How To Light A Charcoal Grill With Lighter Fluid
Lighter fluid is a method well-loved by dads and granddads around the world, but its not one that members of our Test Kitchen are too crazy about. Josh Rink, our food stylist and test cook, warns that the use of lighter fluid could be potentially dangerous if you dont do it properly. Often people light inconsistently, or overcompensate and add more fluid than is necessary. If youre opting for lighter fluid, we recommend following these steps.
Step 1: Arrange the coals
Arrange your charcoal into a pyramid shape. Make sure you have a large base, then stack the coals into smaller and smaller layers.
Step 2: Carefully pour lighter fluid evenly over coals
Youll want to use your lighter fluid according to the directions on the package, but generally, evenly coat your coals with the liquid.
Step 3: Wait 30 seconds
Allow the coals to absorb the lighter fluid for 30 seconds before lighting.
Step 4: Light coals
Using a grill lighter or match with a long nose, evenly light the coals in several places. Do not add more lighter fluid once your coals are lit.
Step 5: Top with grate when coals turn white
The coals will catch fire, then turn white once they are ready to be used. Spread them evenly, then top with your grate and start grilling.
Indirect Vs Direct Heat Grilling
You can create different cooking “zones” on a charcoal grill, which is great for searing, cooking, and keeping food warm. After the charcoal is lit, don’t cover the entire grill with the briquettes. Create a “hot zone” or direct heating area on one end of the grill by evenly distributing the coals under half of the grill. This is the perfect spot for searing meat and getting beautiful hatch-marks. Then move to a “cool zone” or indirect heat with fewer or no briquettes to finish cooking. This will prevent flare-ups and cook food more evenly. If you leave it over direct heat for too long, you often end up with a burnt exterior and raw interior. Plus, if you are grilling a large cut of meat , cooking over the indirect heat with the lid on will create the same effect as using an oven.
Related:How to Grill Chicken
Mistake #: You’re Using Too Much Direct Heat
The Thinking:Me Like Meat. Me Like Fire. Me Like Big Meat With Big Fire. The bigger the fire, the better the searing and charring and the tastier the meat.
The Reality: Your fire is too hot and your steak starts to burn on the outside before it’s even begun to hit medium rare in the center. You desperately look around for a place to move it to but your entire grill is as hot as the eighth level of hell.
The Fix: Build yourself a two-zone fire. On a coal grill, this means evenly distributing the coals under only half of the grill, leaving the other half either empty or covered with a very, very thin layer of coals. In a gas grill this means lighting the burners on one side, leaving the other side off or on very low heat. With two zones you have much more control over your cooking. Place meat and vegetables over the hot side for fast searing, or shift them over to the cooler side for more gently cooking. With your meat on the cool side of the grill and the grill covered, you can even create an oven-like setting inside for grill-roasting large cuts of meat like prime rib or a leg of lamb.
Also Check: What Temp To Cook Grilled Cheese In Oven
How Long Should Coals Burn Before Cooking
Theres no good rule of thumb because grills and outdoor temperatures vary so much. The surface of the coals should be light gray, not black, for the most part before putting food on your grill. You also want the grate and grill to be properly heated before starting to cook, so a grill thermometer is your best friend. Preheat to the 500-degree range, then maneuver your coals for direct or indirect cooking as desired.
How To Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid
When summer hits, there are a lot of things that start happening. One of the most anticipated parts of summer is grilling season. Being able to spend the warm evenings and nights grilling up delicious treats is something that can take the summer to a new level.
Charcoal grills in particular bring their own unique blend of flavor to the table. But how do you light the charcoal without any lighter fluid on hand? Thankfully, there are plenty of methods. You can use a chimney starter, charcoal starter, briquettes, and others. It all depends on which method you are most comfortable with using.
Don’t Miss: How Long To Grill Chicken Thighs With Bone
With An Electric Charcoal Starter
Electric charcoal starters are an even more innovative way to get a charcoal grill started. There are many different designs available, but the simplest one involves a simple electric element that you can bury into your pile of charcoal and wait for it to start.
Other different models also have an inbuilt fan, so that you just need to direct a stream of hot air at the same spot on a pile of charcoal for a minute or so and get it going.
If you would like an affordable but rugged charcoal starter, the Phoenix Pit Electric Charcoal Starter is a great option. It gets your grill going in minutes and requires no special set-up. It even works on standard 110V outlets.
Procedures For How To Light Charcoal
There are 3 main methods for lighting charcoal:
1) the single-wick torch method
2) the dual-wick torch method
3) the double-wick torch method
The single-wick torch method
The single-wick torch method is pretty simple to use if you know about it. It involves a double wick which is lit with a match or lighter. The flame from the two wicks ignites and burns at a rapid pace, burning the charcoal from all over evenly. The single-wick torch burns at 100 degrees per hour so it only takes about 5 minutes to get everything charcoaled up. The advantage of this method is that it will produce a fairly even, medium heat burn. If you don’t have anyone else that can help you light up the charcoal, it’s a great way to go.
