The Art of Summer Grilling

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 18, 2009 · 45 comments

in Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

grilling.jpg

Editor’s Note: On Tuesdays, we’ll be featuring an excellent article or video that was originally posted in the Art of Manliness Community by a community member. Today we’ve selected a post from Jared Padgett. With Memorial Day weekend coming up, many a man will be firing up his grill and cooking all manner of meaty deliciousness. Here Jared shares some tips on to grill with the trusty briquette.

When it comes to grilling, you will probably hear different recommendations from each person you talk to. Some will tell you to use a gas grill only; others will tell you that the briquette is the only way to go. Some grill with wood chips; others use smokers. One thing we tend to agree on though, is that fire makes a piece of meat taste so much better than an oven or microwave can.

Grilling takes a lot of finesse. You usually won’t get it right the first time you try. It is a process, one you will always be trying to perfect. Two main types comprise the “right way” of grilling. Charcoal (bricks or briquettes) and wood (hickory or other choice wood). I am not covering gas grilling, as I am of the school of thought that frowns upon gas grills. I am most experienced with briquettes, so this will be the method discussed here. Below are some tips on how to use briquettes and on grilling artistry in general.

Clean the grill. If the grill has been used recently, the process begins with clearing excess ash from the bottom of the grill. This will allow better air flow. Also, if the grills themselves look like they have a bunch of gunk on them from previous cooking, run them under some hot water and scrub them down with some steel wool.

Stack the briquettes. The next step is to put the briquettes on the grill. Note that there are two racks. The smaller one is at the bottom of the grill, and holds the coals. The top one holds the food. Some grills, like mine, have a smaller veggie rack that connects to the lid and sits above the main grill. The various grill racks should be apparent. The ideal amount of briquettes will cover the entire surface of the bottom grill in one layer. Some overlap is okay. Once you have enough coals on the grill, you need to stack  more on top of this foundation. Make sure the vents are open on the bottom of the grill.

Stacking the coals is an art. One wants to maximize the heat channeling through the stack in order to get an even light. You want to build a tall pyramid in the center of the grill. This will maximize efficiency. Next, you douse the coals with lighter fluid. Some men, myself included, enjoy watching the initial burst of fire upon lighting the coals, so we coat them especially well with the lighter fluid. The idea of the fluid is to encourage an even light around the base of your pyramid. Make sure you squirt some of the fluid inside the pyramid. This helps get the most flame onto the coals.

Light ‘er up! Once you have put in the desired amount of lighter fluid, it is time to light it. Keep in mind you are building a fire, so you want to start from the bottom on the opposite side from where you are standing. This keeps you from burning your arm. Light around the base of the pyramid, stand back, and enjoy the fire.

Back in the day, coals took 45 minutes or longer to light. Kingsford, among others, has come up with new ways of making the coals so they light faster and heat more evenly. 25-35 minutes is a reasonable wait for the coals to light. Keep in mind that the flame will burn itself out in moments. This does not mean the coals did not light. The idea of charcoal is to let the embers smolder. If you look at the coals, you should see them turn white as they burn. You may even see a red glow from inside your pyramid. This is good. Once most of the coals are white, it is time to spread them out.

Spread ‘em. Spread the coals over the entire surface of the grill. You want an even heat, and no flame-ups if possible. By evenly dispersing the coals, you will get a more even cooking. At this point, it is time to sterilize the top grill. Assuming it has been used at least once, this helps burn off any remaining bacteria from the last grill session. To sterilize the grill, place it over the coals and close the lid. You should allow about 10 minutes for the grill to heat up. Use a grill brush to get rid of excess char from the grill. You are now ready to put the meat/food on.

Throw the meat on. Steaks should be at room temperature before going on the grill. A cold steak will not cook as well as one at room temperature. There are a variety of marinades out there, both wet and dry. I am pretty fond of McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning. I like both the original and the spicy versions. I have been adding a basic Cajun seasoning as an alternative lately, and have been pretty pleased with the results.

Once the meat is on the grill, let it stay there. Different steaks or cuts of meat will require different cooking times, so you should probably look your meat up on the web for a guideline. Constant agitating of the steak will result in a poorly cooked steak. Put the meat on, the lid down, and walk away. Try not to position the meat directly over a flame, but rather over an ember. You want a slow, even cook. If you put the meat over the flames, the flame will char the meat, and the inside won’t cook all the way.

