Although lighter fluid and pre-treated charcoal can cut your grilling time, they can also add an unpleasant taste to your food. Many people are more concerned with the environmental and health issues associated with adding lighter fluid to their grill than ever before, so they often choose to take the extra time to grill without added chemicals.
One technique for starting charcoal is to use an electric starter. Plug it in and place it in the coals, following the manufacturer directions. You’ll usually leave it in about five minutes or so, and it will heat the charcoal briquettes and get them burning. When you remove it, remember to place it on a heat resistant surface where it can cool safely. Wait until the charcoal has turned white before beginning to cook.
Another technique is to use a chimney and a charcoal starter. Both can be purchased at many hardware stores. A chimney is placed in the grill, and a started is added to it. The chimney is a metal tube that is open on both ends. It will have access holes around the sides so you can light the starter after the materials have been layered inside it. The starter is a flammable material, such as newspaper or wood, that is often mixed with wax. Place the starter near the edge of the chimney so you can reach it through the side. Place charcoal on top of the starter, and then light it.
The starter will begin to burn, and as it does, it will begin to light the charcoal around it. When you see several gray patches on the top layer of charcoal, you can carefully remove the chimney and spread out the coals. The chimney will be very hot, so use a pair of tongs to remove it. Put the chimney on a heat-resistant surface, out of the way. Better yet, immerse the chimney in water so it isn’t a safety hazard. Again, wait to begin cooking until the coals have turned white and have reached their hottest point.
If you find yourself in a pinch, you can make a chimney from a large coffee can. Remove both the top and bottom of the can so that it’s a hollow cylinder. Then, punch several holes around the sides of the can, about an inch or so from the edge. An old-fashioned bottle opener works well for making small, triangular holes around the edges.
If you have some charcoal starters, place one near the side of the can where you can light it. If not, you can improvise your own. Place a flammable material, such as newspaper or wood chips, inside and near the edge of the can. You need to be able to reach it through the holes you’ve made to light it. A little melted candle wax can help it burn more efficiently but isn’t strictly necessary.
Be sure to use unscented candles, and melt the wax in a double-boiler to avoid fire. You can also leave a little wax in a hot place for a few hours before cooking. Again, you’ll want to put the charcoal on top of the starter and then light the starter. When the coals begin turning gray, you can remove the chimney and spread out the coals.
With a little investment in time, you can enjoy your charcoal grill and avoid adding unnecessary chemicals. Your food will taste all the better for it.With a little