The dual-wick torch method
The dual-wick torch method is very similar to the single-wick torch method. It uses two wicks in order to create a bigger flame and a longer burn time. The main difference between the two methods is that one wick lights another wick instead of using a match or lighter. There are lots of different ways to do this but I prefer using some cheap kitchen matches and then lighting them end over end on the charcoal grate at an angle. The flame from the lit wicks ignites and burns quickly, spreading heat to the charcoal.
The double-wick torch method
Recommended Reading: How To Convert A Grill To Natural Gas
Not Sure How To Start A Charcoal Grill Here Are Three Easy Ways To Light Up The Coals
Whether you love the taste of roasted vegetables or the seared flavor of steak, theres no denying that grilling is one of the best ways to prepare summer staples. Knowing how to use a charcoal grill is an essential summer skill. Charcoal grills are arguably the perfect way to get that classic grilled flavor, but if youve never used one before, youre probably wondering how to start a charcoal grill.
Thankfully, its not that hardstarting a charcoal grill definitely takes getting used to, but once youve mastered the process, youll be one step closer to that perfect hamburger. And even better, youll be able to show off at the next backyard barbecue.
How To You Keep The Charcoal Fire Going
Lighting your grill is one thing, but keeping it going is another. For the best results, use a grill thermometer to monitor temperatures. If your cooking heat rises or falls from where you want it, you will need to adjust the vents or accordingly, or add more coal. Check out our complete guide to keeping your charcoal grill hot.
Read Also: What Temp To Grill Pork Chops On Gas Grill
Pour The Coals Into The Grill
Add the charcoal to your grill, being sure to place it in the right area. If youre not sure where the charcoal goes, you should read the instruction manual.
Pile up the charcoal into a cone or pyramid shape, only using as much as you need to fully cook your food. If your coals are too far apart, they wont all light and the heat wont be concentrated enough to cook your food through.
Is Lighter Fluid Bad For You Yes But Heres What You Can Do
Why You Shouldnt Use Lighter Fluid: Natural Alternatives
Most backyard grillers and chefs have been starting their charcoal grill fires for ages with lighter fluid that jumpstarts the burning process for the charcoal. Of course, gas grills users can avoid the need for lighter fluid altogether, but most gas grills dont burn as hot as charcoal grills do. In recent years, however, it has come to light that lighter fluid has some serious drawbacks.
That means there are several good reasons why you should avoid using it when preparing food outdoors. Keep reading below to discover some new grilling tips, and to find out why lighter fluid is not the best option for starting up your charcoal grill. Youll also learn what your options are for using natural alternatives as a charcoal starter.
Is Charcoal Lighter Fluid Bad for You?
The short answer to this is yes, it is bad for you. The hydrocarbons included in lighter fluids and match light charcoal simply do not break down easily, and that means you are ingesting them right along with your food. While you might build up a tolerance to them over time, its not something you should expose your children to, because they may not be able to tolerate it as well as an adult can.
The Science Behind It
Tasting the Difference
Other reasons why lighter fluid is a bad choice
Save Your Money
Save Your Time
Voiding the Warranty
Bad for the Environment too
Tips and techniques for alternative fire starting
Doing the Math
You May Like: Cleaning Stainless Grill Grates
Mistake #: You Forgot To Clean The Grates Dummy
The Thinking:Fire kills everything. Burnt-on food adds flavor. Nobody will notice. Take your pick.
The Reality: Your chicken comes off the grill with carbonized bits of last night’s pork chops stuck to it or, worse, tonight’s chicken ends up sticking to last night’s pork chops, leaving its outer layers behind on the grill. Tomorrow night part of your asparagus is gonna stick to that chicken. The burnt-on layer of food is going to grow and grow like a katamari until eventually entire prime ribs and turkeys are going to get stuck to it.
The Fix: Clean those darned grill grates! All you need is a grill brush and the smallest amount of elbow grease.
Pro-tip: If you cook on your grill regularly, don’t bother cleaning your grill when you are finished cooking and all you want to do is focus on feeding your hungry guests and getting to that next beer. And don’t bother trying to clean the grill at the end of the evening when it’s already cooled down and the gunk has hardened. Instead, clean your grill after preheating it just before you start to cook. The heated grease and food remains should scrape right off.
The rather pricey Tool Wizard Grill Brush that comes recommended from Cook’s Illustrated lasted all of two weeks on my grill a few seasons ago. Instead, I recommend the Weber Three-Sided Grill Brush, which like all Weber products, is built to last.
