Building a good fire will make your grilling experience much easier and more enjoyable. Different factors including the amount of charcoal you use, how you stack it, and how long you let the fire burn before you cook can make the difference between poorly grilled barbeque and gourmet food.
After you have determined how your charcoal should be stacked it is time to build the fire. A great invention that more and more people are using is the chimney starter. It is basically a cylinder which you load up with charcoal.
You then build a fire in the bottom portion of the starter and allow the charcoal to completely light. This takes about 15-20 minutes. The hot coals are transferred to the grill, more coals are added and the fire is created. Another option is to use lighter fluid. After you build your stack of charcoal, soak the coals with lighter fluid, wait a minute or so, then light the fire. Both methods work well, but using a chimney starter prevents you from having to soak your coals with a petroleum product.
After the fire is lit, it is important to know when it is ready to cook over. The coals will burn down turning white over time. As they begin to turn white, you will notice more flames. After the most of the charcoals turn white, the flames should die down, and the fire is ready. This is when the fire is at it's prime.
A good measure of how hot the grill is is to use the hand-over-grill method. If you can hold your hand over the grill at a distance of about 2 inches for one second, the fire is at the hottest temperature, five seconds would be the coolest. I use this method all of the time. When I want to sear a steak, I shoot for one second. I want the cooler side of the grill to be at about three seconds. If you are cooking hot dogs, three-four seconds would be ideal. You will learn this method over time.
This pictures shows a perfect fire for grilling; the coals are mostly white, you can only hold your had over the grill for one second at most. The fire is now ready for grilling.
Flare-ups may occur, but if you grill with the lid on, they will be minimal. This fire should last quite awhile too.
Thank you very much.
The Smoker King.