The easiest and best way to get charcoal perfectly lit is to use a chimney starter, which lights briquettes or wood quickly without the use of lighter fluid, so your food tastes like food and not like chemicals. You can pick one up where barbecue grills and tools are sold. Set the galvanized steel cylinder on the bottom rack of your grill, fill the top with charcoal and the bottom with a sheet or two (no more) of newspaper. When the newspaper is lit, it burns and lights the charcoal above. It will take 10 to 20 minutes for the coals to be ready. You should see orange flame deep inside the chimney starter, and gray ash just starting to form on the charcoal atthe top.
Here’s how to light a charcoal grill with a chimney starter:
Carefully — wear heatproof gloves — dump out the coals, using long-handled tongs to arrange as you like. Place the top grate on the grill, and be very careful where you set the chimney down to cool, as it will remain quite hot.
Expert advice: Charles Department Store in Katonah has an impressive selection of grills and barbecue equipment, and salesperson Mary Kratochvil is a big believer in using a chimney starter. The shop carries one brand: the Weber, at $19.99. “We used to have other models, but a lot of them aren’t very good,” says Kratochvil.