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Today I headed to a nearby camp ground which had some charcoal barbecue stands. I put in around 2 pounds of charcoal and put a thin slice of pork meat on the grill. After 40 mins, it was well...lukewarm. Also after around 10 min of burning, the charcoal had a layer of ash deposited on the surface and after that it hardly gave off any heat. My question is : To cook 1 or 2 pieces of pork or steak how much charcoal should I put? Also what can I do to make the flames rise a bit like in a campfire so that the flames actually touch the grill.

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Aren't chars supposed to cook by radiating heat and not by flames? It sounds like it was more of a problem with the combustion of the coal than lack of coals. –  Henrik Hansen May 10 '12 at 5:50
    
What could have gone wrong? Any idea man? –  Kaushik May 10 '12 at 14:25
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It sounds like the coals went out. –  Chris Cudmore May 10 '12 at 14:36
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Second @ChrisCudmore's thought, this can happen if perhaps the stands were wet or damp, or if not enough oxygen gets to the coals. –  Jeroen May 14 '12 at 14:52
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You should first set fire to your coals.
When they are really hot (red/white), but the flam is out, put the meat on top on the grill. Really, you should avoid flames in a barbecue to prepare the meat.

The amount of coals isn't that important. Just make sure the ground is well covered. The more coals, the longer you'll have heat. Since you only want to grill a few pieces, your two pounds was certainly enough.

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I suspect your fuel was being starved of oxygen. Charcoal burns well, but it requires a really strong oxygen supply. That's why, in a charcoal grill, you will see a grate that ensures airflow between the fuel and the bottom of the grill. Most likely, your lit coals were at the bottom of the pile, and were snuffed out by the unlit coals that were on top of them.

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Start your coals in a chimney starter - use some shredded newspaper as kindling. Once the coals are going strong, remove the chimney, put the grate back on the grill, and then use the air vents to regulate temperature. The more air flowing thru the grill, the hotter it gets - narrow the vents to cool things down a bit. Remember, there will be vents on both the bottom and the top of your grill. Here is a more thorough article on the art of operating a BBQ grill.

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