Try to limit flipping the steaks/burgers to no more than two flips. You want as much of the juices to remain in the meat as possible. Don’t press hamburger patties down. You lose the flavor and dry the meat out.

Let the meat rest. One thing that many people forget to do is let the meat rest once it is cooked. Cutting into it too soon will result in a drier, tougher meat. Let the juices settle back into the meat and you will agree it is worth the wait. A few minutes is sufficient. Keep in mind as well that the meat will continue to cook somewhat once removed from the grill. If you want it medium rare, make sure you allow for some post-grill cooking.

Happy grilling!

For more information on to grill a steak, check out “Grilling the Perfect Steak.”

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eric May 18, 2009 at 5:02 pm

A few things I’d take issue with here.

#1 don’t use brickettes use lump charcoal, it cooks hotter and produces half, if not less, the ash of brickettes. Lump charcoal can also be reused for your next grilling secession if it hasn’t completely burned.

#2 Get a chimney. Weber makes a good one, there are other no names you can pick up at your big box home improvement store. Put some newspaper underneith, dump your charcoal on top, and in 10-15 minutes you are ready.

#3 getting #2 eliminates the need for lighter fluid and the nasty taste that it can inflict on your food. Also no need to worry about weird fires or kids messing with the lighter fluid.

2 Jeff May 18, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Have to agree with Eric, lighter fluid? Madness. A chimney starter is the only way to go, and lump/hardwood charcoal is far superior to briquettes.

3 Brian Nisonger May 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm

I agree with the comments on Lump Charcoal and a chimney. Plus if you get a lump charcoal like Mesquite it adds a lot of flavor. Although you may want to be mindful of Mesquite since you can over do it. You can usually get a fairly big bag of Lump Charcoal from a restaurant supply store. Here is Seattle I get a 50 lb bag of Mesquite Lump Charcoal, Lazzari, for 14 dollars. One trick I find for the chimney is to soak a paper towel with a some vegetable or olive oil, this helps it act as a candle and stays lit longer and add that to the top of the newspaper. And if you don’t get the newspaper, see if your town has a free alternative newspaper.

4 Adam May 18, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Agreed. A chimney is the way to go. It adds a bit of challenge into it (making it more of an accomplishment), does away with the dangers of using lighter fluid, and it gets rid of the nasty fluid taste. Other than that, spot on. As an aside, I’d mention some nice, appropriate music…cuban works well, or just same straight-up Sinatra…and an ice cold GIN martini in hand really adds to the experience. But I digress.

5 jon May 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Another +1 for the chimney and the lump coal – I call it cowboy charcoal. Add a little newspaper to light the charcoal and you’ll have a hot fire going in NO time at all. It’s a little more expensive but it’s incredibly well worth it.

I can’t stand a gas grill at this point as a chimney lit grill like this heats up quick and produces amazing results. I even use lump coal to smoke meat from time to time and it works incredibly well.

6 Jeff S May 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Seeing the love for lump hardwood charcoal and chimneys and disdain for lighter fluid already covered, I’ll add a quick note about charcoal heat zones. If you’re grilling thicker steaks that need some cooking time after getting a proper sear, try building charcoal heat zones:

1) mentally divide the charcoal grate into thirds
2) the third on the left or right gets three layers of hot coals
3) the middle gets two layers of hot coals
4) the last third gets a single layer of hot coals

Sear the meat over the area with the most coals, then move it to the middle zone to cook the rest of the way through. Having the heat zones will let you juggle cooking different foods at the same time, too.

p.s. for professional-looking sear marks on a piece of meat, think 10:00 and 2:00 on a clock face.

7 oracle989 May 18, 2009 at 7:25 pm

I’m a fan of gas, I want to taste the meat, not the heat.

8 David May 18, 2009 at 7:30 pm

As a grilling noob, can someone explain what a chimney as it relates to grilling is?

9 Online Printing May 18, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Nothing like some nice music to get in the mood for some grilling : )
Using lump charcoal is definitely better in my opinion, you get a nice distinct taste because of the charcoal.
Thanks!

10 Tim H. May 19, 2009 at 4:12 am

A Chimney Starter is a cylindrical piece of sheet metal with a grate in the bottom and a handle. You fill the top with charcoal and put a piece of paper into the bottom. You light the paper and the flames rise to light the coals. It gets you red hot coals much faster than fluid, spares you that chemical smell and flavor. When the coals are red, you dump them out.

Highly recommended over fluid. More frugal in the long run too.

