Skip to main content

BBQ Tip on Charcoal Preparation

Getting charcoal ready to grill is something that every guy should know how to do. I have one of those Weber charcoal chimneys that usually works very well. You put newspaper in the bottom and charcoal in the top. One match is usually all it takes to get everything going. Usually. Yesterday I tried to light the charcoal and I was glad that there were no Cub Scouts around to heckle me. Good grief.

It started with the charcoal. I emptied out the last of a bag of briquettes, but it didn't quite reach the top of the chimney. I could have opened another bag, but I had a little bit of real, mesquite wood charcoal left in another bag so I had the brilliant idea to just use that bag up, too. This was a good idea in theory, but the problem with real charcoal is that it is, well, real. Instead of machine formed and pressed, identical briquettes, the real charcoal is in whatever shape the wood is in - and the bottom of the bag is mostly tiny pieces. These tiny pieces basically filled in all of the air gaps around the edges of the briquettes so, instead of a nice airflow that the flames could use, I had a blocked can of wood. The next problem was the newspaper. I don't take the paper, but I do get ads in my mailbox every week, so I use those. I had used up all of the newsprint ads, so I was left with the glossy, color ads. The glossy color ads don't really burn well at all - plus there was the airflow problem - so I would light some of the paper, and it would burn for a second, and then just smolder. I sat there using match after match, marveling at paper that would not burn.

I decided to start again with new paper. I pulled all of the smoldering paper out of the chimney and put it into my outdoor fireplace - where it promptly burst into flames and burned brightly. Dammit. Then I dug around in the recycling bin and came up with a little bit of news print and some printer paper. The new paper did burn OK, and it lit the charcoal, but the airflow through the charcoal was so poor that it was going to take a week to get it to get hot enough to use for cooking. As I was standing around waiting for the charcoal I was looking for something to do and I decided that I needed to use my leaf blower to clean off my patio. That's when it occurred to me. What I needed was more air, and the leaf blower puts out a 150 mph stream of air. Ah ha! I fired up the blower and pointed it at the air intakes at the bottom of the chimney. Sure enough - the charcoal chimney looked like a blacksmith's forge. Flames were shooting out of the top! On the down side, sparks from the mesquite were FLYING out of the chimney in a kind of hot, sparky, blizzard of fire. My patio is cement, but my grass is not. I got the garden hose and extinguished the parts of the lawn that had started to smolder. Perhaps you might think that I would stop using the leaf blower at this point? No, no, no. Being a guy, and worse, an engineer, I simply refined my charcoal preparation process to be a) fire 150 mph wind at the chimney air intakes for 1 minute, b) hose down the grass for 30 seconds, repeat. In no time at all I had hot, ready to use charcoal, and no wild fire raging in my back yard. Mission accomplished! I think that the leaf blower trick would be less pyrotechnic if I used only briquettes. I will have to try that next time....

Comments

BJ Eliason said…
I solved this years ago by using my wife's hair dryer... you just have to keep it from getting over heated. So, now in your new happy state, you can borrow from her.

Popular posts from this blog

How To Make School Lunches More Nutritious: Re-Define Words

If you are a parent of a child who attends public school in Washington, and if you have even a vague recollection of the food pyramid , you probably will have noticed that the lunches that are served in school cafeterias are frequently at odds with the rules of good nutrition. The school is not wrong, however. They have just re-defined words and you are not keeping up. Pop quiz:  Cheese belongs to what food group? *bzzz* - wrong. You said that cheese was in the diary food group , right? No! Pbth! How boringly accurate of you. Cheese magically transforms into a protein when it is served on pizza or in a bread stick! I know that you may be dubious, but I contacted Wendy Barkley, RD,  who is the Acting Supervisor of School Nutrition Programs in the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and she assured me that it is so. To quote her email to me: " Pizza remains an option for schools for their menus.  The cheese on pizza is counted as a protein in t

Global Entry - The TSA Trusted Traveler Program - or - How to Go In The Short Line At The Airport Security

Ever since September 11th, 2001, flying has been a hassle. With each failed attempt to smuggle explosives on an airplane, the TSA makes us get more undressed at airport security. In fact, for really early morning flights, we should probably all just show up in our jammies and then get dressed once we are through the scanner because currently we get up, get dressed, go to the airport, get half undressed, go through security, and then get dressed again. For quite some time, people have been asking the TSA so implement some kind of pre-screening program where travelers could have a background check in advance, and then be allowed to go in a shorter line. That day is finally here, and the TSA is now rolling out a Trusted Traveler Program known as Global Entry . In a nutshell, you pay $100, fill out some online forms, go in for an interview, present your proof of ID, and get fingerprinted and photographed. Yes, it sounds like some red tape, but then, every time you make an airline reser

Rooftop Playgrounds

This week I have had some meetings in a tall building in downtown Seattle, and when I took a moment to look around and enjoy the view I have noticed playgrounds on rooftops. I saw this daycare playground: and this playground on top of a school: I think that this is a really cool use of space. A friend that grew up in NYC said that her school had a rooftop playground, too. The delinquent in me wonders how many toys and balls go over the side, but I bet the teachers are pretty strict about that. Downtown Seattle has always seemed a little unfriendly towards kids and it is neat to see spaces being carved out.