It took some advice from a co-grilling neighbor to get us on the right track to lighting our grill.

1. Stack the briquettes, and don’t be cheap. We have learned that the best way to get a good fire going is to use good charcoal. I have tried the off-brand varieties at grocery stores and Walmart and found that they don’t light as easily, they aren’t ready to use as quickly, and they don’t burn as hot. Though my theory on the quality of charcoal is unscientific, I have had much better luck with Kingsford brand.

Stack the briquettes in a pyramid. Rather than layering piles of charcoal onto your grill, stack about 20 pieces to get started. Something about this arrangement encourages the fire to get hot quickly. After the fire is established and the briquettes are beginning to turn gray, spread them around and add the amount of charcoal you need.

2. Bring on the fluid. Some charcoal comes already saturated in lighter fluid and some doesn’t. If yours is the kind with fluid, you will not need to use any more to get it started. However, if you are using charcoal without fluid, you will need to have some on hand. If you have a cheap brand of charcoal you will need to use more fluid. Let the lighter fluid soak in for at least 3 minutes, preferably 5. If you don’t wait long enough, you will have the problem of the charcoal lighting quickly and dying just as fast. The charcoal needs time to absorb the fluid.

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