Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hi! I’m Billy Mays.

(If it helps, imagine me reading this post to you in a voice that's way too loud while wearing a full beard and blue shirt.)

Every so often I'll get really excited about the weirdest things.

Today, it's our new chimney charcoal starter.

This afternoon, Sunny and I went to get most of what we're going to need for our camping trip, including a new portable grill. (We bought a Weber 'Smokey Joe' by the way, and it's awesome. It's only a $30 mini-grill, but it feels really well made). While we were putting the grill into the cart, I noticed the charcoal starter and decided that for about seven bucks, it was worth a try.

After trying it out this afternoon, I can categorically state that it's now one of those things I'll never grill without. It's one of those things that's so simple and useful that you ask yourself why everyone doesn't own one.

You see, I'm a guy who takes my barbecuing and grilling seriously. This means absolutely no gas, and while I'm willing to use match-light charcoal and lighter-fluid, I've found quite a few brands of instant-light charcoal or lighter fluid (especially the cheaper ones) leave a slight chemically taste on the food. However, trying to light charcoal without lighter fluid can be a major pain in the ass.

Well, basically, having a chimney starter makes charcoal grilling as quick and easy as gas-grilling with all of the upsides and none of the downsides.

Here's how it works:

The starter itself looks like a big metal mug with an open bottom and top, with a grate about 1/5th of the way up from the bottom. To use it, you fill the top part with charcoal, stick two sheets of crumpled up newspaper underneath the grate, set the thing on top of your grill, light the paper and walk away.

At first, I was a little dubious. I didn't think two sheets of paper would burn for anywhere near long enough for the coals to catch a flame.

I was right, but the starter works anyway. The paper burns just long enough for the bottom few coals to get a bit of a smolder going. Then, as every schoolboy knows, heat rises…meaning air is constantly getting sucked in at the bottom of the chimney and being forced out the top. The more the heat builds, the faster the air flows…and the faster the air flows, the more heat gets generated.

Long story short, I lit the newspaper and less than fifteen minutes later looking into the top of the chimney starter was like looking into a freaking jet engine. I'm not exaggerating either. The coals weren't just glowing, they were glowing white.

That's the other great thing about a chimney starter. Usually, a grill reaches optimum cooking temperature about half an hour after everyone's finished eating. People tend to throw food on the grill as soon as the flames have died down which is way too soon. With the starter, in fifteen minutes from putting a match to the paper, you're good to go. In fact, it's the first time I've ever actually had to wait for a grill to cool down a little before I could cook my chicken.

Basically, if you're a gas griller for the convenience, buy a charcoal grill and a chimney starter and you'll find it just as easy. If you're already a charcoal griller, buying a chimney starter will make your life much easier.

I hate to sound like Billy Mays, but this really is one of those things that you'll try and wonder how you ever managed without it. After trying it once, I honestly don't understand why anyone would grill without one. It's just crumple a piece of paper, put a match to it and fifteen minutes later you have blazing hot coals ready to cook over.


Anonymous said...

You are too cute. My husband says he is only amazed he didn't invent it and is bummed cuz someone is making all the money!

marie said...

PLEASE dont show this to Frank. We'll have to run out and buy one and I'll be eating off the grill for at least a week or so.

Oh and just in case you didnt know (since I know how much you LOVE him) Billy Mays and the guy he works with have their own show on Discovery called Pitchmen. A whole hour of him yelling at you.

Sunny said...

OOPS- Billy Mays died yesterday...