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Hot Tips for That Next Cookout

June 26, 1986|JOAN DRAKE

Charcoal is still the most common fuel used for outdoor cooking--particularly the popular briquettes. Of late, many of the brands are incorporating mesquite, recognized for its clean burning and high-heat properties. For best results when using this fuel:

--Store charcoal in a dry place. Dampness will prevent it from lighting and burning properly.

--As a general rule, estimate the number of briquettes needed by spreading them in a single layer, extending about an inch beyond the area needed to cook the food. About 10 briquettes an hour need to be added for foods that require longer cooking.

--Spreading coals farther apart produces a cooler fire than packing them close together. This also permits arrangement to accommodate different foods that are cooked at the same time.

Here are a number of techniques for lighting charcoal:

--When using liquid starter, pile the briquettes into a pyramid, sprinkle with fluid and ignite with a match.

--Solid starters may be piled along with the briquettes and ignited with a match.

--Electric starters are fast and convenient to use, if a power source is available. Pyramid the briquettes over the coil and plug it in. Once the briquettes have been started, 8 to 12 minutes, remove the starter to a fireproof place until it cools.

--Chimney starters call for lighting crumpled newspaper placed in the lower chamber. This heat ignites the charcoal in the upper chamber.

--The self-starting charcoals on the market light with a match.

For best results, read directions on whatever product is selected and take the necessary safety precautions.

--Charcoal is ready to use when covered with a gray ash or red glow in darkness. This takes approximately 45 minutes, but may vary due to weather conditions and different brands of charcoal. Spread the burning coals as needed for direct or indirect heat.

The temperature of charcoal may be judged by cautiously holding your hand, palm side down, above the coals at the height the food will be cooked. Count the seconds you can hold this position to determine the heat:

2 seconds - hot

3 seconds - medium-high

4 seconds - medium

5 seconds - medium-low

6 seconds - low

Use caution when disposing of charcoal ashes. Allow to cool at least 24 hours or be certain they are placed in a metal container with a lid so they do not re-ignite.

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