Using charcoal is often viewed as high maintenance and time consuming. But, no fear! Here we will discuss the basics of charcoal lighting, and what methods are the quickest, best and most effective to use when grilling. The 3 methods mentioned are hassle free and safe, but make sure you take the precautions so you don’t burn your hands. Fireproof gloves are a useful accessory—charcoal and metal are very hot when combined.
Types of Charcoal
You may think that lighter fluid and pre soaked charcoal is the easiest way to light your grill. However, it is the least safe, and the smelly fumes can badly damage the taste, and look of your food.
To avoid this, it’s best to find a natural hardwood lump charcoal that is unsoaked. This will provide a wood based smoke that burns clean; if you prefer a bolder flavor, look for charcoal that has mesquite, hickory or other scents to it. Wood chips and chunks can be placed on top of your charcoal if you want to add your own flavour as well.
How to Light your Chimney
Your standard charcoal starter or"chimney" will be an upright and open top cylinder, with a handle and holes at the bottom. You’ll notice a space in the bottom, which is where you will place and light your starter material. The holes provide oxygen to feed the flames and provide an even burning fire. This is important!
Types of Starter
1. Newsprint: the most traditional method of lighting a chimney, newsprint burns fast and easy.
How to: ball the newspaper up and stuff it under the chimney. Make sure you poke a corner of the paper out of a side hole to light. This will ensure you don’t burn yourself.
Tip: While newspaper is the easiest and most ecological for recycling, it does require frequent cleaning of your grill; Paper tends to crumble and fly away when burned.
2. Wax Cube: the most clean burning and efficient method, wax cubes are the size of an ice cube and inexpensive.
How to: Light it, and place your chimney over it; the wax will eventually evaporate.
3. Paper towel + cooking spray: super fast, super hot.
How to: place a half sheet of paper towel at the bottom of the chimney (not in the bottom starter area!) Spray,
Another popular trend of lighting a charcoal chimney is by using an electric starter. You can buy them at most hardware stores, and simply plug it in, and feed a corner out of a side hole. The metal rod will light your charcoal using heat.
After 15 to 20 minutes, your charcoal will be ready to grill with. Make sure you use heat resistant gloves to dump the charcoal into the bottom of your grill, in a charcoal tray or basket. Charcoal trays assist in containing heat from the embers while providing a convenient cleanup. They even have added smoker pockets, where you can place your favorite chips and chunks. Baskets help create a perfect indirect heating zone; great for smoking meats and proteins. You can even add another basket to create a 3 zone fire. This is great for big roasts and long, slow smokes.
When you’re finished lighting, place your grate on top and get grilling!