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How do I start a charcoal grill?

I can’t for the life of me figure this out. My father in law has this cold war era looking kiln of a grill. I’ve tried several times to use it and I can’t get the thing started. When he comes over to help it takes him less than a minute to do literally what I did and after letting it set for half the time as me it’s ready to go.

I open the top and bottom vents, clear out the center of the grill to allow air flow. Place the starters (two) in the middle and lightly fill it with some fresh charcoal. I let it sit for 10-15 minutes to heat up. The temp gets to about 200 C and then it dies. What secret am I not aware of?

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22 Comments

  1. Get a charcoal chimney starter. Throw some briquettes there and stick a chemical-less fire starter underneath it. The chimney action will get them all red hot in 15mins or so.

  2. Do you have some feel for the fire? Can you see when it needs some air, and when it’s burning too fast? Do you use charcoal that’s too small or big in the center, or too thin a layer? Do you think about the path the fire will take an give it something to climb with without smothering? Do you close the vents partly when the fire is lit to prevent fast burning when there’s more wind?
    There could be heaps you can do but you need to watch the fire and see what it needs at that time.

  3. I’m assuming you aren’t using matchlight.

    Get a chimney. Fill the bottom with some kind of fire starter (newspaper works great) and the rest with charcoal. Light the starter, wait 15ish minutes, then carefully dump it all out into the grill.

    Alternatively, if you don’t have a chimney you can rig one with some bricks or rocks. Just make sure you don’t make it all too tight cuz you need the airflow.

  4. There’s tons of great “Pitmasters” on Youtube that have great videos on all things BBQ and grilling. They all also have a 101 video on how to get a grill started.

    I’d pick up a Chimney starter first things first.

  5. Chimney starter and little lighter cubes, which are about the size of small ice blocks. Fill the chimney starter with charcoal. Light the little cube, set chimney starter on it.

    Revolutionized my grilling routine.

  6. What everyone is failing to mention here, is get the air vents open. You need lots of airflow from bottom to top to keep removing the CO2 and adding more O2.

    So yeh:

    – Tear up some newspaper, scrumple it loosely, put it in a loose pile.
    – Stack kindling in an open way. A tent shape works well.
    – Put a single fire lighter square in the middle. Don’t use any with chemical accelerants. The simple compressed paper ones work well.
    – Pile charcoal (not shitty briquettes) around and leaning against your kindling.
    – Open the air vents both top and bottom.
    – Light the starter.
    – Wait for the fire to get decently established you want to see decent sized flames coming from the charcoal.
    – Close the air down a bit (but not all the way). You can now control the temperature using the air vents.

  7. Either lighter fluid or match light charcoal. Match light charcoal can lose its fuel over time or if the bag is ripped so I like to buy it the day I’m using it. Using regular charcoal and lighter fluid is easy but it will take a few tries to get right

  8. See… What i do is i make a bonfire with real wood and after it burns down i scoop the embers into my charcoal grill, then put applewood twigs on top. Charcoal is totally unnecessary.

    Charcoal grilled stuff also tastes awful after youve tried my method

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