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Outdoor gilling is a lifetime skill. Because we are always learning, there’s no time like the present to take a look deep inside and ask yourself: Could I possibly be any better at this than I already am? If you are not using the right grilling accoutrements, the answer is probably yes. Start with the proper type of charcoal, get it evenly lit, and you are on your way to some smoky self-improvement.


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If you are cooking low and slow—say a pork shoulder or rack of ribs—traditional briquettes offer the steadiest, longest lasting heat source. However, for a faster, cleaner burn suitable for burgers, brats, chops, and dogs, go with hardwood lump charcoal. It creates shorter-lived burns, but higher heat without chemicals, and it adds a smoky, hardwood flavor you just can’t get with briquettes.

A coal chimney acts like a little rocket stove to add oxygen at the base of the stack, concentrate heat, and minimize lighting time. It can ignite the pile evenly and then allow you to pour or spread hot coals exactly where you want underneath the cooking surface.


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Lighter fluid imparts an unsavory petroleum flavor to your meat, but it’s often difficult to ignite charcoal without it. An electric starter can make you shine like a pro. By using either a direct heating element or a heat element with forced hot air, you can have flaming coals in a few minutes without the noxious fumes and potential conflagrations of lighter fluid.