How to Barbecue Successfully

Written by our friends from Planet Barbecue

Preparing the barbecue

When lighting your barbecue don't forget how you used to light a camp fire. Basic primitive fires were always built in the pyramidal shape, most people seem to totally disregard this method when planning a barbecue.

So arrange your briquettes or lump wood in a pyramidal shape, insert three firelighters evenly spread into the pyramid and light each one with a match.

Leave for twenty to thirty minutes, the flames should now have died down and the charcoal has turned white.

You can now spread the charcoal more evenly around the barbecue rack using a barbecue tool.

The barbecue is now ready for the direct cooking method.

Always wait for the flames to die down, the firelighters give off fumes and do not smell very nice. This is because they are soaked in kerosene.

Don't cover all of the base of the rack with charcoal, leave a space so you can move food around if it starts to burn.

Lighting the Perfect Barbecue

lighting stage 1
     Build a pyramid shape with the charcoal and insert charcoal firelighters. Light and wait for 30 minutes.

lighting stage 2
     It should then look like this.

lighting stage 3
     Use a barbecue tool to spread out the charcoal. Be patient, it's not ready for cooking until it looks like this.

Direct cooking method

The food is placed over the hot charcoal, you will have to turn the food several times to avoid burning and charring, try to this with tongs rather than a fork. The fork will pierce the meat and allow juices to drip onto the charcoal and encourage flames.

When the food is cooked, you can keep it warm by using a small area of the barbecue grill covered with a double layer of silver foil, place the cooked food on to the foil, it will keep warm and will help to stop burning. But remember, not to add the foil until you need it.

Heat control tips
  • Charcoal on the barbecue which is left in a pyramid shape will produce a hot barbecue. Spread the charcoal a little to produce a medium heat.
  • Don't cover the whole base of the barbecue with charcoal. Leave some space for a cooler section so you can move food around.
  • If you have a lid on your barbecue use it to control any flames or flare ups. No oxygen, no fire.
  • If you need to add more charcoal place it around the edge.
  • The most problems with flames and flare ups are caused by food with a high fat content. Move these foods to the cooler section until the flames subside.

Barbecue tips

be patient

The biggest mistake is to start cooking before the charcoal is ready. If your barbecue party starts at 7.00, light the barbecue at 6.30.


Store your charcoal in a cool dry place. A garage or shed is ideal but it must be off the floor. A plastic dustbin is ideal. Proper storage will eliminate the use of starter fluids.

tightwad or recycling?

When you have finished cooking, close the lid of the barbecue and close the air vents. In the morning you will be able to salvage some left over charcoal. Just place in a plastic throw-away shopping bag and shake. All the dust will have come off the charcoal and it will be ready to use again.

silver cooking foil

Is a must for keeping food warm and cooking on the barbecue. Also for storing pre-prepared barbecue courses in the fridge.

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The Cooking Colonel of Madras by David Smith