11 Chris May 19, 2009 at 4:18 am

David: The chimney is a tube-shaped device that is split into two sections (bottom and top). It has a handle, too. On the top, you put your unlit charcoal, and in the bottom, you load up a couple sheets of crumpled newspaper. Light the paper and place the whole thin in the grill. In a few minutes, the charcoal will be right and you just dump it out into the grill. It’s fast and works with one match EVERY time.

Now, as for lump vs. briquettes, I keep both. I use lump for anything that is pretty quickly done, such as steaks, chicken, dogs, and whatnot. But if I need a fire to last a good hour (beer can chicken), I go with the briquettes.

Stating that the oven isn’t good enough is just WAY wrong. If you sear a thick steak on a skillet, then toss it in the oven to finish, you’ll get wonderful results. You can even kick it up by learning to use the broiler. I find that I get the best results when I get a thick steak (at least 2″), sear it over the coals, then move it over to the side to finish cooking slowly. The same thing can be done with a pan and the oven.

The best rub I’ve had was on Food Network and is called Cowboy Steak Rub. It’s 1 TBSP kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp ground thyme, and 1 tsp ground coffee. Sounds weird to use coffee, but with a big steak, it won’t overpower anything. Marvelous.

12 andy May 19, 2009 at 4:20 am

For bigger pieces of meat (I’m thinking 2″ NY strips, my personal fave) I recommend a good probe-style meat thermometer for the noob. Learn what the steak feels like as it cooks, I’ve found that taking a NY strip off the grill at 125 degrees internally, with a 5 minute rest afterward (ALWAYS let meat rest after cooking, the juices will not al leak out when you slice it) give a perfect medium-rare. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell with a fingertip the doneness, and can dispense with the thermometer.
For seasoning, I rub with Kosher salt and Lemon pepper, let it sit for 15 minutes before cooking, and drizzle with a little oil. The salt brings the proteins to the surface, and with a good hot sear for 2 minutes per side on a blazing hot grill, you get a wonderful crust. After the sear on both sides, move it to indirect heat, and only flip once more until it hits your desired temp.

Finally, and most importantly, anyone who wants a good steak well-done, needs to be put in a burlap sack and tossed in the river.

13 James May 19, 2009 at 4:21 am

Add my vote to the chimney start, I use a few twigs on top of the newspaper to ensure a good light to the charcoal, cuts down on paper use as well, which sometimes can result in extra ash.
However, I struggle with the lump charcoal. For me, the lump seems to burn hotter than the briquettes but is quickly extinguished. I’ve taken to putting a layer of briquettes in my chimney, then a layer of lump, a layer of leftover charcoal from the previous session, followed by another layer of briquettes on top.
I’d love to use just lump, for the more natural quality of it, but I can’t seem to get the consistency and longevity out of it that I can briquettes…any tips?

14 Ryan Barrett May 19, 2009 at 4:40 am

With a nice juicy steak, Use tongs or a spatula to retain the moisture. If you poke the thing full of holes with a fork it will drain the juices.

15 CoffeeZombie May 19, 2009 at 4:57 am

I’ve gotta disagree about the gas. I really like cooking on my gas grill; granted, that’s partly because my father-in-law gave his old gas grill when they moved, and I’m a big fan of free.

Then again, our dog recently chewed up the propane hose and the starter wire, so I’m going to have to replace those. With a charcoal grill, there wouldn’t be anything for her to chew up like that.

16 AcmeNews May 19, 2009 at 5:04 am

Don’t forget to squirt some lighter fluid on the charcoal while the flames are just starting to die. That way, the fireball shoots up again, impressing your guests.

Just be sure the grill isn’t too close to the vinyl siding.

17 Robert May 19, 2009 at 5:05 am

MMM….. BBQ

A good thing to do is make sure you have the grill going at a high temp for a good 15-20 minutes before you put anything on there (don’t just throw food on as soon as it gets hot)… that ensures any bacteria or other things that could be growing are dead before you put anything on the grill. Remember: your BBQ most likely sits outdoors, it’s not nearly as sanitary as your kitchen utensils and cookware. If you use gas this is especially important to remember as they can heat up pretty quickly making you think of throwing meat on much sooner than you really should. If you use charcoal you likely do this already (or should be).

Also never use the same utensils and dishes to handle both raw and uncooked meat. If it touches raw, it never can touch cooked until it’s been sanitized. If you keep your grilling utensils outside with the grill all year (like many do), wash them prior to use.

