By Mike Thayer
You can start your charcoal several ways, you can use lighter fluid, you can buy those ‘Match Light’ briquettes, or you can do what I think is the best way to go (up to now) and that’s fire up your charcoal using a charcoal chimney. I don’t like lighter fluid for several reasons. I don’t like to store it, I don’t like running out, the smell can get on your hands and clothes, and inexperienced grillers tend to put too much on or start grilling over charcoals that aren’t really ready yet, giving your food that nasty fuel taste. Those ‘Match Light’ briquettes are OK, they’re very convenient, but they are more expensive and like the traditional charcoal/lighter fluid starting method, can put a fuel taste on your food if cooked over before the coals are really ready. Avoid the fuel taste risk completely and start your charcoal WITHOUT resorting to lighter fluid.
I wrote an article awhile back about using Weber Lighter Cubes to start charcoal, a great product that eliminates the need for newspaper but is still a bit dependent on the use of a chimney.
Enter a game changer, Tumbleweeds, made by Royal Oak. These things are great, so good in fact, they eliminate the need to use a charcoal chimney. No more putting on the glove, no more handling a hot metal container, no more worries about some hot ash getting getting loose and hitting your foot causing a bit of pain because you're wearing sandals......
All you have to do when using Tumbleweeds is put a base layer of charcoal or chunks of your favorite wood in the grill (I like to use a basket in my grill), throw a Tumbleweed in, place a few more lumps, briquettes or chunks around it, light the Tumbleweed and let it do it's thing. One 'weed' has about an 8-10 minute burn time and as that charcoal starts to gray, you can add more if desired. This can all be done right where you wanted to dump the hot coals from a chimney, but no chimney is required!
Don't get me wrong, there's still the need to have a charcoal chimney on hand, especially for long cooks and adding additional coals to the fire. But when first firing up the grill, a chimney isn't needed when using Tumbleweeds and they outperform Weber Lighter Cubes.
For tips on how to use a charcoal chimney if you're not familiar with them, go to www.grillinggoodeats.com
Costing me about $4 for a box of 16 Tumbleweeds, that's 16 grilling events. They can be used to start camp fires and outdoor fireplaces as well! Very reasonably priced and outstanding at the task of starting that fire, I'm giving Royal Oak Tumbleweeds 5 out of 5 stars.
Related: Weber Lighter Cubes
Related: Arranging Your Coals