Propane isn’t the end all and be all when it comes to grilling today.  The thing is, it’s hard to believe that when you visit a local big box store and can’t even get into the front door without being greeted by a sea of propane grills planted in front of the store.  Believe me, from someone who loves grilling, that there is a much better option than the propane option for grilling your favorite foods.

Charcoal is the new propane today even though the charcoal grill has been around much longer than the propane grill.  Remember when you had to load up your charcoal briquettes with foul smelling lighter fluid to get those coals ignited?  Well, not anymore!  The charcoal chimney starter is a fairly new invention that has made the job of lighting your charcoals very easy without the need of lighter fluid.  A chimney starter is a fairly simple device.  It is a cylindrical metal unit which has two distinct sections with a metal separation between them.  The bottom section which is a small area relative to the upper section is where you place rolled-up newspaper.  The upper section is where you load up the charcoal briquettes.  I happen to love Kingsford briquettes which are the most popular brand in charcoal grilling.

After the chimney starter is full of charcoal, you simply place it on the bottom grate of your charcoal grill.  My favorite mighty mite of the charcoal grilling world is my Weber Smokey Joe.  It is a small grill that cooks big!  Then you light the newspaper with a lighter or a match and the charcoal ignition process is underway.  At that point, it’s simply a waiting game.  After about 20 minutes the charcoal that is in the chamber should be fully ignited and you’ll see a white ash on the top briquettes.  This is the best indicator that the coals are now ready to be poured into the grill.

After the grill is full of hot coals you even them out on the bottom grate, place the top grate back on the grill, and cover it so that the grill comes up to temperature.  If you are looking for a nice sear on your meat or seafood, make sure that you leave the top of your grill on for at least 5 minutes before placing the food on the grate.  If you are looking to add a smoky flavor to your food, this is the time that you want to add some wood chips to the coals.  I typically buy wood chips in various types such as apple, mesquite, hickory, and cherry.  Each type imparts a distinct flavor to your food so you should experiment to find what you like the best.  The chips will fit right through the cracks of the top grate or you could simply add them before you place the top grate on the grill.

If you haven’t yet experienced charcoal grilling, give it a chance.  Propane is fine for a quick fire and convenience, but charcoal is the ultimate when it comes to the grilling experience.  I contend that if you give charcoal grilling a chance, you just might find that that propane grill of yours might end up sitting on your deck collecting dust!