Beautiful, ain’t he?
I mean, if you can get past the dreary little jacket of rust, and the melted plastic handle, and the whipped-dog, eyes-averted, kind of sad posture of a guy that has been forced to spend his life outside, alone, on a patio. In the fall, he catches dying leaves and plays home to a colony of spiders. In the winter, he sits out in the snow, frozen at odd angles, working on his…patina. In the spring, he emerges again, only to spend the next few months as a makeshift goal post in backyard soccer games, or as a receptacle for garden shears, empty seed packets, and bug-hunting kits. But in the summer, this ugly little customer asserts his true greatness. He becomes the single most important piece of cooking equipment we own. And how I love him.
It’s weird to think about now, all these years later, but there was a time when we didn’t understand one another. There was suspicion. There was fear. Was he some kind of mini-smoker? Did he require a certain level of expertise to operate? What was up with the upper and lower chambers, and what went where? How did one turn this thing on? Eight years ago, when at last we met, I was strictly a Match Light guy because my dad had been a strictly a Match Light guy, and anything else seemed like a giant hassle. Then, we moved into our house — and acquired a second child, not to mention a patio — and I immediately went out and bought a new Weber to celebrate. As I was walking down the aisle at Home Depot, our eyes met. I took him home with me. I know how that sounds, but it’s been good ever since. So good. Not a single meal has been grilled in our house without his help. He is my rock.
Here’s what I love about him:
- Jenny and I are not kitchen gear people, and we are definitely not grilling gear people. We don’t have the 37,000 BTU gas grill with the burled walnut fixtures and the rotisserie attachment and the pull-out, self-cleaning cutting board and the Corinthian leather. We are embarrassingly Luddite in the utensil department, too — we lack proper grilling tongs or spatulas, and I have the singed knuckles to prove it. (This is what happens when you use a dessert fork to flip a ribeye.) What I’m getting at is: this is NOT an intimidating, geeked-out BBQ device. Anyone can figure this out.
- When you use real hardwood charcoal (we’re partial to T. Joe’s briquettes), and you light it with a charcoal chimney, your food does not taste like chemicals or butane. Which I think is good.
- It always, always works.
- Using one of these things is, in fact, as easy as the pre-soaked Match Light stuff — and, really, only moderately more demanding than turning on the gas grill and getting your temperature right. In 59 words, here’s what you do: Stuff two sheets of newspaper into bottom chamber of chimney and then place it, paper side down, on the lower grate of grill. Fill top chamber with charcoal, all the way up. Light the paper through one of the holes at the bottom, wait fifteen minutes until coals are going gray around the edges, and pour them evenly into the grill. Done.
- It’s cheap.
This is a long way of saying: If you like to grill, you should have yourself a charcoal chimney. Just stay the heck away from mine, or we’re going to have some problems. — Andy