When I started grilling I grabbed a bag of kingsford charcoal and lighter fluid. I doused the charcoal with the fluid lit a match and watched as my eyebrows dissapeared in mushroom cloud. I knew that there had to be a better way. Adding lighter fluid causes crazy fires and further adds unpleasant flavors to your food. Today I want to amuse you with my barbecuing hijinks and teach you a better way to start a grill/smoker.
The first step to perfect coals is having the right equipment. You need a charcoal chimney to start the perfect fire.
To use a chimney all you need is one sheet of newspaper, charcoal and a lighter. Crinkle the newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, place it on a hard fire resistent surface, add the charcoal to the top of the chimney and light it.
A quick note regarding using a charcoal chimney. I would refrain from using one on the fire escape of your apartment building. During college I had used one on the fire escape and when you first start the chimney it billows smoke everywhere. The apartment complex accross the street called 911 and I had a firefighter busting down my door to stop the fire. When they got to the fire escape they used a fire estinguisher to put out my coals. They also told me not to use a charcoal grill in an apartment. All I can say is that charcoal makes burgers taste better. Needless to say it cost me $200 to fix the front door, my brats and burgers never got cooked and the fire extinguisher caused my charcoal chimney to corrode.
After 15-20 minutes the coals will be grayish and the chimney will be putting out a lot of heat. At this point it is time to transfer the coals to the grill and/or smoker.
When adding the coals to the grill makes sure to spread them out evenly. When adding them to a smoker I usually add the hot coals to a stack of fresh charcoal. Doing this will allow the coals to last longer, but it also makes it so that you have to wait longer to start barbecuing. At least another 15-20 minutes. The best bet would be to have multiple chimneys so that you can start enough coals to barbecue. Then on top of your hot coals add your hardwoods. I use hickory and apple for most of my barbecuing. The easiest way to find specialty woods for barbecuing is by going on craigslist. It is the cheapest and quickest way to get wood delivered.
Next time you are at the hardware store pick up a charcoal chimney. It is the fastest and easiest way to start a barbecue.