Grilling season is upon us. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish, steaks. All of the greatness that comes from the fires of the outdoors, slapped on your plate in a hearty, balanced meal. The smell of what’s cooking on the grill permeates everything. It encompasses, it entertains, it inspires. The question remains, however, of how that fire starts.
Starting your grill fire leads to magic. You light the coals, you lay down some lighter fluid, and as your pyrotechnic display approaches its magnificent crescendo of heat and light, you find yourself suddenly foiled by…a gentle summer breeze. Blast. Never fear, we’re here to help (with fire). We at the guide love grilled food (and fire). We love a successful cookout (and fire) and we want you to have one, too (a fire, duh).
Building a gas fire is simple. Turn the knob, light the fire. Friendly note, if you turn the knob and there is no fire, please for the love of all things good double check everything before you blow up half a block with a propane leak. Seriously, that wouldn’t be cool. It’d be the opposite, literally.
But what if you’re craving more flavor? Lots of folks swear by the flavor of a charcoal grilled meat, so what can you do if you’ve only got a gas option? Fortunately for you, there are options out there. Our friends at BonAppetit have a few tips for you that may prove helpful for gas grilling with more flavor. If that’s not enough, try buying some of these, and enjoy. Long-term use flavor briquettes and wood chips come in tons of varieties. The economy and environmental benefits of gas don’t have to limit your flavor.
Gas grills, while terrifically convenient, aren’t always what you’re looking for. Sometimes charcoal grills will answer all of your problems. If you’re on the move (tailgating, camping, etc.), a good old fashioned charcoal fire is going to prove far more easy to use than hauling around an explosive canister of gas. Yikes. Admittedly, charcoal can be pretty difficult to start. If you find yourself having problems, consider the following: the age of your charcoal, the amount of charcoal, and your location. Older charcoal, while still viable, might be just a bit harder to get going. Too much charcoal can lead to the same problem. Location is key when it comes to wind, which can be an issue in keeping your young fire burning.
The best method, generally, is to pile your coals in the center of your grill. You want a good, hearty pile, but be aware of how much will be on hand when you spread them out. As we mentioned, don’t put in too much. When you have a nice pile set up, add a little lighter fluid to the coals and carefully light. Lighting the pile in multiple spots gives you a couple of chances should one side go out; try to light at least one briquette inside the pile as well. Once you see coals lit, cover up your grill and let sit for about ten minutes. Always make sure your coals have solid airflow. Most charcoal grills have air vents on the top and bottom; Open both to keep the circulation going. This is important for any fire, but especially charcoal. After a short time, when your coals are mostly grey and hot, spread them around and throw those steaks on. Different piles of coals give you different heat patterns, so know a few and what they can do for you. Thanks to the folks at ATK for helping us out with that.
If you’re still having troubles, fret not. There are tools (man’s other greatest invention) out there that can help. Charcoal chimneys are a great way to get your coals burning in a controlled environment until they’re ready to go. Most don’t even need lighter fluid. If you have the option, you can also go for a combination wood/charcoal fire. Be extra careful with this combination, as wood burns a little differently than coals do. It’s great for helping your coals get moving, but it can become a problem in a hurry. How? Think Smokey the Bear.
Whatever stage of your cookout you are in, definitely check out Weber’s website for recipes, tips, and tricks. Got some of your own? Hit us up and let us see your masterpiece fires.