The Best Way to Light a Charcoal Grill, Even if You’re a Grilling Novice

Efficient fun under the sun.
July 24 2014 10:20 AM

The Best Way to Light a Charcoal Grill

There’s no need to make a fool of yourself.

Grill.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Of all cooking methods, grilling is the one we imbue with the most symbolic meaning. Cooking with fire, as one Slate writer put it, can represent “some cosmic connection to our Neanderthal ancestors, some flicker of rebellion against the technological world.” And yet, in spite of the significance we ascribe to it, most Americans grill infrequently. The 86 percent of Americans who own a grill use it about once a month, on average—not often enough to develop real expertise. And then there are the apartment-dwellers, the mosquito-averse, and the hot dog–apathetic who would just as soon heat up dinner on the stove. (I count myself a member of all these groups.)

But even for this cohort, sometimes the stars align: The weather’s nice, your friends are coming over, you’re craving a burger with grill marks on it. Under such circumstances, it’d be a shame to struggle clumsily with lighting your grill. To save you from that embarrassment, here are foolproof instructions for a painless charcoal grill ignition, courtesy of Slate designer Derreck Johnson.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.