How not to grill

So here’s the thing: I don’t know how to use a charcoal grill. Seriously, they’re confusing and difficult. But this past weekend forced me to use one… not just use one… buy one.

Saturday, as I mentioned, Lisa and I headed down to my parents’ house and then had dinner over at my sister Laura’s place. The plan was a barbeque. Unfortunately, they hadn’t tried used the grill all season. Can you guess what went wrong? After several humorous attempts to light the suspect burners and simultaneously run for cover, my brother-in-law Carlos and I finally has to call it quits. Not a good way to start an afternoon of grilling… you know, without a grill.

Since I’ve been thinking about getting a cheap grill, and since Lisa volunteered us to throw a party on Labor Day, I suggested heading out to Home Depot or Lowes or something and picking one up. Carlos and I headed out to the store. After a few minutes of debating over size vs. price, I decided the 20 extra bucks was worth it to get the larger unit and bought a Weber 22-1/2 inch One-Touch Silver charcoal grill. It’s not even a hundred bucks; it’s a Weber; and it’s a beaut!

Back at their place, Carlos made short work of assembling the grill. I decided to make it easy on us and picked up some of that pre-treated charcoal. You know, the stuff that’s already been soaked in lighter fluid. Yeah, it’s as unsafe as it sounds.

Well, to be fair, there were directions. And when you’re going to light something on fire that has directions on how to do so, it’s probably a good idea to follow them. I think the very first step was “DO NOT USE MORE THAN 3 LBS!” 3 lbs just doesn’t look like much in the 22.5″ grill, and I had trouble even believing that the bag was 8 lbs like it said. Carlos didn’t need to prod me much before I finally dumped the whole bag in. Later in the evening we still couldn’t figure out why I kept listening to Carlos.

So, what do you think happens when you light more than twice the recommended amount? The first thing is you rush to wheel the 3 foot flames away from the tree you inexplicably set it down next to. Then you try to place the lid on top to smother the flames. Well, not so much place as throw. And, not to surprisingly, it fell right off – much to Carlos’s chagrin, as he profusely apologized for scratching the lid of my brand new grill. No big deal, I just forced the lid down and killed the flames. Time to regroup.

Unfortunately, just as I was about to suggest removing some of the excess coals, Carlos decided we should re-light it. Have you ever seen someone make a bad decision, or make one yourself, and you can just keep replaying that one moment over and over again? I saw Carlos move towards the grill with the match, and I my “NO!” just didn’t have enough time.

Don’t worry, Carlos is fine. But man did those flames kick back up real fast. And Carlos managed to singe a good amount of hair off his right arm. Mainly we just couldn’t stop laughing. Even after we put out the flames again, and started the grill for a third time, and put the chicken on, and dove into the margaritas. It was damn funny. Especially considering we could see the little burnt ends of his hair.

In the end, I’ve found it’s very difficult to get the charcoal grill going, and just as hard to keep it going. Very little food actually cooked on it Saturday night – but it was pretty good. And the kielbasa I made on Monday was awesome. But I’m far from consistent, so I wouldn’t take any advice from me… except to always read directions when flames are involved.

2 thoughts on “How not to grill”

  1. Okay, here’s the thing: I almost had wine out my nose. Ow. This was very funny! We just recently got a charcoal grill, because all the good chefs recommend them over gas. We don’t have an auto starter, though. Let me go and look at the model you bought online and see if what I am thinking will working…

    Yes, it will. What you need is one of these:

    Or anything that does the same thing. They’ve been on clearance at Lowes lately, so take a look there. We love ours. It gets the coals going right away, and they are ready faster. You can add more once you get some started with this, as well, and they’ll heat from what you’ve blasted in the chimney, or you can do another batch.

    Also, I highly recommend that you use Cowboy Charcoal for anything that needs to roast for a long time (, like chicken, and a blend of it and regular briquettes for anything that you need searing for, but don’t want to spend hours cooking, like hamburgers and steak.

  2. Thanks a lot for the info. I’ve heard of chimney starters, but wasn’t sure about them – I’ll give it a looksey. I’ll also give that Cowboy stuff a try, as I just bought the Kingsland stuff (or whatever) that’s always available in stores.

    I’m also glad the humor of the situation came through. I was afraid I couldn’t convey it properly because, damn, we were laughing all night long.

Comments are closed.