And lastly, keep in mind that burgers have a higher risk of causing you to get sick than a steak at a given temperature. That’s because only the outside of the steak is exposed and gets cooked quickly. The burger has had almost it’s entire contents exposed to a blade at one point. Eat it how you want, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially if you are grilling for someone with other health concerns, or the young and elderly. Steak in actually the safer meat to eat rare since it’s solid and unprocessed.

These simple things greatly reduce your chances of food poisoning. Food poisoning caused by bad food is extremely rare. It’s almost always in the preparation and handling of food. A few common sense tips can go a long way. People always say “the meat must have been bad”, but it’s actually “the cook was bad”.

MMM…. Now what I want to do is make the “bacon explosion

18 Chris May 19, 2009 at 5:30 am

Well, CoffeeZombie, if that’s not reason enough for you to buy a charcoal grill, I don’t know what it would take. :)

Actually, the problem I have with gas grills is maintenance. I’m yet to find one that has had a working starter for more than a year or so, and there is certainly something to be said for not keeping a propane tank on the porch.

My grill is the Char-Grill that I picked up at Lowe’s for about $120 and it has a smokerbox on the side that was another $30. I’ve had it for about 4 years, leave it outside, uncovered, year around, and haven’t had any problems with it. (I’ve had two covers that have ripped and blown away in wind storms, so I gave up two years ago.) It have heavy grating, a large work surface, and an adjustable/removable fire holder. I’ve smoked, at one time, one pork shoulder, 3 racks of ribs, and two chickens.

For $150, I don’t think you can beat it.

19 AcmeNews May 19, 2009 at 5:32 am

I butcher my own meat. I don’t trust the big packing operations to do it.

If I get sick, it’s my fault.

Art of Manliness, you should do an entry on butchering meat.

20 srgonzo May 19, 2009 at 6:11 am

Guys, here’s another vote for the charcoal grill. Note that I didn’t say barbecue. Barbecue is done low and slow, and it’s best produced with cuts of meat that would make for a steak of dubious quality (we’re talking shoe leather). Grilling, on the other hand, is done with a high heat, using cuts of meat you would normally find in a restraunt (filets, porterhouses, t-bones, etc…).

For those of you suggesting that you’d rather taste the meat than the heat, that’s great. I’m not saying a propane grill produces an inferior product, but I will say a quality charcoal grill is easier (and cheaper) to maintain, transport, build, and use. Then again, it’s a lot easier to screw the pooch with a charcoal grill because charcoal grills don’t have dials for direct heat control. Still, a charcoal grill (I’m a big fan of the Weber) is an awesome tool.

As for steaks, I’ve got a few different ways of adding some flavor elements.

21 Justin Grose May 19, 2009 at 6:30 am

Great post and blog. Everyone has their own ideas for how to properly grill. If you’re looking for a feast here is my weekly post-church feast with my family here in Oklahoma.

Gas grill with four burners. I personally prefer gas for its rapid heating ability and to taste the meat, not the smoke. I like to smoke ham, turkey, ribs, or brisket.

One on high heat, two on medium, and one on low. I cook steaks on high heat following my own 7 & 7 rule (seven minutes for each side usually does it). I salt and pepper the steaks, wrap them in Braum’s bacon, and eat them as is, no sauce. Head Country spicy BBQ sauce for some chicken breasts on the medium heat. Sausages and/or brats on the low heat. Veggies are usually corn on the cob and jalapeno poppers. Sliced jalapenos lengthwise with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.

Sometimes I’ll mix it up with some game – pheasant, quail, duck, etc.

Enjoy all with an ice cold Budweiser, some friends and family, and some good country music.

22 The Plainsman May 19, 2009 at 6:45 am

I use a gas grill for easy weeknight grilling. But the weekends will bring about a good charcoal grill. I use the chiminey starter and haven’t looked back since. Lump coal or hardwood coal is the best for me.

While the above echoes the postsa of many, I will as this:

I live in windy Northern Colorado. Memorial Day weekend does not START the grilling season. There is no season with me. I grill year round and have been known to fire up the grill in cold, snowy weather, in the wind, rain, sleet. That’s RUGGED.

23 Moe Rubenzahl May 19, 2009 at 6:57 am

Thank you for saying “grill” rather than “barbecue.”

‘cue means many hours at low temperature and turns gnarly shoulder, ribs, and other tough fare into velvety, tender, flavor-crazy goodness.

