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Lighting Charcoal Barbecues

So, you have a charcoal barbecue but you dread filling it because of the mess. Try some of these tips to make it easier when you start grilling this weekend.

Next time you buy charcoal, fill paper grocery bags with the briquettes. Put just enough in each bag for one grilling. When it's time to fire up the grill, just toss in one of the bags and light it. The paper will burn quickly and ignite the charcoal, all without you getting your hands or clothes dirty.

You can also arrange your charcoal in a paper milk carton or similar flammable package. When you're ready to start grilling, just set the package inside your barbecue and light it at the bottom.

If you're using lighter fluid, put your charcoal in the barbecue and soak it with two one-second squirts per pound of charcoal you're using—that is, if your barbecue takes two pounds of charcoal, count, "One, two, three, four" while you're squirting the lighter fluid, and then be done. That's all you need. Arrange your soaked charcoal in a pyramid, and light from the bottom. If you have a big pile, light it in a couple places.

Did you know that instead of lighter fluid, you can use light-weight cardboard (like cereal boxes)? All you need to do is tear the cardboard into small pieces, put it in the bottom of the grill and place the charcoal or wood chips on top. Make sure some of the box pieces peek through the charcoal so you can easily light them. You may find this method preferable to using lighter fluid. There is no waiting for the fluid to soak into the coals, your food will probably taste better, and it reduces the amount of garbage you put in landfills.

Air is the key to really getting your barbecue going. Do you find yourself huffing and puffing into the coals of your barbecue to get it going and then again to revive it after a few hours? This is tiring and unsafe, so you might want to resort to using a bellows to provide the needed air. You can make a tiny bellows for your barbecue coals by using an empty plastic squeeze bottle. You will find that a little well-placed air should do the trick. You can also use your electric hair dryer. Both are simple, yet effective alternatives to your lungs.

It will take about twenty minutes for your coals to be ready for cooking. When they are covered with white ash, spread them evenly over the bottom of your barbecue, and get cooking!


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