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My first experience of a barbecue was as a seventeen year old at a friend's
house. His farther, Douglas, was an expert at barbecuing, with many years
experience, we thought! It was a hot summers day but with a light breeze, so Douglas, with all that experience, decided to erect a cardboard frame about one foot high around three sides of the barbecue. The barbecue grill itself, which was fuelled with charcoal, was positioned next to, and underneath, some trees in the back garden. Not having seen a barbecue being lit before I was keen to watch, and moved in closer. Douglas placed the firelighters in the grate, set fire to them and arranged the charcoal in a pyramid over them. A number of years later I found out that this was the classic way to light a barbecue. Now, Douglas, in an attempt to speed up the process uncovered his secret weapon and enthusiastically said "Lighter fuel, this will have the barbecue going in seconds!" With the poise of a highly trained swordsman, Douglas sent a jet of lighter fuel through the air and across the whole length of the barbecue. Douglas was right! The barbecue erupted into flame. I was very impressed. Unfortunately, seconds later so did the cardboard frame and then the surrounding trees! Luckily there were enough of us there to safely put out the flames and to carry on with the barbecue.
A few years later I began barbecuing for myself and always remembered Douglas and his flaming trees. Apart from not erecting a cardboard frame around your barbecue and keeping it well away from trees, there are some simple rules to follow to ensure that you start your charcoal barbecue in safety.
If you're setting up a barbecue for the first time, read the instructions carefully first.
Carefully choose where to set-up your barbecue. Make sure that it's on level ground and don't try to move it once it's lit.
Don't attempt to start your barbecue in very high winds. Not even with a cardboard frame!
Don't try to barbecue indoors. I know people that have tried to barbecue in a shed and in a garage! Extremely dangerous.
Use proper firelighters to start your barbecue. They're better than rolled up paper and won't fly away in the wind.
Only ever use purpose-made firelighters and fuel on your barbecue. Never use petrol, white spirit, or paraffin. Not only is it extremely dangerous but it also taints the flavour of the food.
Everyone loves a barbecue but don't forget that the grill gets extremely hot. Follow the rules above and keep safety in mind. You'll experience a great barbecue, your guests will have lots fun and you'll enjoy yourself.
About the Author
Les runs The Barbecue Hut website that provides useful information about barbecue grills and smokers, and also includes a wide selection of recipes.
He is also author of The Char Grill Chat newsletter.
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