How To Prep The Grill
Just like you spend time preparing your meat with marinades and rubs, take the time to get the grill ready. If your grates are dirty from the last cookout, it’s more likely that your food will stick and have “off” flavors. The best way to prep your grill before cooking is to clean it really well after cooking or just before cooking, when the grates are hot. If you grill regularly, give it a good scrub with those long handled brushes and some elbow grease before it has a chance to cool down. Not grilling that often? Give it a good scrub once the grill has fully preheated and remnants from the last grill session should scrape right off.
Also Check: Cooking Pork Chops On Grill Temp
Should I Close The Grill Lid When Lighting Charcoal
For initial lighting, no. The more oxygen you can make available during the first part of the ignition process, the better. Once the coals begin to heat up, you can close the grill lid and fully open the vents. As the fire gets hotter, you can slowly close the vents to control airflow and adjust the temperature on the grill.
Figure Out How Much Charcoal You Need
If you dont use enough charcoal in your grill, your food wont cook. It will either take too long for your food to cook, or youll end up with raw meat. On the other hand, too much charcoal will cook your food too quickly and burn it.
The more coal you use, the hotter your grill will get. If youre only cooking some hamburgers or hot dogs, 15 to 20 charcoal bricks should be enough. But large steaks, roasts, and whole chickens require more bricks. They need to be placed in a mound to concentrate the heat.
Pro Tip: Cooking food slowly will require fewer bricks, but youll need to monitor the grill closely. For a slow, long cook, you need to add more bricks as you cook. You can even turn your grill into a smoker this way.
Read Also: Boneless Pork Chop Grill Temp
How To Arrange Charcoal
Chef Tony stacks his charcoal in a pyramid before lighting, especially when doing so from the bottom. This isnt a hard-and-fast rule, but the pyramid setup creates more contact between the individual coals, which in turn promotes faster ignition. After your bottom-lit pyramid has burned for about 10 minutes and every coal is lit, use an ash tool or rake to position the charcoal however you need it. An even layer will produce even heat across your grill grates, whereas banking all the coals to one side will allow you to take advantage of dual-zone grilling.
Lighting Charcoal With A Charcoal Chimney
Loading charcoal into a charcoal chimney or charcoal starter keeps the charcoal packed together with space between lumps or briquettes for easy ignition. You can place balled-up newspaper on the charcoal grate and set the chimney starter on top of the newspaper. Light the newspaper through holes in the bottom of the starter. The coals will be ready to cook when theyre ashy, about 15 minutes. When theyre ready, pour the charcoal onto the bottom grill grate and spread it out with a long-handled grill tool like a spatula or tongs.
Also Check: Traeger Steak Temperatures
Choosing The Right Type Of Charcoal
Since were going out of our way to avoid lighter fluid already, I also purposely avoid buying any briquettes that have lighter fluid in them. These are typically marked with something like easy light.
And I also like to avoid any charcoal briquettes to ensure there are no fillers in the coal. To form briquettes, fillers and binders are used to make these shapes, and I dont want any of that burning near me, or seeping into the food I eat. They have the benefit of uniformity which helps all of them heat evenly at the same time, but its not worth the tradeoff to me.
I like to use natural lump charcoal. Lately Ive been using Kamado Joe coals since they stock it at my home store. Natural lump charcoal tends to create less ash than briquettes. Less expensive ones like the ones at your local megamart can often be a mix of various wood species, and vary greatly with large and small chunks. If you go this route, you may need a small hatchet to break the larger pieces down both so it fits in the chimney starter and so all the coals can heat more evenly. But its worth it.
Pour out any old charcoal from your previous grilling session, and all the charcoal dust down there. This stuff can kick up during cooking and stick to your food. You dont need to clean the grill grate yet.
A Few Tips Before You Get Started
If youre working with a charcoal grill for the first time, there are a few things to keep in mind. Theyre not quite as intuitive as gas or electric grills, but that doesnt mean theyre less effective .
Know how to prepare a grill for lighting
Before you start addingor even buyingcharcoal, youll want to properly clean your grill for the most effective barbecue. If youre working with a brand-new grill, you can skip this step. But if youre using a hand-me-down or previously used charcoal grill, it needs to be relatively spotless before you light it back up. Get rid of that grime and debris before you get to work.
Choose the right charcoal
There are a few different types of charcoal to choose from. We prefer brands like Royal Oak Lump Charcoal . It burns hot and clean, with a lightly smoky scent. Another great alternative is Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal , which uses a blend of oak, hickory, maple and pecan wood. Dont skimp on this stepa subpar charcoal brand will be harder to light, which will lead to more frustration and fewer delicious burgers.
Learn how to arrange the charcoal
Though it would be much easier, you cant just dump your charcoal onto your grill and hope for the best. You need to arrange your pieces of charcoal for the best results. Again, this will differ depending on your preferred methodif you use a chimney, youll be arranging differently than if you use lighter fluid.
Also Check: Traeger Steak Temp