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Charcoal -- HELP, please!

Jillsifer's picture

Okay, after years and years with a gas grill, I finally bought a charcoal grill last night (and had to cut the carton apart to get the thing out of my very small car but that's another tale). In the midst of my excitement, I remembered I've NEVER started charcoal by myself and don't know how to do it.


If I grovel and admit that I'm embarrassed, will someone please rescue me and post some idiot-proof instructions on how to make a charcoal fire?


Thanks!

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

mulch52's picture

(post #54042, reply #1 of 33)

I'd stay away from that "Instant-Light" stuff (I think one brand is Match Lite)--the briquets are impreganted with nasty-smelling chemcals.  I really like using one of those charcoal chimneys--you stuff a couple of sheets of crumpled-up newspaper in the bottom, put the charcoal in the top, light the newspaper, and (roughly) 20 minutes later, you're all set.  I can't find any of the cool charcoals I've read about, I just use Kingsford regular.  You can find the chimneys at one of those big box hardware stores, and sometimes, a larger grocery will have them in their "seasonal" (i.e., summer) section.

Jillsifer's picture

(post #54042, reply #2 of 33)

Charcoal chimney. Right, then, charcoal chimney. I shoulda known it would get complicated. (What the h**l is a charcoal chimney?)


Okay, off I go, in search of a charcoal chimney! Thanks!

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

KitchenWitch's picture

(post #54042, reply #3 of 33)

one of these.


cheap at Target or Walmart - the best way to start charcoal.
You simply stuff several sheets of newspaper int he bottom compartment, pour your charcoal in the top, light the paper, and in 15 minutes, you have nice hot glowign coals.
and if you can find hardwood charcoal, it is better than briquets, which are full of nasty fillers and binders. Avoid the fast light ones at all cost, unless you like the taste of lighter fluid.


~RuthAnn

~RuthAnn

Jean's picture

(post #54042, reply #4 of 33)

We did the same basic thing with a large (3#) coffee can with both ends removed and some holes punched around the bottom with a church key for draft. Worked great.

Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused. 

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #54042, reply #25 of 33)

Ditto. Say, has anyone ever submitted the coffee can trick to FC as a tip? It's a good one, and not nearly as lame as some of the tips they publish (anyone remember the unforgettably obvious tip about label your ziplock bags before filling them?)

 
"We know that the tail must wag the dog,
for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old:
'It's clever, but is it Art?'"
— Rudyard Kipling, "The Conundrum of the
Workshops"

wop's picture

(post #54042, reply #28 of 33)

    Church Key.... now that's one I haven't heard since you needed one to open beer cans.


                                   Philip

Jean's picture

(post #54042, reply #29 of 33)

I wonder how that got started? Well google knows all...


http://www.just-for-openers.org/Church-Key.html


Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused. 

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
Glenys's picture

(post #54042, reply #9 of 33)

Briquets, especially the instant light variety, are laced with petroleum products. Lump charcoal- clean and hot.

3chang's picture

(post #54042, reply #5 of 33)

Along with the chimney, I also much prefer using hardwood coals. They last a lot longer and burn hotter than briquets, plus they don't have that funky smell to them.


BTW, how were those beef flavored potato chips? Pretty odd, what?

Jillsifer's picture

(post #54042, reply #10 of 33)

And where do you find them? Are they a "hunt" item or readily available to the peasantry?


We loved 'em. Well, I loved the three or four I got after I wrestled them out of Gillen's cold, dead fingers . . . he REALLY loved 'em. Thanks!

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

3chang's picture

(post #54042, reply #12 of 33)

You can find the coal at any of those barbecue supply shops (I still have a hard time believing that one can make a business out of dispensing grills), but the best one I've found comes from Whole Foods Market.  Lump coal is lump coal, but the Whole Foods coal tends to come in larger pieces, which is MUCH easier to work with.


Maybe Gillen is ready to graduate to squid flavored potato chips!

Jillsifer's picture

(post #54042, reply #15 of 33)

Okay, off to Barbecues Galore today (that is the dumbest name . . . )


G would LOVE some squid-flavored chips! He likes all things squid, so far.


Hope Berenger and Mrs. Samchang are completely recovered???

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

3chang's picture

(post #54042, reply #27 of 33)

We're all in much better health after a week's time. Squid (or any other interesting flavored) potato chips next time we meet!

KarenP's picture

(post #54042, reply #13 of 33)

 charcoal chimney is on clearance at home depot near us.  They have them at every hardware store and longs type place in our area. 

