How to Light a Charcoal Grill – Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means for many foodies.
Roasting meats over flames and feasting on sausages, burgers, seafood, and even veggies.
Everybody knows that a good barbecue starts with lighting a charcoal grill.
If you don’t have any idea on how to light a charcoal grill, then read on and find out how to do it.
Most die-hard fans of barbecue would agree that charcoal grill beats propane grill when it comes to flavor and aroma.
Charcoal barbecue emits the rich smell and leaves a delicious carbon flavor on the meat.
And for most cooks, there’s no better feeling than serving perfectly charred food.
Sure, charcoal grill has its disadvantages like the annoying need to clean up ashes and grease.
You also have to replenish the coals every hour or so, especially if you’re throwing a barbecue party.
And heat can really be challenging to control.
But charcoal grill remains very popular because it leaves a deep, smoky flavor on any food.
It is best suited for searing meat like steak because it creates a hotter flame than gas grill, aside from the fact that it is less expensive.
How to Light a Charcoal Grill
While it may sound like an easy task, lighting a charcoal grill is not as easy as it may seem.
You certainly don’t want to look like dumb in front of your friends at your summer barbecue party.
Worse, you don’t want to be given curious looks by your girlfriend’s dad just in case you come to their own summer get-together.
While you can always pull out your smartphone and look for a YouTube video on how to light a charcoal grill, it is still better to know beforehand how to pull off the task.
And knowing how to light a charcoal grill is one skill you want to learn so that your guests will be confident about your grilling skills just in case you host your own barbecue party.
In lighting a charcoal grill, you’ll need the following tools, a lighter fluid, a stiff wire brush, a barbecue lighter, and charcoal.
Start by emptying old ash which can obstruct vents and make it difficult for you to control the temperature.
Get rid of leftover ash in the bottom of the grill, putting it into a bag and dispose it properly.
Next up is cleaning the grates.
This is very importantly especially if you are using a public grill as whatever mess left behind by the previous user should be removed, unless you want those particles to get into your food.
No, don’t believe into what others may say about the leftover grease and food particles making your food more delicious and flavorful.
The truth is that these particles will only make your food stick to the grill, resulting into a less than flavorful food.
Using a stiff wire brush, scrape off the ash and food particles that were left from the last use of the charcoal grill.
It is easier to clean the grates when the iron is still warm.
But if it has been a long time since the grill was last used, be patient in removing the leftover grease and particles.
You can also place the grill rack back in to a hot charcoal, as the heat should loosen the grease.
In case you can’t find a stiff wire brush, you can ball up an aluminum foil.
If there’s stuck on food that you can’t get rid of, there is a solution to that.
A mixture of baking soda and vinegar should work together in breaking apart burnt-on food.
Simply mix a cup of baking soda with two cups of vinegar in a plastic bag then seal the grates in the bag with a rubber band.
Let it stand there overnight.
Remove the grates then rinse them thoroughly. Leftover food should fall off.
You may also scrub off the rest if there is still anything still stuck on the grates. Rinse with cool water before patting dry.
Once the grates have been cleaned, start to place the charcoal briquettes.
The technique here is to fill the bottom of the grill with charcoal, arranging them in a pyramid shape.
The apex should be at the center of the grill.
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How to Use a Charcoal Chimney
Lighting a charcoal chimney or charcoal grill used to be a daunting task for me.
Normally I’d have to douse a bunch of newspaper or paper towels in lighter fluid and cross my fingers to hope it worked.
Fortunately, I discovered how a charcoal chimney starter can really change the game, and they’ve made my life much easier.
Charcoal starters take the guesswork out of using your charcoal grill and they’re really simple to use.
The starter looks like a thick, stubby pipe with a grate at the bottom.
All I need to do is fill the charcoal starter with the briquettes that I want to use and put the lighter cubes or flammable material right on the top.
To get started, I simply place an additional grate over the apparatus and light the material on the top of the starter.
The charcoal starter acts a lot like a funnel, drawing hot air up from the grill itself and concentrating it right on the material that I need to light.
Since there’s a smaller surface area to work with, the grill is able to heat much more effectively and get started within minutes.
Once I have a fire going, I simply transfer the coals from my starter right onto the grill and I’m able to cook my food pretty much immediately.
Starters are great for big groups of people, or when I need to cook lots of food to order.
This method saves me a lot of energy and time, as well as minimizes the chance that I’ll have an accident from using too much lighter fluid.
I’ve noticed that my food also has a better flavor and much less of a chemical aftertaste.
I know that excess lighter fluid can lead to some serious chemical buildup in my food, and using a starter eliminates the need for so much gas.
