How could I have gotten this 'hotter'

1,480
11
Joined Jan 8, 2008
Went camping on a whim last week, focus was triathlon training not food/cooking so I picked up a bag of (don't poke fun) kingsford matchlight and brought my little grate. 

Thing burned out before it got really hot enough. Should I have just lowered it closer to the coals?   Using wood wasn't an option as the state park I was in had crappy new pine that would barely burn as it is. 





 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I'm a little confused, Rob.

Given the quantity of coals and the amount of food being cooked, you should have had more than enough heat. Indeed, with what you're showing, my complaint is always that I have a great bed of coals going to waste.

Did you, perhaps, wait too long before starting to cook? Or was there food involved that's not shown in the pix?
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
That's normally a good approach. There should be a light coating of gray. But looking at the photo, seems to be a rather heavy coating.

I've been told by others of having problems with the match-light stuff (I don't use it or lighter fluid, so have no direct experience). Apparently, by the time the solvent burns off a significant part of the briquettes have also burned away. That might have contributed to the problem.

But even so, we're talking about some corn, a steak, and a couple of brats. Seems to me there should have been plenty of heat for that. Which is what has me confused.

Phil? Anybody?
 
1,480
11
Joined Jan 8, 2008
I mean, I got an 'ok' sear/carmelization, but just curious if I did anything wrong...could be that I just have high expectations :)
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
8,901
701
Joined Mar 29, 2002
The best use of matchlight is to put one or two  in the bottom of a chimney starter to assist in getting the rest of your coals going. Standard briquet is better, lump better still. Lump also burns hotter and faster generally speaking. But I'm pretty sure you know those things.

I think your coal bed looks a little narrow and shallow. It's only about 4 coals wide and about 2 deep so you're not quite wide enough nor deep enough to get the intense heat you were looking for on an open bed of coals. See, you're open to all sides so you're not getting any redirect from the sides and bottom that a grill would give you with a similar layout.

You might have had some wind issues, but you'd have known that if there were. Just mentioning it for completeness.

I'd probably have set it up in the fire pit itself in those circumstances. Better heat reflection and all that, smaller coals not dropping through the grate and losing the heat that way. A little easier clean up.
 
Last edited:

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
8,901
701
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Upon further consideration I also think there weren't enough coals for everything to grill to completion simultaneously either. I'm guesstimating that's about 40 briquets, a full chimney's worth. You would have benefitted from at least another 20 briquets and  probably worth doing another full chimney's worth.
 
Last edited:
107
11
Joined Aug 9, 2010
As previously pointed out you need sides, additionally looking at the pictures you don't have nearly enough coals. Your coal bed should overlap you food surface by a few inches on an open bed. With a grill, especially a kettle, you get heat reflection and protection from wind deflection. Additionally you get a cover, which also helps to hold in heat. But I think your primary problem was time. When charcoal is protected on the sides by a grill from wind it limits the supply of oxygen which slows the burn rate. The hotter coals burn, the faster they burn out. You probably had very hot coals, at first and then they burned out.

    On a side note don't try to cook over pine, the pitch fumes can be toxic.
 
Last edited:
1,480
11
Joined Jan 8, 2008
Thanks guys, I didn't want to put it 'in' the pit as I thought it wouldn't get hot enough because I didn't have enough air/oxygen to it underneath, I guess I was wrong. 
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
8,901
701
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Well, if it's ashy, you can lose a layer or so of coals to the deep ash. Scrape that to the side and it should be fine.
 
107
11
Joined Aug 9, 2010
You would probably be better off w/ a grate underneath but i don't find it is imperative if you're not closing a lid over it.
 
1,414
17
Joined Mar 12, 2005
Kingsford, ROFL

I usually start before they are completely white.

It looks like you had enough coals.

You should have made something to block the wind on the sides and lowered the grate if possible.
 
2,618
230
Joined Mar 21, 2008
Stay away from Kingsford /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif it is crap and doesn't heat well. They changed the formula a few years ago and it has gone downhill since.
 
148
24
Joined Aug 23, 2008
I've cooked with just about every type of fuel except cow patties or coal. One time at Fort Hunter Ligget, after coming off a two-week military field exercise, I gathered dead oak branches from the forest and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs on the base fire department BBQ pit. With time and experience, you can make anything work (including cow patties, I'm told).

I find that you always need to light at least twice the amount of wood/lump charcoal/briquettes that you think you need. Many times I've been come close to ruining a Dutch oven dish becuase I underestimated the quantity of coals needed for the situation. While you may end up wasting coals, it's always a safe bet to have extra on hand for contingencies, like high wind, rain/humidity, etc.

I favor lump charcoal. Use Lazarri brand if you can find it.
 
6,367
128
Joined Feb 1, 2007
including cow patties, I'm told

Don't know about cow patties, but I've cooked over a buffalo chips. About the best you can say for them is that they burn. But it's not a particularly hot fire. And it smolders a lot.
 
148
24
Joined Aug 23, 2008
including cow patties, I'm told

Don't know about cow patties, but I've cooked over a buffalo chips. About the best you can say for them is that they burn. But it's not a particularly hot fire. And it smolders a lot.
And adds a lot of flavor, to the food and air ...
 
 
Top Bottom