Natural Lump Charcoal should be lit about 15-20 minutes prior to grilling. DON’T use lighter fluid or newspaper to start your charcoal. Once again, it’s all about the flavor. Keep it natural, invest in a chimney starter or an electric starter. A chimney starter is a large, vented steel cylinder that is filled with charcoal and makes cooking with charcoal much simpler. Place a couple of lit fatwood sticks in the bottom area of the chimney starter, below the charcoal. After about 20 minutes the charcoal is ready to be dumped into the grill.
Chimney starters are great for long grilling sessions as you can have more charcoal hot and ready in advance, to add to a diminishing fire. Just refill the chimney with charcoal and light with Fatwood about 20 minutes before adding to the fire. If you add unlit charcoal to a burning fire, you are in for a lot of smoke and and a lower temperature. Once the charcoal begins to ash over, brush the grate clean with a wire brush and oil the grate. Use canned spray oil — be careful of flare-ups — a clean, wadded-up cloth dipped in oil, or, if you really want to show off, grab a chunk of bacon or beef fat in tongs and liberally wipe the grate.
A proven technique to create a more versatile grilling area is to mound most of the charcoal to one side, spread a little less in the middle, and leave one area with no charcoal. You can use a garden hoe or small shovel for this. By dividing the charcoal you create three distinct heat “zones” to cook your food. This gives you an area on the grill where you can move the food in case of flare-ups or if the food starts to cook too quickly.
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