When the summer months arrive, there’s no better way to celebrate than by hosting a BBQ with your family and friends. If you’re not sure how to ignite the coals or are concerned about scorching your kebabs, read our guide on lighting a barbeque and determining when the coals are ready to cook.
1. Set up in an open area.
Set up your grill in an open area away from fences or trees to create a controlled fire. Keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water nearby, and keep children and pets away from the fire. Burn yourself if you don’t use long-handled tongs and suitable BBQ equipment with insulated handles.
2. Purchase high-quality charcoal.
Look for charcoal made from coppiced wood or Forestry Commission-approved wood when purchasing good-quality sustainably produced charcoal. Unlike charcoals containing accelerants, this one light easily, burns well, and won’t spoil the flavour of the dish.
3. Start the fire with a chimney starter
When you use one of these tube starters, you can easily light charcoal with a few sheets of newspaper; the coals will catch and begin blazing rapidly. On a windy day, a chimney protects the coals (and you). You can securely and quickly tip the coals into the barbeque once they’re ready.
4. If you don’t have access to a chimney, stack your charcoal.
Between the charcoals, place balls of newspaper or natural firelighters (such as wood shavings or wool). Allow the flames to catch and get going on their own time after lighting the paper and firelighters. Then let them die down again; with flames, all you’ll have is burned food. To cook on, you’ll need ashen coals.
After a few coals have been lighted, the remainder will catch on their own, so don’t add more firelighters to speed things up. Add coals to the edge of the barbeque if the heat is starting to fade as you cook, and wait for them to flame up and die down before cooking over them.
5. Before you begin cooking, determine whether you require direct or indirect heat.
Different heat zones and more control over your grill will result from how you place your coals.
If you imagine a barbecue as a stovetop, an even coating of coal is the equivalent of cooking everything on high heat in the hottest pan. This approach is good for thin slices of meat that cook fast (such as burgers and thin-cut steaks), but it will cremate anything that need more time to cook thoroughly.
To get a range of temperatures, push the coals to one side of the barbeque and leave the other side free; use the coal-free side to cook by indirect heat. Cooking on one part while keeping food warm on the other is also possible with just one side of hot coals. This is one set-up for indirect low-and-slow cooking of large portions of meat.