Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means for many foodies— roasting meats over flames and feasting on sausages, burgers, seafood, and even veggies. Everybody knows that a good barbecue starts with lighting a charcoal grill. If you don’t have any idea on how to light a charcoal grill, then read on and find out how to do it.
Most die-hard fans of barbecue would agree that charcoal grill beats propane grill when it comes to flavor and aroma. Charcoal barbecue emits the rich smell and leaves a delicious carbon flavor on the meat. And for most cooks, there’s no better feeling than serving perfectly charred food.
Sure, charcoal grill has its disadvantages like the annoying need to clean up ashes and grease. You also have to replenish the coals every hour or so, especially if you’re throwing a barbecue party. And heat can really be challenging to control.
But charcoal grill remains very popular because it leaves a deep, smoky flavor on any food. It is best suited for searing meat like steak because it creates a hotter flame than gas grill, aside from the fact that it is less expensive.
Lighting a Charcoal Grill
While it may sound like an easy task, lighting a charcoal grill is not as easy as it may seem. You certainly don’t want to look like dumb in front of your friends at your summer barbecue party. Worse, you don’t want to be given curious looks by your girlfriend’s dad just in case you come to their own summer get-together.
While you can always pull out your smartphone and look for a YouTube video on how to light a charcoal grill, it is still better to know beforehand how to pull off the task. And knowing how to light a charcoal grill is one skill you want to learn so that your guests will be confident about your grilling skills just in case you host your own barbecue party.
In lighting a charcoal grill, you’ll need the following tools—a lighter fluid, a stiff wire brush, a barbecue lighter, and charcoal.
Start by emptying old ash which can obstruct vents and make it difficult for you to control the temperature. Get rid of leftover ash in the bottom of the grill, putting it into a bag and dispose it properly.
Next up is cleaning the grates. This is very importantly especially if you are using a public grill as whatever mess left behind by the previous user should be removed, unless you want those particles to get into your food. No, don’t believe into what others may say about the leftover grease and food particles making your food more delicious and flavorful. The truth is that these particles will only make your food stick to the grill, resulting into a less than flavorful food.
Using a stiff wire brush, scrape off the ash and food particles that were left from the last use of the charcoal grill. It is easier to clean the grates when the iron is still warm. But if it has been a long time since the grill was last used, be patient in removing the leftover grease and particles. You can also place the grill rack back in to a hot charcoal, as the heat should loosen the grease.
In case you can’t find a stiff wire brush, you can ball up an aluminum foil.
If there’s stuck on food that you can’t get rid of, there is a solution to that. A mixture of baking soda and vinegar should work together in breaking apart burnt-on food. Simply mix a cup of baking soda with two cups of vinegar in a plastic bag then seal the grates in the bag with a rubber band. Let it stand there overnight.
Remove the grates then rinse them thoroughly. Leftover food should fall off. You may also scrub off the rest if there is still anything still stuck on the grates. Rinse with cool water before patting dry.
Once the grates have been cleaned, start to place the charcoal briquettes. The technique here is to fill the bottom of the grill with charcoal, arranging them in a pyramid shape. The apex should be at the center of the grill.
Light a Charcoal Grill
Then apply lighter fluid to the top briquettes. Spray it in an outward, circular motion until all the briquettes have been covered. Don’t over soak. You should leave enough fuel to properly light the charcoal. Let the liquid soak into the coals by waiting for five minutes.
After five minutes, use a barbecue lighter to light the bottom of the pyramid. To distribute the heat evenly, you should light in several different spots. It could take as much as 30 minutes until the coals have been properly heated. They would die down after burning quickly at first. Just give them time to light up.
Never spray lighter fluid with the aim of heating up the coals faster. You’d end up having barbecue tasting like gasoline.
Once you notice that the coals are covered with white ash, use your tongs to spread the coals. Put the grate in position and remove any gunk.
But how would you tell how hot the fire is? Simply hold your palm five inches above the fire. You would know that the temperature is somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees F if you can hold your palm for 2 to 4 seconds. If you can hold it for 5-7 seconds, the temperature is in ‘medium’ while if it is around 8 to 10 seconds, it is in ‘low’. If you can hold your hand for more than 10 seconds, you need to add more coal. Now your charcoal grill is ready to start grilling up those meats and vegetables.