When it comes to working with charcoal as a heat source for your amazing backyard barbeque, controlling the temperature can be a bit tricky. Keep in mind that in order to have a fire, there needs to be fuel, oxygen and heat. The more fuel (charcoal in this case) and the more air the hotter fire will get. So in order to keep proper temps for your cooking, you need to be consistent with the amount of fuel and air needed to achieve the desired results
With this in mind, I think I read somewhere that there approximately 16 regular briquettes in a quart so there would be around 64 in a gallon. So why is this important? Simple. A fixed quantity of energy is capable of generating a known quantity of heat and with some practice a backyard chef can figure out approximately how many briquettes are needed for a cold day and how many on hot days.
The Worse Way To Start A Charcoal Fire Now let me begin this by saying that in my opinion, the absolutely worse way to get a charcoal fire started is to soak your briquettes in starter fluid. You want to talk about something that will have a definite impact on taste, douse your charcoal in starter fluid and set it ablaze. The first thing you should notice is the smell of the starter fluid burning. Is that a taste you want, not mention all the chemicals that go along with it? I sure hope not.
Aside from the nasty fumes that you have to tolerate when using starter fluid, there is always the risk of your clothing catching fire or worse. And we have all seen what can happen if the fire doesn’t roar to life right away and charcoal starter fluid is squirted onto the open fire. The results are not pretty – I can tell you from experience.
That said, I have found that the use of a chimney fir starter, like the Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter is a great way to get the charcoal briquettes going. All it takes is balling up a couple of pages of the evening newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, loading however much charcoal you need and lighting the paper. The design of this chimney allows for plenty of air to get the fire going and keep it going. And for around $15, this is a must have to get your backyard barbeque going.
Once you the chimney starter gets things going, you can feel the heat coming up when the briquettes start to light. Once things get started,it may take 15 – 20 minutes before the charcoal start to turn white indicating that they are ready for the smoker. Now for me personally, I put just a little more charcoal than I feel I need initially and I let the lower 3/4 of the briquettes turn white before I dump them. The reason for this is that with 3/4 of the briquettes hot, the remaining ones will take a bit to turn so they extend the burn time. This works for me and I would suggest that you experiment a bit to see what works for you.
The electric starter, like the Grill Dome Rapid-Lite 600-Watt Electric Charcoal Lighter is another option to get your pile of charcoal fired up. All you need to do is pile up your briquettes and then shove the electric starter into the middle of the pile and let it do its thing.
There are a few problems with using any electric starter. The first is that you need an electrical outlet close by. The second problem is that it’s probably not a good idea to be using one in wet weather. When you use it, be aware that the electric starter only ignites the briquettes that come in direct contact with the starter. You will need to move things around in order to get all the briquettes fired up. I think of these two methods, the chimney would be easiest, fastest and gets the charcoal hotter in less time and with a lot less trouble.
I am sure that there are many other ways to get a pile of charcoal going when you are ready to smoke or grill. Maybe others will be willing to share their methods. Regardless of which method you use, I hope that you exercise care to avoid becoming a statistic.