Chef Secrets: Start a Charcoal Grill

Chef Secrets: Start a Charcoal Grill

You can always smell summer. Fresh cut grass, the still humid air before a storm rolls in, suntan lotion, and perhaps the best smell ever….food cooking over a charcoal grill. In my opinion, just about anything would be delicious cooked over open flame, especially one with a base of charcoal. While you can’t beat the convenience of a gas grill, once you get the hang of lighting and prepping a charcoal grill, the few extra minutes of work makes the flavor worth it!

Step 1:

Fill a chimney starter with charcoal, the higher you fill it, the hotter your grill will be. Typically with grilling, you’re looking for high heat and a great sear, but if you accidentally heat too many briquettes, well…read on for what to do!

Step 2:

Lightly spray some balled up newspaper with cooking oil and place under the chimney. Using a long stick lighter, light the newspaper in several places and check to make sure there are flames hitting the charcoal.

Step 3:

Wait, as patiently as you can, for flames to start reaching the top of the chimney. This normally takes about 10-15 minutes. The briquettes will start to turn grey around the edges and in some cases, completely throughout. When the flames are up to the top, remove the grate from your grill if you haven’t already and dump the coals into the grill. Wait until they are mostly all grey and covered in ash and then spread them out. Replace the grill and get cooking!

Helpful hints:

If you’ve accidentally used too many briquettes, simply spread them into a thinner layer and give them some time to burn out. Alternately, if you haven’t heated prepared enough charcoal, keep them in a tight group so they don’t burn out as quickly.

You’ll notice we didn’t recommend using any lighter fluid when getting your grill started. Believe it or not, even a little bit of lighter fluid can work its way into the flavor of the food. But trust us, the method we lay out above really does work!

If you don’t have a thermometer but are curious about the temperature of your grill, this trick is perfect! Holding your hand 5 to 6 inches above the grate, if you are able to keep it there for 8 to 10 seconds, your grill is low heat, about 250 degrees to 350 degrees. Being able to hold your hand over the flame/heat for 5 to 6 seconds means your grill is medium, or about 350 degrees to 450 degrees. And your grill is hot or 450 degrees and up if you can only hold your hand over the heat for 2 to 4 seconds.

If all of the above seems like just too much work, give us a call and we’ll happily cater your next BBQ!

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