If you’re anything like me, and I’m betting you are, you’ve found yourself spending nearly as much time trying to light and relight that old charcoal grill as you have actually grilling. It’s happened to me every year, but it won’t happen again because I’ve found a man with a fine-tuned grilling plan (with trophies to prove it) who’s been kind enough to let me in on the secrets of the masters.
According to my award-winning grill master friend Marc VanTubbergen, much of the frustration with charcoal comes from a less than ideal product, which needs to be treated with some finesse.
“The quality of charcoal, like many things, has gone way down over the past few years,” he said in a recent interview. That decreased quality has made an already exasperating lighting problem even worse and led many of us novice grillers to give up on charcoal and instead opt for the good ol’ gas standby. However, in doing this, we’re robbing our grilled delicacies of a certain smoky flavor that is just plain irresistible. That, according to Marc, is just unacceptable.
And so, he has given me a few suggestions to share in the hopes that they will take the frustration out of the average griller’s backyard fire starting. The first secret to getting that charcoal to light and then stay lit is in proper storage. Humidity is no friend of charcoal as the charcoal absorbs the moisture in the air and is rendered essentially useless. Keep this in mind when deciding where to store your briquettes. Instead of leaving the charcoal in the garage in its original paper packaging, put the briquettes in a large garbage bag and seal it, making sure to remove as much air from the bag as possible. Alternatively, you can store the charcoal, in its original paper packaging, in the climate-controlled atmosphere of your house.