Glenys's picture

(post #54042, reply #14 of 33)

And the great thing about the chimney rather than a can is the rack that holds the charcoals for easy refuelling. I cooked for several hours on the weekend, keeping the chimney stoked non-stop and a constant heat for the roasts I was doing.

Jillsifer's picture

(post #54042, reply #16 of 33)

Oh, cool! An excuse to go to Home Despot, which I've been avoiding (heat wave). I need a screen door anyway . . . Thanks!

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

TracyK's picture

(post #54042, reply #17 of 33)

LOL, Home Despot. :-)


Does anyone else get the heebie-jeebies going into that place? I always feel like all those orange-vested smuggers are giving me the baleful eye because I'm a girl. 


 



"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet."


Julia Child

Jean's picture

(post #54042, reply #18 of 33)

Funny, I don't seem to have that problem. ROFL

Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused. 

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
TracyK's picture

(post #54042, reply #24 of 33)

Hah! Not that kind of baleful eye...  the baleful eye that doubts a girl can handle a tiling project or a jigsaw or a Mekita or whatever other various and sundry projects for which I'm assembling stuff.


"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet."


Julia Child

**edited per inner grammar n**i


Edited 7/24/2003 2:02:19 PM ET by Tracy K

PeterDurand's picture

(post #54042, reply #19 of 33)

Love the place. (love most any place where I can spend money)

Cheers,

Peter

I am at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table  -  Rodney Dangerfield

Wolvie's picture

(post #54042, reply #31 of 33)

uh oh - the Mad Mom syndrome. ;-)

Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time - Abe Lincoln.

 

Jillsifer's picture

(post #54042, reply #22 of 33)

Yes, I truly hate that place. It's hot, the staff are (for the most part) a bunch of hostile idiots, the line managers don't have the first clue how to manage, and the merchandise is in utter disarray.


And a logo/mascot named Homer? PLEASE!!!!

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

KarenP's picture

(post #54042, reply #26 of 33)

truly its fear you know more than they do.  The women and the retired guys are the only ones that I'll deal with for the most part

APonKP's picture

(post #54042, reply #20 of 33)

Jill, if I'm not too late...
If they have the Webber chimney at your Home Depot (they did at ours) get it.  It was only about $15 and is more heavy duty, which is a good thing, and bigger which I find necessary, because you need lots of charcoal to get a really good fire.  Don't skimp on the amt. you use.

For anyone else, Please never use starter fluid.  We are doing enough damage to the environment by using charcoal or wood instead of a gas grill, and the starter fluid is dreadful.  Not necessary at all, since the chimney works much better anyway. 

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  A.A. Milne

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  A.A. Milne
Jillsifer's picture

(post #54042, reply #23 of 33)

Thank you for the tip! (You're not too late. Trip to the Despot is later today.)

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

-- Washington Irving

TracyK's picture

(post #54042, reply #6 of 33)

Ooooh, jill!! Lucky you!


Agree about the chimney starter... and if you have a Trader Joe's near you you can buy the hardwood charcoal there and it is VERY cheap.


You'll love cooking on charcoal... it is so fun! Of course, I am a bit of a pyromaniac, and love anything that involves setting stuff on fire.


:-)



"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet."


Julia Child

gjander's picture

(post #54042, reply #7 of 33)

I haven't ever gotten around to getting a charcoal chimney myself, and just use charcoal starter.  Build a pyramid with the coals, add enough liquid charcoal starter to cover the coals, let soak in for a minute or so and then light with a match at several points along the base.  Then leave it be.  It will flame for a few minutes and then will look like it has gone out but if you leave it alone it will be be good and hot in about 45 minutes.  Personally, I believe that after the fluid has burned off it has no effect on the taste of your food but any approach that avoids chemicals completely is probably better. 

Wolvie's picture

(post #54042, reply #30 of 33)

I use the one touch propane lighter that came with my Webber. ;-) Used to use fluid as you do.


Hardwood charcoal - as folks are saying - the best!


Throwing stalks of herbs in the fire is cool,  too.


Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time - Abe Lincoln.

 

RheaS's picture

(post #54042, reply #8 of 33)

I used to have a terrible time starting a charcoal fire using those supposedly instant light briquets. Then, my food would taste off. I knew about the coffee can trick because of Girl Guides, but I had no access to large empty cans. I finally bought a chimney starter and some hardwood charcoal (brand is Cowboy something) -- worked perfectly. I bought the charcoal at a local home improvement store. I've also seen it at Lowe's.

schnitzel's picture

(post #54042, reply #11 of 33)

We use only hardwood charcoal and a blowtorch.


~Amy