, charcoal requires some manual input to control the heat. You can create two separate heating zones by piling up the charcoal to one side of the grill. You can put hot dogs on the hot side to grill and singe them properly and then move them to the low heat side to cook on the inside.

Barbecue food that cooks quickly like burgers, hot dogs, and vegetables will require a lower, constant flame. Roast chicken, ribs, and steaks can be grilled on the side that has a higher flame.

Expert grillers understand the different cooking styles for different types of meats. The roast chicken starts on the side with medium-high heat and then moved to lower heat side. You can cover the grill with the lid to smoke the chicken thoroughly.

With hot dogs, it is the other way around. You start the sausages on the low-medium heat and let them cook for 5 minutes.

Keep moving and rolling them over to ensure that they are cooked evenly on all sides. Once they look half done, move them to the side with high heat and let them cook on high flame to form a crispy layer. Make sure that you pour some butter on them with a dusting brush to keep the sausages from drying out.

Grilling Skinless Hot Dogs on a Charcoal Grill

Hot dogs come in two main varieties; skinless and skinned. The skinless hot dogs are covered in a synthetic casing that is used for giving them the shape. The casing is removed before the sausages are packaged for sale.

Skinless sausages look more plump and juicier while on the grill but they can become shriveled up and deflate once they are off the grill. To prevent this, you will need to grill them for a shorter time on the charcoal grill, not more than 5 minutes at best.

To grill them faster you can make a few narrow slits into the sausages before putting them on the grill. Make four cuts on the franks in total, two on each side. When you put these sausages on to the charcoal grill, heat will get to the center much quicker and cook the sausage faster. The cuts will also expand during cooking, keeping the sausage from shriveling up.

Skinless hot dogs cooked in this style will stay juicier and plump. The smoke also penetrates the hot dogs deeper when they are slit at the sides and leads to a richer taste.

Cooking Natural Casing Hot Dogs on a Charcoal Grill

Hot dogs encased with a natural or edible synthetic casing do much better than skinless hot dogs on a charcoal grill. The casing protects the sausage from spitting out while still allowing heat to get absorbed into the sausage. The skin protects the hot dogs from shriveling up or becoming too dried and the juices are retained inside.

To cook them to perfection you can grill the sausages first in a foil tray with a flavored light gravy and then sear them directly over the grill once the sausages appear to be well cooked. Expose them to the flame for no more than 30 seconds and allow the heat to char the skin slightly. This makes the skin crispy and delicious.

Adjusting the Hue and Flavor

Some users prefer not to get their hot dogs charred. They grill it only to a golden brown hue. This type of ‘caramelization’ makes the hot dogs tangier without adding the crispiness that you get with charred sausages.

Another trick you can use is to cook the sausages indirectly without exposing it to heat directly. Parking the sausages to the side offers a genius trick especially if you’re having a party where you have to cook dozens of sausages.

Even if you want to sear the sausages, one thing that you shouldn’t do is char the outer skin before the inside of the sausage is fully cooked. The best way to do that, in case you want to be safe, is to simmer the hot dogs in light gravy or water for five minutes. This will ensure that your franks are pretty much cooked both inside and out. For the finishing touch, just give them some charring on the grill to make them perfect.

Bring It All Together

The hot dog buns should not be toasted on the charcoal grill. While the smoke works wonders on the hot dogs or burger patties, it can turn the buns black and make them look burned. You can place a tray on the grill and toast the rolls over that.

Cleaning the Charcoal Grill Afterwards

Once you are finished with the grill, close the lid on the grill to shut it completely. This will remove any oxygen from reaching the coals and extinguish the coals in a matter of minutes. Any charcoal that is left unburned can be removed and transferred to a metal fuel can and used in the future.

You can get rid of the residual embers or ash by placing them inside a waterproof can. Fill it with water and leave it overnight before throwing it all away.

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