The food is savory and chemical-free. Additionally, it’s cooked much faster than with traditional methods.
How to start a charcoal grill
Cleaning up my grill after cooking is also easier with a starter because there’s less burnt surface area to deal with.
The starter will also collect most of the ash in one spot.
When I remove my starter from the grill, I always make sure to put it in a secure place.
The starter remains hot for a while after cooking, so it’s best to keep it away from children and pets for at least an hour.
How to Light Charcoal Briquettes
Then apply lighter fluid to the top charcoal briquettes.
Spray it in an outward, circular motion until all the charcoal briquettes have been covered.
Don’t over soak.
You should leave enough fuel to properly light the charcoal briquettes.
Let the liquid soak into the coals by waiting for five minutes.
After five minutes, use a barbecue lighter to light the bottom of the pyramid.
To distribute the heat evenly, you should light in several different spots.
It could take as much as 30 minutes until the coals have been properly heated.
They would die down after burning quickly at first.
Just give them time to light up.
Lighting Charcoal Grill Using Lighter Fluid
In lighting a charcoal grill, you need to have charcoal briquettes or char wood.
Place sheets of aluminum foil at the base of the grill before you put and light the coals.
This would make it easier for you to clean the grill and disposed the used coals and its ashes.
Now place the coals, stacking them in a pyramid shape right in the middle of the grill.
This would also allow for air to flow and enable the coals to burn more efficiently and with less smoke.
Spray lighter fluid on the charcoal; light enough just to get the briquettes soaked.
As you get used to it, you will learn how to light the coals without the use of a lighter fluid by using plain old newspapers.
Give it a minute or so for the coals to be soaked in fluid.
Then using a match or a long-neck grill lighter, start the fire.
Light the opposite sides of the stack quickly.
Give the coals around 20 minutes or so to light and burn.
You need them to be hot and glowing prior to grilling.
You would know that you can start cooking when the coals get that familiar ash gray color.
There should be no smoke.
Fan the coals gently so they would burn, or give it a few minutes before you start cooking.
Using tongs, evenly spread the hot coals on the grate.
Never spray lighter fluid with the aim of heating up the coals faster.
You’d end up having barbecue tasting like gasoline.
Once you notice that the coals are covered with white ash, use your tongs to spread the coals.
Put the grate in position and remove any gunk.
But how would you tell how hot the fire is?
Simply hold your palm five inches above the fire.
You would know that the temperature is somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees F if you can hold your palm for 2 to 4 seconds.
If you can hold it for 5-7 seconds, the temperature is in ‘medium’ while if it is around 8 to 10 seconds, it is in ‘low’.
If you can hold your hand for more than 10 seconds, you need to add more coal.
Now your charcoal grill is ready to start grilling up those meats and vegetables.
As you can see, lighting up a charcoal grill isn’t as complicated as it seems.
Now that you know how to light up a charcoal grill, you don’t have to fear to be in a barbecue party next summer.
- Stiff wire brush
- Charcoal Briquettes
- Lighter fluid
- Optional: Charcoal Chimney Starter
How to start a charcoal grill
- Empty the leftover ash in the bottom of the grill
- Clean the grates using a stiff wire brush, scrape off the ash and food particles that were left from the last use of the charcoal grill.
- Once the grates have been cleaned, start to place the charcoal briquettes arranging them in a pyramid shape. The apex should be at the center of the grill.
- Then apply lighter fluid to the top charcoal briquettes. Spray it in an outward, circular motion until all the charcoal briquettes have been covered. Don’t over soak.
- Let the liquid soak into the coals by waiting for 2-3 minutes.
- Use a barbecue lighter to light the bottom of the pyramid. To distribute the heat evenly, you should light in several different spots.
- Give the coals around 20 minutes or so to light and the coals get that familiar ash gray color.
- Using tongs, evenly spread the hot coals on the grate.
- Put the grate in position and remove any remaining gunk.
Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter
Once I have a fire going, I simply transfer the coals from my starter right onto the grill and I'm able to cook my food pretty much immediately.
This method saves me a lot of energy and time, as well as minimizes the chance that I'll have an accident from using too much lighter fluid.
How to tell how hot the fire is?
- Simply hold your palm five inches above the fire.
- You would know that the temperature is somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees F if you can hold your palm for 2 to 4 seconds.
- If you can hold it for 5-7 seconds, the temperature is in ‘medium’ while if it is around 8 to 10 seconds, it is in ‘low’.
- If you can hold your hand for more than 10 seconds,
you need to add more charcoal briquettes.
Now your charcoal grill is ready to start grilling up those meats and vegetables. And as you can see, lighting up a charcoal grill isn’t as complicated as it seems.
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