Okay, so I covered the different types of grills in The Grill, part 1 of this Grilling Primer. Now let’s get some fire goin’! In this section, I’ll go over the different types of fuel and how to get it lit.
Fueling the Fire
If you really want to know about gas, go see Hank Hill at Strickland Propane for your propane and propane accessories. Generally speaking, gas heat is pretty easy to start and control. Start by lifting the cover of the grill, then open the gas valve and turn the temperature control knob to the ignite position. Using the starter button, clicker or long match, light the fire. Set the knobs to the desired temperature, preheat the grill for 5 to 10 minutes, and you’re ready to start cooking.
Cooking with charcoal, on the other hand, has a few variables. My dad would have me believe that lighting charcoal is an art form or skill that requires many years of training. Although there is a little bit of trial and error, it’s pretty easy.
Briquettes vs. Lump Coal:
Charcoal briquettes are available in most grocery and hardware stores year-round. Once lit, you must wait for all of the briquettes to ash over before cooking, about 25 to 35 minutes. This ensures that chemicals used in forming the briquettes have burned off. Briquettes, because of their compressed nature, will burn longer than will hardwood charcoal. However, when you have to add more to your coals for longer cooking times, you must let the new briquettes ash-over before you continue cooking.
Some briquettes have the starter fluid built into them and are ready-to-light. Personally, I don’t like to use the self-lighting variety because even after they have ashed over, they can still leave an off taste to the food. Plus, every good griller knows that it’s all about time and patience.
You can even find some briquettes that have wood chips in them to help “flavor” your food… UGH!
Lump coal or hardwood charcoal seems to be growing in popularity and is more widely distributed than before. Lump coal ignites quicker, burns hotter, and is cleaner (and greener) than briquettes. Once it has reached the desired cooking temperature, you can start cooking. This type of charcoal is ideal for foods that cook longer than one hour because more can be added to the already hot coals anytime without waiting for them to ash-over.
Clearly, this section is for charcoal grills… at any rate, I hope that’s clear or you shouldn’t be playing with fire..
If you are going to use it beware that IT IS VERY FLAMMABLE. To ignite your charcoal make a nice neat pile in the middle of the fire grate or the bottom of the grill. Squirt the lighter fluid on the charcoal making sure to get it all. Snap the lid back on and move the can away from the grill (duh). Light with a long match or clicker. Don’t worry if all of the coals are not lit – they will light, just give them time. This is the perfect time to go grab a beer or blend up some margaritas. Even though it may seem like a cool idea, DO NOT ADD MORE STARTER FLUID TO LIT OR HOT COALS. Allow at least 25 to 35 minutes before putting any food on the grill to be sure that all of the fluid has burned off. Once the coals have ashed over, scatter them in a single layer (please wear a mitt and use tongs). Place the cooking grate on the grill and commence to grilling. Store the starter fluid in a well-ventilated area away from the grill or any other heat source (again, duh).
This starter is simply the best, cleanest, greenest and my preferred method to lighting charcoal. Charcoal chimneys are available in most any hardware store or any store that sells grills and is essentially a metal canister with a handle and no top and bottom. Using no fluids or electric starters, they are the easiest and quickest starter to use. Simply add a couple of crumpled up newspapers to the bottom and fill the canister with charcoal. Place the chimney on the fire grate (not the cooking grate) and light the newspaper with a match. Let the charcoal burn for 10 to 15 minutes, and then carefully pour the hot coals onto the cooking grate. Put on a mitt and arrange coals in a single layer with a pair of long-handled tongs. Another benefit of the chimney is if you are going to be cooking something for more than 45 minutes to an hour, you can start another batch of coals without disturbing what’s cooking.
And there you have it. Next up in the primer is Cool Tools.