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new to weber kettle grilling and can't get temp above 300

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I've been a gas griller for years but when I replaced the weber gas grill I went with the charcoal weber kettle grill. The test is MUCH better, but I am constantly struggling with getting the temp up to something worthy of actually cooking the food instead of dehydrating it.

It seems like once I take the food off in exasperation, then the darn thing heats up like a blast furnace.

So question:

(1) how to start the fire?
Currently I have a chimney that i put one newspaper piece in the bottom and fill the top with brickets...that gets going like a crazy blast furnace and I dump that in the center of the cooking grate.

(2) how to regulate...heat up...the brickets once they've started to cool off from the blast furnace chimney starter? I've tried all vents open and bottom vent open with top vent mostly closed. Neither work until I've grown frustrated, take everything off and then go microwave it so we can eat before bed time.

HELP...please...and thanks!

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  1. How large of a chimney fire starter are you using? I hope you're just not using enough charcoal. That's the only think I can come up with. You definitely want to have the top and bottom vents open to keep the coals hot. I usually pour the charcoal to one side instead of the center. That way you have a two stage fire that allows for a hot side and a cool side, although that doesn't seem to be as much of a problem. Are your coals just burning down too fast? If the charcoal heats up once you remove the food, it might be that you aren't leaving the coals in the fire starter long enough. They should be all grey and red underneath, not black at all.

    1. For starters I think you have (1) down pretty good, that is definately the best way to start coals. I have a Weber Smokey Mountain and that's the same procedure I use. So the problem seems like it must be (2). First off, the vent in the top should always be all the way open when you are trying to heat the grill. You only want to close it to really cool off the coals and then only after all else has failed. The more air that passes through the hotter the coals will get, so the vents on the bottom should start out open all the way and you can partially close them if you want to cool off the grill to let the heat soak into the food.

      Keep in mind with a charcoal grill, it takes a lot longer to get the coals up to cooking heat than it did to get your gas grill up to temperature, about a half hour after you dump the chimney. Also take a look at what charcoal you are using. Most grillers swear by Kingsford, this seems to be the standard by which all others are measured. They burn evenly and uniformly. Lump coals burn much differently and although they add some flavor, they are not uniform in how they burn. Depending on how much you are grilling, a chimney full may be all you need, or you may need to add extra coals, if so don't smother the coals from the chimney. My last piece of advice is to check the thermometer if there is one in the grill top, to make sure the temperature is correct. Another option for thicker cuts of meat is to insert a thermocouple with a remote read, I just put it in the top vent and then into the meat.

      Get that early start and you should have everything ready by dinner time easily.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mikie

        Good advice above. My sister-in-law, who normally has good sense, had the same problem. Just in case it's the same solution for you, OPEN ALL THE VENTS, top and bottom, and choke 'em down later. Without enough draw, napalm isn't going to burn much, either. It takes a few tries--or a thermometer--to get comfy with your finish heat, that's all.

      2. If you have a 22 inch grill and you scatter one chimney of hot coals across the center of the grate, I think they will be too spread out to retain the heat. I agree with piling them along one side of the grill. A smaller, more compact pile will deliver more concentrated heat and you will also have a "safety zone" (to borrow from Steven Raichlen) to move food over to if you get any flare-ups. Also, all vents should be wide open to allow air in to feed the fire.

        1. Oh, one other thing if you're new to starting charcoal with a chimney: Don't wait to pour into the BBQ until all the briquets show ash. I usually pour as soon as there is a good visible flame coming out of the chimney top. If you pile in one place, the BBQ and grate will be preheated and all coals caught fire about the time you want full heat. If you wait to pour until all the "bricks" are ashen, you may be hurting yourself by using mostly spent coals by the time you're ready to cook.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kaleokahu

            Yeah, I thought of that as I wrote my post, however he was saying that his coals got real hot much later after he lost patience and took the food off the grill. That told me that he was not waiting long enough and that the coals were not ready yet when he attempted to grill over them.

            1. re: John E.

              Maybe so. What say you, nang? Been out there 'sperimentin'?

              But... "he was saying that his coals got real hot much later after he lost patience and took the food off the grill" might also mean... "he lost patience [with his poorly drawing fire] and took the [lid and] food off the grill [whereupon the fire drew like it's supposed to]." Or maybe nang was like the guy in the glasses commercial who mistook the dog food for the bricks.

              I'm sure this has the combustion scientists at Webber University all confused. A real mystery wrapped in a conundrum. ':

          2. I too think you are not using enough charcoal. I am a huge fan of the Weber chimney starter--it is bigger and faster than any other starter. Also, if you are using Kingsford charcoal check to see if it is "competion" briquets. This is something new this year which I bought at Costco and they burn much faster than regular Kingsford briquets. If I am cooking a whole chicken I have to add more coals & I never had to add with the regular (blue bag) Kingsford. I hate the competition ones.