Many people that have previously used gas grills or lighter fluid soaked briquettes find it initially oddly challenging and frustrating to get a real, natural charcoal fire going. You know you shouldn’t use lighter fluids because it will impact your food flavor negatively and possibly cause cancer but how on earth are you supposed to light this natural charcoal stuff? Holding a light to it doesn’t seem to cut it, it just won’t catch fire.
You have tons of options of doing it, I am just going to go through 2 of my favorite option:
Get yourself a chimney starter. Effectively it’s a metal cylinder that keeps your charcoal above a source of fire/heat for enough time so that your charcoal catches fire. You can put pretty much anything underneath, paper soaked with vegetable oil is my favorite choice because I have it readily available in the kitchen. Other people put newspaper, soaked in vegetable or not. Some put a whole range of available firestarters – just make sure they are not petroleum based or any other chemical or are too smokey/smelly. This is pretty much just to get your charcoal going. You will have red hot embers, within 15-20 minutes. Take great care when pouring the hot charcoal into your grill.
Back to Basics:
Some of us just love building fires, making fire and watching fire burn. If that is you consider building your charcoal fire like this: Arrange the charcoal in your grill in a circle with the middle empty, place something that will catch fire quickly in the middle, anything will do (see above) but you can also use dry leaves, hay, very dry wood kindling, anything that will light fairly quickly. The system is the same – get the material you put in the center of your charcoal circle catch fire. As it does start pilling the charcoal over it in the shape of a cone or pyramid. The key here is, the fire needs to be below the charcoal to light the charcoal. I love doing it like this and watch as the charcoal starts catching fire, re-arranging pieces of charcoal as the fire spreads and I find that one side is slower than the other. This process will take longer, is messier and so much more fun.