Grilling for me is always an exhilarating experience. I used to use a propane grill before I reintroduced myself to the art of charcoal grilling about a year ago. When I was a child, charcoal or wood fire grilling were the only ways to grill. Wood fire grilling was relegated to cooking on an open campfire while on vacation but charcoal grills were found in the backyards of nearly every American home. The propane grills that we know today were not introduced to the masses yet so charcoal was the leader in the clubhouse when it came to grilling fuel types.
Accessories for Starting a Charcoal Fire
About a year ago, after speaking with a friend who loved his Weber charcoal grill, I decided to reach back to my roots and try charcoal grilling again. I didn t relish the thought of smelling and tasting the foul lighter fluid that my father used to use to light the charcoal back in the day. But, I was told not to worry because there was a new way to light a charcoal fire.
It is called a chimney starter. A chimney starter is a metal cylinder with two sections. The bottom section is where you place some crumpled up newspaper and the section above it is where you fill the charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. The cheap model I purchased originally has a wooden handle but the Weber chimney starter, which is the one I eventually purchased, has a larger capacity and a plastic handle that stays cool to the touch. After you load up the unit with charcoal and paper at the bottom, just place it on the bottom charcoal grill grate and light the paper. In about 20 minutes the fire will move its way up the chimney starter and engulf the charcoal. At that time, you simply lift up the chimney starter from the handle and pour the charcoal directly into the grill.
One suggestion I have for an important charcoal grill accessory is a wind-resistant lighter. They are a little bit more expensive than a regular lighter but, if you are trying to light a chimney starter in the wind, you will thank me for suggesting you buy one. The one I have also has a flexible, snake-like nozzle which allows you to fit it into any of the openings in the bottom of the chimney starter. If you don t want to opt for a wind-resistant lighter another option are long-handled wooden matches. They also work great but the lighter is a much better option.
Charcoal Grill Utensils
Once you have started the fire and poured in the charcoal, now it s up to you to do the cooking. Having the proper quality charcoal grill accessories will make a difference. There are three must-have grill accessories that you cannot do without, in my opinion. The three are a long-handled spatula, a set of long-handled tongs, and an adjustable basting brush. Ensure you buy quality accessories because, if you do, they could just last you a lifetime.
The spatula is perfect for flipping hamburgers or grilled fish fillets. I happen to have a separate spatula made specifically for fish but you can get away with a generic high quality long-handled spatula that should work for any type of meat or fish. A set of long-handled tongs is just what you need for flipping steaks, pork chops, chicken, or for turning and picking up hot dogs. An adjustable basting brush, preferably made of silicone, is great for basting a turkey or chicken if you decide to use your charcoal grill to barbecue, which is cooking at lower temperatures for a much longer period of time.
Cleaning and Protecting your Charcoal Grill
Maintenance of your charcoal grill is important if you want it to last for years. The first thing you want to do is to buy a properly-fitting grill cover. I own Weber grills because I happen to think that they are the best. Weber sells grill covers to match the sizes of their grills. One of my go-to grills is my Weber One Touch and I bought the model of grill cover that matches it perfectly. I also use a smaller Weber Smokey Joe and bought a cover for that as well.
You also need to clean your grill grates on a regular basis. I have a number of different options for cleaning the grates of my charcoal grills. My latest favorite option is a grill stone. All you have to do is give it a few strokes with the grill stone and the grate is free from grime and grilling residue. Another option I use is a wire grill brush. I like to give the grate a few strokes with my grill brush when it s still hot right after I take off the grilled food. When the grate is still hot, it is easier to clean and you will have a clean grill grate the next time you grill. Another option that I use on occasion is a natural plant-based grill cleaning spray. Just spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes, and then just wipe the grate with a cloth or a wire brush.
Charcoal grilling has come a long way since I was a child. The grills are built for an optimum cooking experience and the high quality charcoal grill accessories available make this age-old mode of grilling the preferred choice for many today!