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Firing Up - Starting the Fire

[Do Not Use]DK Publishing logo[Do Not Use]DK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Starting the Fire

Using a chimney starter

The best tool for lighting a fire, in our opinion, is the chimney starter. It’s an incredibly simple device consisting of a sheet metal cylinder, open at both ends, with a ring of ventilation holes around the bottom, a grid located inside the flue several inches from the bottom, and a handle. To use it, you just set it in the middle of the fire grate, fill the bottom section with crumpled newspaper, then fill the top with charcoal and light the newspaper. The flames will sweep up through the chimney, igniting the charcoal. When the charcoal is red-hot, which should take about five minutes, dump it out and put as much additional charcoal as you want on top of or around it. It’s that quick and easy.

Other options

Of course, there are other options for starting your fire. Lighter fluid, which has acquired a tarnished reputation lately, is actually an acceptable choice, provided that you wait until the coals are all lit before you start cooking (which you should do, anyway). Another reasonable option is the electric coil starter, which consists of a thick, oval electrical coil with a plastic handle. You put it right on the grate, mound charcoal on top of it, and plug it into a grounded outlet; the coil will soon become red-hot, igniting the charcoal that’s in contact with it.

Once the fire is lit

Remember, there’s no need to light all the charcoal with your starting method. As long as you get at least one piece of charcoal going, it will light the piece of charcoal next to it, which will light the ones next to it, and so on. It will take 20–30 minutes for the fire to work up to the fiery-red stage, then die down until the coals become covered with a fine, gray ash. Then, once the fire reaches the correct temperature for your food, you’re ready to cook.

Waiting to cook

Just a few lit coals will ignite the rest; then, wait for the flames to die down. As white ash starts to cover the charcoal, the temperature will rise until all the coals are gray.

Firelighting methods

Chimney starter

Also known as a flue, this is one of those wonderful tools that is simple yet 100% effective. You just light the paper at the base—the flames are then drawn up to ignite the coals.

Lighter fluid

This has been criticized for imparting chemical flavors, but if you wait until the fluid is all burned off before you put anything over the fire, it won’t affect the taste of the food.

Electric starter

Once the red-hot electric element ignites the charcoal resting on it, unplug the starter and set it aside on a fireproof surface, out of reach of children, until it is cool.

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