Don’t Forget about the Wonder of Charcoal

in General Outdoor Advice

When I was a child, grilling with charcoal was the only way to go.  Those were the days before the gargantuan gleaming stainless steel propane grills overtook the grilling world.  Sometimes, progress is not a good thing.  What was wrong with charcoal grilling?  OK, it was a slower process.  It took some time to get those briquettes to just the right color to start cooking your hamburgers, hot dogs, and steaks.

Well, I also joined the ranks of the masses who invested in the propane grill but, in hindsight, maybe I did so, so that I could really appreciate getting back to the basics of charcoal grilling.  My Weber Smokey Joe that I purchased years ago was just sitting in the corner of my back deck gathering dust.  One day a while back, I dusted it off and decided to buy a bag of Kingsford briquettes and give charcoal another shot.  I also knew that one of the charcoal grill accessories that I had to purchase was called a chimney starter.

Actually, as a kid, I always watched with wonder as my father would pop open the lighter fluid can and spew it all over the charcoal.  Then, he would toss a lit match onto the pile of charcoal and the briquettes would explode on fire.  Well, at the time, I didn’t understand that fumes from lighter fluid probably weren’t the best thing to impart on your grilled foods.  Today, with the chimney starter, lighter fluid is not needed anymore to get the charcoals lit and ready for grilling.  The chimney starter is a unique invention that is a must-have accessory if you grill with charcoal.  When I looked at it for the first time, I was perplexed that this cylindrical metal contraption would actually work by lighting some rolled-up newspaper underneath the charcoal briquettes.  I’m here to say they do work and they work EVERY time.  In fact, I own two of them if I need to use two charcoal grills when I have a big crowd over.

After that first day when I returned to charcoal grilling for the first time in years, I’ve been hooked!  I haven’t used my propane grill since and I actually want to move it off my back deck to make more room for my charcoal grills and water smoker that I recently purchased.  So, what really was it that got me hooked on charcoal grilling?  I actually think it was the process.  Instead of rushing through the grilling process like we all do these days in everything that we do, when you grill with charcoal you sit back, relax, and wait for the charcoal to get ready to toss into the grill.  You can also experiment and add smoky aromas and tastes to the grilled food with various types of wood chips.  You can use indirect, low and slow, cooking methods by moving the charcoal into different configurations on the lower grate of your grill.  The options are endless with charcoal grilling and you should explore them.

Instead of just limiting yourself to your generic propane grill, go out and invest in a small charcoal grill and a chimney starter.  I happen to think it just might be the start of something really special.

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