Outside of a top notch thermometer, invest in a Weber charcoal chimney.
A lot of people who switch to gas grilling say that one of the reasons why is because charcoal takes too darn long to heat up, and they don’t feel like investing so much time in the evening to lighting and waiting on charcoal to be ready.
Well, the charcoal chimney takes a 35-40 minute wait into a 10-15 minute wait.
I like to use old newspapers or old charcoal bag fodder to start my fires, but a lot of people don’t, because it does produce a ton of ash. Have no fear, because there’s another alternative that doesn’t produce ash:
I don’t know about your part of the country, but here in southwest Virginia, at Walmart you can get a pack of the Weber lighter cubes for $3. They are down from the original price of $3.92. I keep these around, because they kick ass. They are probably the best way to start your charcoal. Simply place two on your charcoal grate, light them up, place your charcoal chimney full of coals on top and they’ll ignite.
Don’t bother with any other brand for a charcoal chimney. The Weber one is the best. I’ve read negative reviews about the other one not having sufficient airflow or they’ll fall apart. This Weber charcoal chimney is damn sturdy. As the saying goes, “buy the best and only cry once”.
I might sound like I’m thumping the Weber company name, but really, they are a top notch grilling company. The customer service is fantastic, and I personally stand by their products. Like I said in a previous post, I only endorse what I believe in. If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t endorse it! And no, I’m not getting paid to shout the company name! Believe me, I’d love to, but that isn’t the case.
The reason the Weber charcoal chimney is so damn efficient is due to the holes in the side that allow a maximum amount of oxygen to come through and feed the fire. Be sure to wear gloves and maybe some eye protection when you use the chimney. I didn’t use any gloves during my Father’s Day cook, but the handle was pretty damn hot. I did wear sunglasses, however, because I didn’t want ashes flying up into my eyes. Also, title the chimney sideways when you pour out the hot coals; you don’t want to turn it straight over, in front of you, or else the fire could come back up and be in your face.