Grilling is upside-down broiling with smoky goodness added.

Both are great but the difference is profound.

24 Tim Woolery May 19, 2009 at 7:33 am

I got this trick from a chef-turned-systems-engineer:

Take your heated charcoal and push it to one side of the grill, giving you a 50/50 space with no charcoal on one side. Take your meat and start it on the non-charcoal side and cover it up!

What ends up happening is that the grill forms a crude oven and helps cook the inside of the meat and it works great for chicken, fish or pork – anything where you NEED to have the inside cooked through and you don’t want to worry about burning or drying the outside. Another tip I learned from the SF Chronicle – let the heat do the work and avoid excessive turning!

Once you’ve verified that the inside is cooked enough (140-160F with a food thermometer – my wife is a pastry chef) you can transition it over to the hot side of the grill to finish grilling – simple!

25 Santa May 19, 2009 at 7:35 am

If you live in a dorm or small apt. that doesn’t allow charcoal or gas burning, just invest in a good George Foreman grill. I’ve cooked steaks on these when the weather is bad and they come out just as good. But even more important is how you season and marinate your meat.

26 Mike May 19, 2009 at 9:20 am

I second everyone using the chimney, it heats the coals much faster, evenly, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time stacking briquettes and making sure the fire stays lit, especially if there is any wind.

One recommendation for cooking chicken: Place a tin can, maybe from the baked beans you will have for the bbq and fill it half way with water. Place the can in the middle of the briquettes before putting the chicken on the grill. This will cause the water to steam and keep the chicken from drying out.

27 Chris May 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

Mike: That’s exactly what beer can chicken does. Open a can of beer, drink half, and then shove the can (hole first) up the chicken’s butt. Stand it on the can and roast until done. You can add a rub if you want.

Totally killer.

28 Isaac May 19, 2009 at 10:27 am

why the hatred for gas grills?

29 Chris May 19, 2009 at 10:47 am

I see we have a lot of good eats fans in the house.

I also use natural lump charcoal and a chimney starter. I prefer natural lump to briquettes even when doing long slow cooking like smoking ribs. I think they add a lot of flavor and aren’t really much more difficult to work with.
The chimney can get a whole grill’s worth of coals rocket hot in under 15 minutes and there is no lighter-fluid funking up my food.

I may try a beer can chicken for dinner. Thanks guys.

30 Steve May 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I also love the McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning! I use it on all my steaks, as well as roasts and in soups. And with all the grilling of meat that I’m sure you’ll all be doing now that you’ve read this article, I humbly offer one of my favorite sides to go along with it.

Take some red-skinned potatoes (the number of potatoes is directly related to the number of mouths and/or the size of the associated stomachs), and cut them up into 1/2″-3/4″ chunks. Put them in a large Ziploc bag (or a mixing bowl with a cover) and drizzle olive oil on them, then dump in some Montreal Steak seasoning. Zip (or cover), then shake to spread the oil and seasoning evenly. Empty into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.

Enjoy!

31 Thad May 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm

BBQ = slow cooking, generally overnight at a low temperature

Grilling = quick cooking at a high temperature

I doubt that many of you have actually made real honest barbecue. It takes hours of time and plenty of attention. Back when I younger, I helped at many real barbecues – it involved staying awake all night long and tending both the wood and the meat to ensure even cooking. Even today, I will occasionally (once every three or four months) make a pork shoulder or two over night. Being from western NC, I prefer the shoulder because it has the best combination of textures and it has a good level of fat.

An AoM article on barbecue could be interesting and start some real arguments …

32 Mike May 19, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Although I agree with most of the posts, I have built a reasonably inexpensive inground grill in my backyard that is far superior to gas or charcoal. Some slate stones and some measurements will get you an open fire grill that is worth the labor! Plus it feels manly and natural. Cheers!

33 Hitler May 19, 2009 at 3:19 pm

If you’re getting the black charring on your meat, you’re significantly increasing the liklihood of getting cancer. Don’t eat charred meat.

34 Craig May 19, 2009 at 3:25 pm

While I say ‘thanks!’ for the article, the writer lost a lot of credibility with the first mention of lighter fluid….

If you don’t like the taste of the meat, put a bunch of seasoning on it, marinade the heck out of it, and use a bunch of flavored chips.

