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Hibachi style grilling advice needed

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Not sure if this is the right board, but I assume it will be moved to the correct board if need be. I live in a condo complex that restricts grilling outdoors to designated barbeque areas. The "barbeques" are basic hibachi style grills that you find in parks. They will not allow us to BYO Weber or other barbeque devices. First question I have is what should I use to light the charcoals? i used to use a chimney, but they are also prohibited by the assn. There is no electrical source so I can't use an electric starter. I don't want to use charcoal lighter fluid either or coals pretreated w/lighter fluid. Second, are there any recommendations on the grill plates as the ones provided are very dirty? I have an old camp style grill that folds up but am thinking of buying one that will fit the barbeque. Should I buy cast iron or are other products that are durable yet easy to clean. Lastly, are there any grilling tips that will make grilling more efficient? I primarily want to grill chicken, the occasional steak and veggies. I mastered my big Weber kettle with several heat zones but now I am at a loss. It's a little bit of a schlep from my condo to the barbeque area so if I am going to invest my time I want to do it right. Thanks for reading all of my questions.

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  1. Without a chimney I've filled a cardboard six-pack container with newspaper and charcoal (the "Cowboy" stuff w/out starter, etc) and that worked.

    And Lodge makes a cast-iron grill plate that looks good. You could just put that on the existent grill... Cast iron is great for grilling, I've had great luck.

    1. For camping I picked up a grill screen about 2'x3' for when I use one of those pits. I just throw it on top of those bbq pits you're talking about. Its made of 1/8" steel and has a diamond grid pattern and it came in a 1/2" thin flat box so when I'm done I just wipe it down and slide it back in the box and so thin it stores easily anywhere. Got it at a camping store. If I find a picture I'll try and attach it or a link.

      As far as starting you might look into those fire starter kind of sticks that you light with a match.

      1. Found it. (see the picture)
        It's called "expanded steel".
        They take a sheet of steel, cut slits into it and stretch it to make the diamond pattern, then roll it flat.

        Again, the one I bought at a camping store was made for bbq'ing. You just throw it onto the top of those grundgy public grills and only your personal bbq grundge touches your food.
        Or maybe you can find a metal shop that can cut you a piece that will fit those grills.

        Or get yourself something like this: Not sure what size it is.
        http://www.rei.com/product/670616

        Fire starters
        http://www.rei.com/product/619851

         
        1 Reply
        1. Webber sells waxy starter cubes that work pretty well. All you have to do is figure out a way of stacking some charcoal on a grate above a burning cube.

          I have also used gelled alcohol as a lighter fluid.

          2 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            Dryer lint and Vaseline works also. Just sayin'...

            1. re: Joe Blowe

              Ha! That's efficient. The laundry room is in close proximity to the barbeque/pool area, so there's a steady supply of lint. I sort of had this plan of cooking my dinner, doing my laundry and going for a dip in the pool. I love it when a plan comes together.

          2. Also you could try an egg carton -- put briquettes where the eggs were and light it up. So dousing the whole schmear with petro distillates is safer than a chimney starter? Perhaps someone with the association works for the lighter fluid people.

            The grates probably aren't as bad as they look -- we bring a wire brush and that's gets thing pretty reasonable. We also bring along a small shovel to remove old food remnants, trash, and animal "debris" before loading with charcoal. There are any number of "backpacker grates" out there.

            If you improvise with expanded metal grate (or any other hardware store alternatives), make sure that the metal is not galvanized (plated with zinc), or coated with paint or epoxy.