8.5 How do I start my wood or charcoal fire?
[What's the best way to start the fire in my wood-burning smoker?]
Editor--summary of several posts--
Use the old tee-pee method with kindling. Put two balled-up sheets of
newspaper in the firebox and then stack up kindling (1/4 to 1/2 inch diameter x 6 inches
long) in a tee-pee shape over the newspaper, smaller stuff first then bigger pieces. Light
the newspaper and keep the fire going with progressively bigger pieces of wood until you
have some nice coals and can put on your logs.
For those without fire building skills, a propane gas burner works well
for lighting fires in your smoker. You can use all kinds of burners from the small
soldering torches to weed-burners. Safety first here though.
Some List members put an electric charcoal lighter rod into the kindling
pile and when the rod is red hot and the wood smoldering, blow on it to get a flame.
Remove the electric rod when the fire is going well.
Paraffin fire starters are used by some List members. You can buy them
in a camping supply store or make your own. See post below.
I don't know how this would work for charcoal, but we used to make our
own fire starters as a kid out of paraffin wax, saw dust, and egg cartons. We'd cook up
some wax, stir in the saw dust, and then fill the little "cups" of the paper egg
cartons. Then, when we wanted to start a fire, we'd just cut off one of the
"cups", and place it under the kindling and light it. It would last a long time,
and I can't recall a time that it didn't get the fire going. If nothing else, it'll give
you something to do on a rainy weekend afternoon!
[Is there no odor from the paraffin fire starters?]
They smoke some, but not much odor. I usually leave the firebox door
open when I'm using one of these paraffin starters because of the smoke and then close the
door when they are burned and the fire is started.
Another List member recommended pitch logs (pine saturated with natural
pitch) to start the fire. Make sure that the pine and pitch are burned and gone before
putting the meat in the smoker.
Some List members use charcoal lighter fluid to start the wood or
charcoal in their pits. Just be sure that the fire burns long enough to eliminate all the
volatiles from the lighter fluid so they don't give any bad tastes to your meat--wait at
least 30 minutes after the last use of the lighter fluid. NEVER use gasoline or any other
flammable liquids to start your smoker fire--only use commercial charcoal lighter fluids.