If you love the taste of meat, just use salt and pepper; get the meat to room temperature; stack really hot coals on one side of your Weber; sear the meat for 3 mins on the fat side; turn the meat over, placing it on the ‘cold’ side of the grill; then, cover the grill and minimize the air flow around the coals to cook the meat for at least 1-2 hrs….

35 Thomas May 19, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I agree with everything except for one point:

“If you put the meat over the flames, the flame will char the meat, and the inside won’t cook all the way.”

Now, a whole lot of char is not good, but a crisp outside with a nice rare inside on a steak is unbeatable!

36 Perry Clease May 19, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Another vote from me to use real charcoal and a chimney to light the stuff. The commonly used briquettes containing clay or something leave more ash than real charcoal.

37 Tim May 20, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I agree with Craig. Why ruin a steak with ridiculous amounts of seasonings and marinade. Try some salt and pepper like he said or add melted butter with garlic while it’s on the grill.

38 Ron Weitnauer May 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I actually make charcoal grills for a living, and so we do a lot of grilling. Some general things I’ve learned the hard way:

(1) use lump charcoal and soaked wood chips if you want smoke, only use briquettes if you don’t care about sweet smoke and just want searing heat. Just be sure that you don’t throw any additional briquettes on the fire while the food is there – they give off a nastiness caused by the coal in them (they are not really made of all wood) when they are lighting.

(2) Never use lighter fluid. Never use that gross “quick light” charcoal. A chimney is far better, but takes a while longer. The trick is to pour a little vegetable oil on the newspaper and it will burn longer, and light faster. Some grills have the charcoal lighting feature built right in. They’re faster even than a chimney.

(3) Pay attention. Especially when you are doing expensive meats. The internal temperature of a NY Strip will rise 10 degrees PER MINUTE. So the difference between a beautiful $30 steak and shoe leather is 3 minutes.

Hope this helps. Just remember that once you learn how to do it, all grilled foods are just varying degrees of excellent. Happy grilling. Happy eating.

39 Will May 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Count me in–chimney and lump charcoal!

I had a gas grill until last spring, when I discovered some critter had gnawed through the rubber hose that connected the propane tank to the grill. We got a cheap charcoal grill as a temporary measure, and discovered how good the real charcoal flavor is. I waited until right after Labor Day, and got a decent charcoal grill with a firebox on the side (for traditional BBQ). Now I use it at least 1-2 times per week. I’ve made traditional spare ribs (5-6 hours, with chunks of cherry and apple to provide some fragrant smoke) along with some great steaks and pork chops.

I will never go back to a gas grill! (Or lighter fluid.)

40 A.T. Nelson May 23, 2009 at 9:01 am

Another note on chimneys: I recently made myself a chimney starter using a large metal coffee can and some wire. I simple cut the top and bottom off of the coffee can with a can opener, punched a series of holes around the can about 1/5 of the way up from the bottom, and crossed a wire back and forth between the holes to create a grid near the bottom of the can. I took the bottom piece that I had cut off and punched more holes in it, then set it on the grid to create a platform for the coals. I also cut some notches along the bottom of the can to allow more air to mix.
The homemade chimney starter doesn’t have a handle, but I simply set it in the grill and pour it out using oven mitts. If you decide to make one of your own, please be careful when handling it, as the thin walls of the coffee can conduct heat very well.
I tried it last night, and it worked well. The only problem with the starter is that it is only large enough for a moderate amount of coals. I am going to experiment with adding an additional can on top of the chimney to make it longer. But you can’t argue with the price.

41 Tim May 26, 2009 at 5:47 pm

The charcoal chimney is a great thing…if you have a can of non-stick spray handy, spray your newspaper before you crinkle it up to shove in there…it’ll burn longer while lighting the coals.
And if you really want to learn to cook real barbecue, the Weber Smokey Mountain is the easiest and best introduction to that…it’s very well built and even newbies can turn out some really good Q with it.

42 ken May 30, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Hey A T. Nelson, We would use the coffee can trick every now and then except we would just cut out the bottom and pull it out of the grill with a pair of vise grips.

43 Mark May 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

wood is the way to go but i can’t use it on my balcony…the association doesn’t allow it :(

44 megan June 4, 2013 at 4:55 am

Thanks! This was a good refresher from what I learned in girl scouts.

45 Eddie January 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I think you might be right, but I have a business where I cook and grill with a open no lid gas grill fast and quick I bbq with a Mak pellet pit and the bake side is better than a baker. Cheers… Texas

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