Ever been to a barbecue party where the ‘chef' placed as much food as he could possibly fit onto the barbecue grill, every so often stabbing the food with a fork and juggling it around so that it cooks evenly? Ever noticed how, within a few minutes, the flames start gently flickering under the food, the chef proudly standing back admiring the char grill effect that he's creating? Ever notice the panic that sets in when the flames suddenly leap up and around the food burning it black on the outside and leaving it raw on the inside?
The difference between great char grilled barbecue food and burnt offerings lies in a few small precautions. The chef that we've just described made a few fatal errors that could easily have been avoided. Before discussing the errors though, lets consider the equipment that we're talking about. Although the same can happen with gas as with charcoal, gas grills can be turned lower, or off, when the flames start getting out of control.
The flames can also be controlled if the barbecue grill has a tight fitting lid, as with a Weber kettle grill. However most people seem to cook on an open top barbecue grill with the lid, if it has one, open. Note that we're talking about a barbecue grill here, where the food is cooked directly over the hot coals. True barbecue uses indirect heat with the food fully enclosed as though in an oven. So, the barbecue grill that our imaginary chef is using is an open top, charcoal, barbecue grill.