How to start a Charcoal BBQ ,Basic step by step !

I often get these responses we don’t BBQ because he can never get the BBQ lit, he burns everything but its still raw { ( by raw i mean raw chicken pork etc that could kill you  not rare meat by choice like medium to rare steak)} . Men tell me the fire never lights properly, it dies out or there is too many flames IMG_3967 Over the years I have learned to listen and what questions to ask. With a bit of guidance everybody can be a World champion on his own BBQ at home !!!!!!

These days there is even BBQ TV program cook of competitions so yes you can cook anything on a BBQ. Its just up to yourselves to master the basics that will stand to you for ever and make you a hit with your friends and family.

Below will be the basics and then will touch on some other gadgets also to help you but master these basics to crawl before you run.

1.) Most bbq are kettles now days so there will be a vent at the bottom and the top open these fully to start.Once your coals are red embers or brickets are grey then you can start closing these vent or closing them of slightly as you see fit.

IMG_1855pa potjie pap en sous braai 0022.a) Less is best . I often see people on holiday using two bags of charcoal on a small kettle BBQ that can maybe at the most only take 8-10 mugs of charcoal.Charcoal last me for a very long time as I use only what I need and I still always have nice charring grill marks on my meat even if its cooked medium rare by choice. If you finished your BBQ and its still warm or obscenely hot for a hour or two after wards you either used to much charcoal or started to BBQ to quickly and I can guarantee you that you burned the meat . That’s why I say use a charcoal Chimney starter or learn to measure the amount of charcoal you need for your requirements  and you will realize how much you waste

2.b.)Lighting your fire I don’t normally use firelighters but do until you can master it. Less is better but again use a few blocks till you can use less. Place your firelighters on the bottom and then make a small pile of Charcoal on top of it . Then light the firelighters. Lumpwood charcoal is what I prefer but brickets are just as good if that is all you can get. Brickets are the perfectly formed round like charcoal and lumpwood is wood that has been charred.Some manufacturers have charcoal brickets that will function for more than 2-4hours. If you can get your hands on logs thats very dry even better but most of the time you wont in IRELAND or the UK  due to our damp weather. Also logs are not convenient for the average size smaller Kettle BBQ and 9/10 you will end up having loads of smoke due to the damp wood.

2.c) Use a chimney starter see how on this Youtube video . Ready in 15-20 min to start BBQ from lighting the chimney starter .  I would prefer that you learn to first light a fire with out a chimney starter as they don’t have these in the holiday homes that you might rent in the summer.


3.) Now  take your time and watch the vents . One of the biggest mistakes is people start to BBQ to soon! There should be no more flames and a good sign is no more smoke . If there is smoke there is still a chance the fire is still burning the black charred  coals to ember or there is still some wet wood. This smoke should not be confused with the slight smoke you get when you first lift the lid off. If there is still excessive smoke open the vent bottom and top to give the fire air and this will increase combustion/burning rate of fire. As mentioned above you want to see the red embers or the grey of the coals. Often the gray will turn red when you blow on them and that is a good thing . Brickets will mostly be grey. This is when your fire is the hottest and ready to cook.If you cook on the flames it will burn everything and give you the false sense of cooked food ( don’t confuse this with purposefully planned rare/meduim steak).  The only time there should be flames is if fat from the meat drips on to the coals naturally this will flare up as its a oil. Address this by either moving the meat if its severe or  very fast close vents top and bottom with the lid on as it will smother the flames. This last method needs great speed and perfect timing and know how of your BBQ. As this section is more about lighting a fire we will touch another time on direct/ indirect and other zone cooking or see some of my others posts on these topics!

IMG_4694 “One of the complaints often heard is that we didn’t have a successful BBQ on holiday and everything was burned and raw and we had to cook the food in the oven. A hour later when we moved the BBQ it was still extremely hot. “     Well I know exactly what they did wrong and tell them that when they moved the BBQ is when I would cook for 20 people on those coals. They then understand that they rushed the BBQ and cooked on the flames. Again they probably used far to much charcoal which increase the lighting time of the charcoal . This then takes so long and people loose patience and put the meat on the “fire ” hence the burned meat. If only they waited it would have been a perfect BBQ.




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