I was thinking about cooking a whole chicken on the grill. This could take a couple of hours, and I might need to add some fuel to keep the heat going. Assuming I am using briquettes, I'm guessing the best bet is to light up a chimney starter and then add the hot grey coals into the grill? Is it safe, or advisable, to just add fresh briquettes during cooking?

  • Do you have a barbecue with a lid?
    – GdD
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 20:32

3 Answers 3


If your barbecue has a lid and you can control the airflow then you do not need to add fuel when you are cooking a chicken as if you close the valves you will reduce the oxygen going to your coals and they will burn slower. Get the charcoal lit in your chimney starter and then pour it onto one half of the barbecue, leaving an area where you can cook the chicken on indirect heat. Start the chicken off on the hot side and get the skin some color, then move it to the cool side, put the lid on and close the valves some to you get about 400F inside. Depending on your charcoal you should get at least 2 hours of cooking time this way, probably longer.

A good tip is to put a drip pan under the chicken, it will keep the juices from making the bottom of your barbecue messy, and it will smoke off giving your chicken some flavor.

If you do want to add fresh charcoal there are 2 ways:

  • Light it in a chimney starter and pour it in: advantage to this is it's lit and hot and gets you cooking at a high temperature right away, downside is pouring coals in stirs up everything and you can get ashes on your food
  • Add unlit coal: I like this approach because it stirs up things less, as long as you think ahead and add them ahead of time you are good

As for how to add coals it depends on the design, some barbecues have a door or flaps to add coals, with others you have to lift the grill grate off entirely. A good pair of barbecue gloves is essential, I prefer synthetic materials where you can wash them without the material getting wet - wet gloves are dangerous!

  • Thanks, the longest thing I've ever done on the grill was an hour or so so not lots of experience there. I have done indirect cooking before though; I've got an old Weber kettle with all the vents.
    – miken32
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 23:01
  • 1
    Weber kettles are good, I've had a few of them @miken32. What's really useful when trying to do controlled heat is a multi-probe digital thermometer, you can measure the heat inside with one probe and your food with the other. Vents half closed to start usually gives a decent roasting temperature.
    – GdD
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 8:24
  • Why are wet gloves dangerous? Just because the inside can be hard to dry?
    – BThompson
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 12:52
  • 1
    Water is a good conductor of heat @BThompson, water in the material will conduct heat straight to your skin.
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 13:25

First, it shouldn't take "hours"; make certain not to over cook your chicken.

You should spatchcock your chicken so that it cooks more evenly.

Using a chimney to prepare briquettes is a good idea, just be certain you have a safe place to keep and store burning briquettes, if you don't use them all.

I'd add a few briquettes at a time to keep the heat high; be pro-active.

  • Spatchcocked,, it would be even less than 10 minutes a pound at 500f/260c, right?
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 0:14
  • It's a fairly big bird so I was thinking it could be 1.5-2 hours, but spatchcocking sounds like a good idea, to reduce cooking time, thanks. Am I correct in thinking that adding unburned briquettes is a bad idea?
    – miken32
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 0:26
  • How much does the bird weigh?
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 1:17
  • @miken32 if using briquettes, I would avoid adding "un-burned", and they tend to emit off flavors. Poultry is a particularly flavor absorbent protein. Your idea of starting them in a chimney is sound.
    – moscafj
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 10:23
  • @helplessduck about 3kg
    – miken32
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 14:24

Simple answer, get a good digital instant-read meat thermometer. Get a fresh 16oz can of your favorite hops brew and wash it and the whole chicken. Make your indirect fire however you want, and adjust the vents to hold a temp of around 250 at rack level. Put the chicken on the beer can and prop it up in the cooker. Close it all up, go get another beer, and google "meater" and "flameboss" and ask yourself just how deep you wanna get into BBQ. Keep an eye on the temp, and when it starts to drop off, add some briquettes right to the pile. Try not to stir up too much ash. After about an hour or so, temp check twice in thighs and twice in breasts. Legs - 180, Breast - 170 is when they're done. Enjoy!

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    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 6:46
  • Sorry.. I blather. I ran a BBQ food truck for a few years, and I'm a natural know-it-all... Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 14:51

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