Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Charcoal Chimney Project

I know that winter is over when the building patio is opened and I can start BBQing grilling again! I don't have access to a gas grill, a Big Green Egg, or even a lid. No this is a pit that is open to the wind and limits me to what I can do.

Last year, I took to cooking in a 1950's fashion, charcoal briquettes, and lots of lighter fluid. The biggest problem is that it takes forever to get the charcoal hot and burning - approx 30-40 mins to get it hot enough to start. I wanted something faster, and in that, I found the charcoal chimney. Now you can buy these things for about $12 but I was in a DIY/Cheap kinda mood.

photo from HERE, one of MANY pages on the net

I delved through the internet at large for design concepts, and they all follow the basic steps. Metal coffee can, newspaper, charcoal and a coat hanger.

So I set about to make my own BUT I lack the tools and equipment necessary. I didn't have a coffee can, I didn't have a proper handle, I did not have a grill inside and I didn't have a church key.

So I ended up making 3 versions.

CCP: VERSION 1 - Apple Juice Can

So how did it turn out?
Heating time: 1 hour.
Not so good.

I encountered several problems.

  1. The wind was so strong (and blowing into the grill) that I couldn't even get the lighter to work.
  2. Paper was crumpled to tightly to allow itself to catch on fire.
  3. I gave up and dumped it out and eventually it got hot enough to grill, but the charcoal was basically done and it didn't stay hot enough to finish grilling, so I had to put it in the oven and finish my kebabs on broil.

I was disheartened but not defeated.

CCP: VERSION 2 - Apple Juice Can Again

Ok so I had a 2nd apple juice tin and decided to go with that. Where I thought I was failing was needing more vent holes in the bottom and to rip and crumple the newspaper so that there was more area for it to catch on fire. And I didn't bother with a handle this time.

So how did it turn out?
Heating time: More than 1 hour.
Not any better.

Wow, this was an even bigger failure. I actually did both the original and this V2. Well my safety hat was off. The charcoal that I propped the tin on shifted when the newspaper inside (which I couldn't light this day either because of high winds) actually did catch on fire and the whole tin flipped. The first tin worked pretty well, but I gave up on it too and pooled them into a pyramid to catch on fire.

I was grilling chicken breast pounded flat, dredge in seasonings, and topped with a BBQ sauce mixture. Also a few thin strips of ham seasoned too. I had enough heat to cook these and they turned out not too bad.

Then, THEN, taking some pop cans down to the recycling bin in our parking garage the next day, there, on top of the bin, was a coffee can in all its glory. SCORE!

So off to make version 3.

CCP: VERSION 3 - Coffee Can Chimney

So how did it turn out?
Heating time: 10 minutes.
Oh ya.

This was the deal. The coffee can made all the difference. The newspaper caught on fire in no time and I was ecstatic. Then I encountered a small problem: I had bought Canning Tongs to use to life the tins (apple juice) because they are meant to deal with high heat; however, the apple juice tins never got very hot - but the coffee can got HOT and the tongs couldn't lift it. So I had to carefully use my metal tongs to flip it over.

I was grilling chicken wings and damn did they turn out good. Hot charcoal in minutes and it was great.

Look at the smoke working its way up - success!

Chicken wings grilling over charcoal - awesome.

I would like to add a handle onto the coffee tin, but I don't have the proper tools to do so (the opener on my knife isn't strong enough to go through). Otherwise, I'm pretty happy the way it turned out. Oh, and I'm going to get matches because the lighter goes out too easily.

I felt a sense of accomplishment similar to what I imagine our prehistoric ancestors when they first discovered the way to start a fire. No more lighter fluid, no more waiting forever to just start the cooking process.

So if your feeling adventurous, try making one yourself. If not, go buy one. If you have a charcoal grill.

Check out the wings and the sauce review I did HERE.
Click HERE to go to the Wing Bucket to see some BBQ Porn.


Chris said...

Ahhh the sweet victory of persistance! I'm glad it worked out so well in the end. I was thinking the issue was the volume of the juice cans.

If you get the tools, put bigger vents in the bottom where the paper goes. Mine had 1" diameter circles all around.

Teena in Toronto said...

I have a boring ole gas BBQ.

Lord of the Wings said...

Chris - You are right on all accounts.

Teena - I miss using gas BBQing mainly for having instant heat and complete control of the heat. But I do like the smoke of charcoal, even if its cheap charcoal.

dlb said...

Hey WK!

Very cool stuff you're doing.
Did you know that this post (among others) has been featured in TasteTO's Blog-a-log? You should look it up!

Nimnio said...

Superior post! It moved me... to buy a charcoal chimney. ;-)

Lord of the Wings said...

@DLB - back!

@Nimnio - ya, so much easier!