Men’s Den: Fire!

In the beginning, man made fire…


This is the Man Show, the Man Pit, otherwise known as discussion on all things M-A-N.  Actually, it’s just a chance for me, J, to write a little about the ‘blue’ jobs that I usually do around the house.  Today, it’s my favorite way to start that most manly of all fires: the BBQ!

I love barbequeing – there’s just something about searing some animal flesh on an open fire that makes you feel like a prehistoric manly-man.  Today I’m going to let you in my seceret to starting a charcoal fire quickly and easily.  Again, a la Alton Brown’s Good Eats, what you need to have a great BBQ fire:

The hardware:

  • A charcoal grill – any size or shape will do.
  • A chimney charcoal starter.  I got mine at Lowes, but they sell it (along with everything else) at Amazon
  • Some kind of lighter
  • A wire brush to clean off the grill
  • Grilling utensils
  • A fire extinguisher (better safe than sorry!)

The Software:

  • Charcoal – normal briquettes work, but I like lump charcoal
  • Newspaper
  • A little vegetable oil
  • Whatever you will be cooking.  For today’s Men’s Den, we did a couple of steaks and a chicken breast

You should notice what’s missing in the above list: lighter fluid!  While it’s a lot of fun to play with, I never liked the taste of stuff barbequeued on a fire started with it.  It always tastes petrochemical-ly.  A chimney starter lets you start the fire with using only a little bit of veggie oil instead, resulting in a much better tasting fire.  Note: do not take the end of that last sentence literally, we here at Tell’erAllAboutIt are not liable for anybody trying to eat a fire.

Start out by filling the bottom of the chimney starter with some newspaper or brown paper bag.  Fill it loosely, and don’t over pack it.  I usually use about one sheet of newspaper for my chimney starter.  Then pour a very small amount of vegetable oil onto the paper.  This will actually slow down how long the paper takes to burn, giving the charcoal more time to catch.

I didn't have newspaper, so I used a brown paper bag.  It didn't work as well, but it did work.

I didn't have newspaper, so I used a brown paper bag. It didn't work as well, but it did work.

Fill up the top of the starter with your choice of charcoal.  I’m using lump charcoal here, I just like the way it makes what I’m grilling tastes, but if you’re using the more common charcoal briquettes, those work as well.  Next, just light the paper on the bottom through the holes and relax with a brew for about 10 minutes while we get this party started!


When your fire is good and hot (like a jet engine!), dump the charcoal out of the starter into your grill.  At this point, if you used charcoal briquettes instead of lump charcoal, you need to wait until the briquettes at the top of the starter have turned mostly white on the outside.  Because briquettes are held together with binder (and other additives), you should wait for most of them to burn off before dumping the briquettes out of the starter.

The fire is ready to go!

The fire is ready to go!

One grilling tip I’ve picked up by watching far too much Food Network is to pile your burning charcoal on one side of the grill.  That way you have a “screaming” hot part of the grill and a much cooler part of the grill.  It helps control the heat so that you can still sear whatever you’re grilling without it over cooking.

After you get your fire situated, put the grate back in place and wait a minute or two for it to get heated up.  Use the wire brush to clean off any left over burnt paper that may be there from when you started the fire, and get ready to grill!  One last tip.  I’ve never been able to successfully oil the slats on the grill without lighting the oil on fire, so I’ve gone the other way by oiling the food instead.  All it takes is a really small amount of veggie oil on the outside of the steak to make sure it doesn’t stick to the grill at all.

I hope you enjoyed this Men’s Den, and look forward to some more tips on how to do the traditionally ‘blue’ jobs around the house!

Note:  We here at Tell’er All About It are not insinuating that the information contained herein is totally limited to men.  But in our house, these jobs are limited to men, so their expertise is the basis for these articles!


3 thoughts on “Men’s Den: Fire!

  1. J-

    FYI, I’ve found that nonstick spray (pam, etc.) works just as well as the vegetable oil, with fewer drips (and fewer charcoal fingerprints on the oil bottle…)

  2. It was great to meet you J! And great to see you L!! Andrew and I LOVE grilling on our Weber grill. I got Andrew the Smokinator 2000 for his b-day last year and he loves it! Tonight we are smoking peppers on the grill to put in our last batch of salsa for the season.Yummy!
    I had a stink’n jar of salsa on the kitchen counter to give to you guys….but….guess who forgot! Andrew is very territorial about his salsa so only special people can have them! Next time!!
    Thanks for the veggie oil tip! We will have to try that!!
    Megan J

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