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Trouble with charcoal

LotharLothar Posts: 30
edited 1:00PM in EggHead Forum
I've been having trouble my last few cooks getting my charcoal 1)lit and 2)piping hot. I've been using Frontier Brand charcoal and it has been working great until my last few cooks. I'm about 3/4 of the way through my bag.

I have been using my mapp torch to light but my cannister ran out so I've been trying the alcohol method (91%) and all it does is burn out without getting the charcoal started. Last night I used a new cannister of mapp but I still had trouble getting the charcoal lit and once I got it lit, I couldn't get it up over 500 degrees.

Has anyone had trouble like this getting charcoal lit? It is almost like the charcoal has gotten damp but I'm not sure how. It has been humid and rainy here this past week but the charcoal I've been using was inside most of the time.

I hope it isn't bad charcoal because this is by far the best deal on charcoal around here 40lbs for $14 at Sam's and the lump is really well sized.


  • fieroguyfieroguy Posts: 777
    Sounds like damp charcoal.
  • Y'know, I hear folks complain about "damp" charcoal, and I just haven't experienced any problems with lighting charcoal despite very high ambient humidity (in coastal south LA). I fully load my large and relight it multiple times without adding new coals...the partially burned lump sits inside the egg for days/weeks in 75% or better humidity, and it still lights (and relights) fine. Same is true for new lump straight outta the bag: I store it inside my unheated/cooled garage, so it too is kept in pretty damn humid conditions. (I generally just roll down the top of the bag & I don't store it inside any sort of sealed container.) One caveat: I always use the solid, compressed starter blocks; the only times I've struggled to light the lump, I was attempting to use the oiled-paper-towel method.
  • The Naked WhizThe Naked Whiz Posts: 7,780
    If you are 3/4 of the way through the bag, are you getting down to smaller and smaller pieces? Are you stirring your charcoal to get rid of most of the ash left over before you add new charcoal? Long lighting times and unable to get to high temps usually means an airflow problem. I leave charcoal in my garage for months and months and never have observed "damp" charcoal. Make sure you have good airflow through the fire. Good luck!
    The Naked Whiz
  • Mark0525Mark0525 Posts: 1,230
    I tried the alcohol method before and couldn't keep it lit. I switched to the MAPP torch and never had a problem
  • BigGreenDonBigGreenDon Posts: 166
    I second the point about airflow. The ash can, and *does* clog the holes in the charcoal grate. Frankly, I think this is the main PIA with the BGE. I use a gardening hand trowel, a brush, and a wooden stick to brush as much ash as possible thru the grate and clean the grate holes between every cook.

    As far as lighting the lump, I started out using an electric starter. In the last couple of months, I have determined that charcoal chimneys work AMAZINGLY well. Nothing gets the ol' egg going like dumping in a large shot of hot lava at the onset...

  • PhilsGrillPhilsGrill Posts: 2,256
    After every cook, alway clean and remove all ash, clear all holes and verify alignment of the firebox.
  • RRPRRP Posts: 19,743
    and more tongue in cheek suggestions - after EVERY cook wash and disinfect grill, re-calibrate dome thermometer, polish dome and all tools, re-sort remaining lump into 3 stacks of similar sizes and if wife allows it use her favorite feather duster to brush away any soot on Miss Daisey! :woohoo:
    L, M, S, Mini
    Dunlap, IL
  • LotharLothar Posts: 30
    I am fairly diligent about cleaning out the firebox of ash and small pieces of unburned charcoal (small enough to clog the grate holes). I don't always clean out the ash bin at the bottom but I don't let it get over full either.

    It just seemed weird to me that all of a sudden I started having problems lighting it. Once I get it lit, I am able to keep it burning but it just doesn't seem to burn as hot as normal with vents full open.

    As for the size of the lump pieces that I am now using, yes, there are more smaller pieces but I also have several larger pieces so I don't think this is the problem.

    I like the idea of using the chimney starter, especially when I need a piping hot fire for steak or pizza. I have one that I haven't been using so I'll give that a shot.
  • PhilsGrillPhilsGrill Posts: 2,256
    What? Sounds normal, that's what I do and I wax the three green feet.
  • RRPRRP Posts: 19,743
    How could I have forgotten the waxing of the three feet??? Geeez I must be getting senile! :sick:
    L, M, S, Mini
    Dunlap, IL
  • Mike in AbitaMike in Abita Posts: 3,302
    Try a different bag and see if you see different results.
  • Mark0525Mark0525 Posts: 1,230
    If your mapp torch worked before, get another one.
  • how are you storing it? if the ability to light it is degrading over time, it may be damp. damp lump takes forever, and a damp egg will add to the problem. lots of rain here the past week.

    i just grabbed a bag of the frontier stuff, and was impressed, especially for the price. very dense, and good sized. some longer time to burn off the VOCs, but no whites ash floating around like some of the denser lump can have. good stuff.
  • LotharLothar Posts: 30
    I have a rubbermaid storage tub on my deck that I use to store charcoal. The tub is definitely NOT air-tight but it does have a lid that will keep rain from getting into the tub. 40 lbs was way more than what I could fit in the tub so the remaining bag I set inside my back door.

    I like the Frontier lump as well but it does spark like a mother, especially when lighting with the mapp. And the price was way lower than anything else around here. I was paying just under $5 for 8 lb bags of Royal Oak at either Wal-mart or Menards but the Frontier brand at Sam's was $14 for a 40 lb bag.
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