How to start a charcoal fire:
The charcoal chimney method: This is one of the easiest ways to start your charcoal. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but so is driving a car, and people still take lessons to do that.
1. Buy the biggest charcoal chimney you can and remove the cardboard label.
2. Wad up DRY newspapers and stuff in the bottom compartment. Too many and too tight, and they’ll burn too slowly, but not enough and you won’t have enough fuel to start your fire. TIP: pull some pieces of newspaper out through the little vent holes so that the paper is easy to light.
3. Place the chimney, newspaper down, on the charcoal grate, not the grilling grate, of your barbecue.
4. Fill the chimney with charcoal briquettes.
5. Light the newspaper.
6. In about twelve to fifteen minutes the coals should be burning up at the top of the chimney. (One drawback to the chimney is that often the bottom coals are half-consumed by the time the top coals are started, so we like to empty the charcoal when the top coals are just starting to be lit.) Now it’s time to empty the chimney.
7. IT’S HOT. Only touch the handle, and carefully dump out into your grill.
8. Set the hot chimney down someplace where it won’t cause damage. Not on your plastic picnic table, and not where the kids or the dog will lick it.
9. Scrape out your coals, if you’re direct grilling, or off the side, if you’re using a two-zone, BBQ Dragon fire.
The newspaper alone method: You don’t really need a chimney to start charcoal, and in tests we’ve found that newspaper alone starts a fire just about as fast as a chimney.
1. Lift up the charcoal grate and wad up newspapers – about two full sheets worth – off to one side of the charcoal grill. Instead of just wadding up full sheets of paper, rip them up so that you end up with a bunch of fist-sized balls.
2. Replace the grate over the newspapers and pull a few pieces of newspaper up through to facilitate lighting
3. Dump in a pile of charcoal over the area where the paper is.
4. Here’s the trick: Stack up the charcoal into the tallest pyramid of charcoal you can create. Just as in the chimney, the heat will rise and help light all the coals. If you leave the pile you dumped spread out, it will be hard to light and keep going.
5. Light those newspapers.
6. In about fifteen minutes you’ll have a fully-lit pile of charcoal
7. Snicker at your sissy neighbors who have to use a charcoal chimney.
The Lighter Fluid method: We love this method at BBQ Dragon, because, speaking of sissies, we don’t believe that lighter fluid leaves any taste on your charcoal or the food you’re grilling. We’ve tested this many times, and no one can tell the difference between fluid-lit barbecuing and paper-lit barbecuing. (The only exception is if you spray fluid all over your entire grill like a monkey and it doesn’t get burned off.)
1. Stack a nice pyramid of coals on your charcoal grate.
2. Douse liberally with fluid. This is no time to conserve resources.
4. Fifteen minutes later you’ve got hot charcoal. Nice.
The Lighter Fluid, Charcoal Chimney Hybrid Method: Another BBQ Dragon Method, this starts coals in about 45 seconds. (Exaggeration) As you fill your chimney, wet all the coals with lighter fluid. Squirt a little extra down the top when you’re done. For added speed, you can soak the newspapers you wadded up in the bottom also with lighter fluid.
Light. Goes quick.
The chemical tablets Method: There are a number of products on the market now which are little burnable tablets or bricks that light and burn with intense heat for long enough to start your pile of charcoal. These are a great product for manufactures because you get addicted to using them, and therefore have to keep buying them, and they’re not cheap. But you could say the same thing about Lighter Fluid. And Newspaper, for that matter.
1. Follow manufacturer’s directions.
2. It will go something like this:
3. Place tablet on charcoal grate. (Sometimes there’s a little tin sheet to set it on)
4. Pile on charcoal
5. Light from underneath.
6. These can also be used in chimneys if you can stick a match or lighter in to light them.
The Ligher Fluid, Charcoal Chimney, Chemical tablet Hybrid Method: In a real hurry, or just bored? Try this great innovation. Note: We don’t recommend this, in fact, we recommend NOT doing it, but we have to report on it for educational purposes:
1. Ignore manufacturers instructions for chemical lighting tablet and wad a tablet up in the newspapers you’re stuffing in the bottom of the chimney.
2. Put a few coals in the chimney.
3. Add another chemical tablet.
4. Finish adding coals, taking care to soak the coals with lighter fluid as you fill up the chimney, as in the method outlined above.
5. Squirt a little fluid on those newspaper on the bottom.
6. While wearing fire proof gloves, hat, and eye protection, light the newspapers with a very long match or lighter.
The BBQ Dragon Special Green Method: If you want to be the Greenest Barbecue Chef in town, and also let the whole county know you’re preparing your charcoal fire, try this: We save used vegetable oil – from the turkey fryer, actually, and it’s enough to last all year – and then douse the charcoal pile with vegetable oil and light it. Works great. Tends to be a bit smoky, well, really smoky, but it’s like sending out smoke signals that say, “I’m green, I’m green, I’m helping save the planet.” It’s a mixed signal, we admit, since it is, well, a smoke signal.
This also works great in the charcoal chimney. Try soaking your coals, layer by layer, as you fill your chimney. (In other words, you don’t want just the top coals wet with oil.) Then light from the bottom. This is probably the smokiest method around, and it’s so smoky it’s fun. Your kids will run around in the thick fog, banging into each other, coughing smoke, (healthy smoke, remember, it’s veggie oil) and knocking over plants, until your wife calls them inside and then asks you to just buy some lighter fluid, dammit.