The Right Way To Light A BBQ

When the warmer months start approaching, many people love to gather with friends and family for a traditional barbecue. If you are unsure about the correct way to light your charcoal or you are concerned about burning your burgers, carry on reading to find out how to start your BBQ and how to know when your coals are just the right temperature to start cooking.

We have the right advice and information that you need so that your barbecues turn into roaring successes…

Top Tips On How Tp Barbeque Safely

1 Make Sure Your Setup Is In An Open Space

When it comes to contained fires, your barbeque needs to be in an open area, far away from trees or fences. Keep water close by in a bucket or a fire extinguisher, and make sure pets and small children stay away from the fire. Use the right barbeque equipment such as long-handled tongs and insulated handles to prevent burning yourself.

2 Use Premium-Quality Charcoal

Look for sustainably produced, good-quality charcoal, preferably Forestry Commission-approved wood or coppiced wood. This coal light easier burns a lot better, and won’t change or taint how your food tastes, unlike the coal that contains accelerants.

3 Use A Chimney Starter

When you use a tubular starter it is easy to light the charcoal using a bit of newspaper, since the coal will quickly catch and begin glowing easily and faster. The chimney will also protect you and the coals on windy days. Once your charcoal is ready you can then easily and safely tip the coals directly into your barbecue.

4 If You Do Not Have A Chimney, You Can Arrange The Charcoal In A Stack

Use natural firelighters (wool or wood shavings) or newspaper scrunched up into balls between the coals. Light the firelighters and the paper allowing the flames to get going and catch at their own pace. You need to let the flames die down since you will only burn your food if you try to cook on flames. The coals need to be ashen before you start cooking on them.

As soon as some of the coals are lit, the remainder will start catching on, so avoid trying to hurry the process by trying to add more firelighters. If the heat starts to die down while you are cooking your food, add more coals from the outside and allow them to light. Once they have died down you can start cooking over these areas.

5 Know Whether You Need Indirect Or Direct Heat Before You Start Cooking

The way that the coals are arranged will provide you with more control and different heat zones.

  • Direct Heat

When comparing a BBQ to a stovetop, even layers of charcoal are the same as cooking a meal in the hottest frying pan using the highest temperature. These direct methods may be okay for thinner meat cuts that will cook relatively quickly such as thin-cut steaks or burgers, but it will burn anything else that requires a longer cooking time.

  • Indirect heat

With the indirect heat method, your coals need to be pushed to 1 side, keeping the opposite side free to achieve different temperature ranges. The coal-free side is used to cook using indirect heat. The hot coals on the other side will also allow you to cook your food on the coal side and keep meat or vegetables warm while you cook the rest of the meal. If you own a kettle BBQ, this cooking equipment includes a set-up that allows for indirect slow-and-low cooking, ideal for larger cuts of meat.

Another method is to use a roasting tray placed in the center of the BBQ and then arrange the coals strategically around it. You can then cook your meal on a grill directly over your roasting tray, using the lid to cover your meat. The heat will circulate providing you with a hot spit-roast/smoker effect.

Indirect cooking methods are ideal for large meat joints (still on-the-bone), such as lamb and chicken. It also works well for delicate cuts such as fillets. It also gives a bit of direct heat from the stacked coals if you would like to quickly brown any items. The indirect method helps you not to scorch or burn your food.

A Little Of Each

When you slope your coals it helps to create a heat gradient from sizzling gently to searing hot. This is a very useful tip when you are preparing food for a large group. It helps you to keep everything ticking over on one side while you cook at full-pelt from the other side.

Find out more on the best way to use BBQ coals.

6 Learn How To Recognize When The Coals Are Ready

If you throw your meat onto the coals and they are not ready, it may burn or overcook, which is not a risk you want to take. Here is a color code guide you can use to make sure you cook your food at the right time:

  • Gray or black with flames: Not yet ready. Step away, open a beer or a glass of wine and relax.
  • Glowing white-hot and the centers are red: Blow very gently to make sure: Your BBQ is ready for “direct heat” cooking
  • Ashy white, but still extremely hot: Ready to cook directly in the coals or for “indirect heat” cooking

7 Use A Thermometer

Using a thermometer to test the food can help you to avoid disasters. We enjoy the Thermapens, which come with temperature probes that neatly fold away in a cutlery drawer.