Fire Building 101
- Sounds obvious, but you need to start with the right fuel: solid hardwood charcoal briquettes or heat beads are best. Cheaper briquettes contain fillers, so they don't burn as hot or as long.
- Use good lighter fuel, too. Non-toxic lighter cubes light easily as a birthday candle and burn steadily, even when wet, without the chemical taste that liquid fuels give off.
- Build a pyramid of briquettes or beads, insert the fire lighters and ignite. The coals will be ready when they have a light coating of gray ash, after about 25 minutes.
- Extinguishing the coals is as easy as closing all the vents and putting the lid back on. Before you shut down, however, remove the food from the cooking grate and replace the lid.
- Allow the grill to continue heating the cooking grate until any smoking stops, 10 to 15 minutes, to burn off any cooking residues.
- Give the grate a good brushing with a brass grill brush to knock off any charred bits, and then extinguish the fire.
- Once the ashes are completely cooled (best to wait until the next morning), remove them so they don't attract moisture and encourage rust. Some grills are equipped with blades that sweep the ashes properly in a fireproof container. Always remove all ashes before storing a charcoal grill.
If You Can't Stand the Heat
Exactly what do we mean by low, medium, and high temperatures and how do you know when you're there? The best way to gauge the temperature is to use an oven thermometer set on the cooking grate:
- Low is about 150°C
- Medium is about 180°C
- High is about 250°C