Five Tips For Starting Charcoal Briquets

One of the most common ways to cook outdoors is using charcoal briquets. They are widely available and produce a cooking environment that is exceptional for grilling. The following are five tips to easily start charcoal briquets.

  1. Use instant light charcoal. These briquets have been presoaked with lighter fluid that allows them to be easily lit and started. The disadvantage is that because of the lighter fluid, they often will give an odor to the food you are cooking. In addition, they typically do not last as long as normal briquets.
  2. Use normal briquets, but with lighter fluid. Normal briquets will burn longer then the instant type, but just like the instant type, the use of lighter fluid can give an odor to your food. Thoroughly soak the pile of briquets with lighter fluid before lighting and never add lighter fluid after lighting.
  3. Use a charcoal chimney. These may be purchased commercially, or made at home with a # 10 tin can. They typically have two compartments. The bottom compartment is used to place a starter of some type and the top compartment is used to hold the briquets. While newspaper is commonly used in the bottom compartment, anything that burns easily may be used, including home made fire starters. Holes in the sides of the chimney allow easy lighting and an ample air supply to allow the briquets to start burning. This method may be used in combination with lighter fluid to accelerate the starting of briquets.
  4. Use a method of greatly increasing air flow. Once the briquets have been lit and have started to burn, they take time to develop that white-hot outer covering, which indicates they are ready for grilling. Accelerating the air flow will greatly accelerate that process. Ways to accelerate the air flow include using a blow dryer, a fan, a large lid that is washed back and forth near the briquets (like the lid of a large plastic storage box). After the briquets have been lit, directly the air flow towards the pile of briquets. Start gently at first-you do not want to put the fire out. As the heat increases, increase the air flow. This is a great way to get the briquets going faster.
  5. Use a small propane torch. This method is for those of you who are like Tim "the Toolman" Taylor. These torches are used for doing plumbing work with copper pipes and solder. They are found in most hardware stores near the plumbing supplies. They are fairly inexpensive and portable and are a quick and fairly easy way to start your briquets. Direct the torch flame toward the middle of your briquette pile to start and then move outwards from there. You'll have your briquets going in no time at all. Lighter fluid is not necessary with this method, so it has the advantage of being quick without the extra odor of lighter fluid.

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