Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Charcoal Chimney Starter

I would never have thought to write a post about charcoal chimney starters, except that the past few times I've had friends over for a cookout they asked about mine and made clear that they not only didn't use one but also didn't even know what it was. And that's unfortunate, for the chimney starter makes getting a charcoal fire going an absolutely breeeze.

A lot of hardcore barbecue-circuit guys seem to use the devices, but they don't seem to be well known the average backyarder. Maybe it's just an example of older technology that has gradually fallen out of favor (I remember my grandfather's using one when I was a child when we grilled burgers at his lake cabin). Or, maybe they seem like just another sketchy barbecue gadget to people who are just getting started with their first grills and are overwhelmed by the array of brushes, tongs, lobster mitts, and silly aprons that clog the aisle at the local home improvement store. I spent years messing with lighter fluid (the only rule I learned there was you can never use too much) and having the fire go out, or using the more expensive match-light kind. Then one day I happened across a chimney starter in a hardware store, remembered my grandfather's, and bought one.

They are cheap ($10 to $20), and a snap to use. No lighter fluid is needed. You crumple a few pieces of newspaper (3 works perfectly for mine) and stuff them in the lower compartment, then set the chimney on the charcoal rack of your grill and fill the top with briquets. A single match is usually enough to get the newspaper burning and, after that, all you do is wait. The amazing thing about the chimney is that it works perfectly every time, even when it's windy. The device is designed so the airflow comes in and moves upward through the chimney and guarantees an evenly-burned grill full of charcoal. Once the briquets are glowing and covered with white ash, you dump the contents of the chimney into the grill bottom, spread with a stick, and you are ready to cook.

So, if you're still wrestling with charcoal lighter fluid and never know how much to use and always worry about a fireball singeing your eyebrows and then have that inevitable sinking feeling when, after five minutes of a monstrous inferno the flames mysteriously whiff out . . . try a chimney starter instead.


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KEVIN said...

It's interesting to read that..

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