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I purchased a cheap kettle charcoal grill a few weeks ago, and I feel like it's not getting hot enough. I'm using a charcoal chimney which takes about 40 minutes to get the coals ashy. I've read it should only takes 15 minutes to light. Once I dump the charcoal into the grill it gets cold fast. When I first put my hand over it the grill is hot, and I can barely keep my hand over it for a few seconds. After closing the lid and letting the grill warm up for 5-10 minutes I can typically keep my hand over the coals much longer. I also never see any smoke coming from my grill after I initially light the chimney. I'm currently using briquettes as lump charcoal was even colder. The bottom and side vents are fully open, so there should be plenty of air flow in my grill.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. A picture of the grill and briquettes might be helpful here. – Daniel Griscom May 26 '18 at 11:44
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It really sounds as if you're just getting the tail-end of the fuel left in the charcoal.. that you've let it burn too far in the chimney .. 40 minutes does sound like a long time .. the right time to start cooking on charcoal is when any self-sustained flames have gone down, and the surface appears grey-white in daylight.. if you fan it, there should be a clearly perceptible glow.

If you want to use your chimney, give the charcoal just enough time in there to propagate its own burn.. don't spread it too thin in the grill after transfer, and let it settle to a glow in the grill, not the chimney. That will also help the metalof the grill heat up.

Or, light the charcoal in the grill by fanning it gently, and later, not so gently, with whatever comes to hand, or an electric fan.

  • After about 10-20 minutes there is a red hot glow through maybe 1/2-1/3 of the chimney, but the top briquettes are barely ashy and still mostly black – user138912 May 26 '18 at 16:56
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    OK, that's not an even light, is it? I think I would transfer it to the grill then. Or before then. Mix it up,and pile it up, to begin with, and fan it until you think there's no completely raw charcoal, spread it, and let it settle down. If you need the grill to be hot for longer, there's nothing to stop you introducing more raw fuel on the leeward side (not attempting to cook over that part) and mixing it into the rest when it's got going. – Robin Betts May 26 '18 at 18:03
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    BTW, there's nothing wrong with your grill being 'cheap'. Mine's made of a (now blackened) bent-up old oil can, and discarded oven racks. I light my charcoal in the grill, using a blowtorch to get one or two pieces going, and then spread the burn, gradually putting other pieces on top, and fanning with a square of woven bamboo, made for that purpose, as used by street-vendors all over Asia. – Robin Betts May 26 '18 at 18:14
  • There's definitely an airflow issue. I got my coals red hot yesterday (about 35 minutes in the chimney) and dumped them in the grill. I closed the lid with both the side and bottom vent fully open to let the grill heat up. After 5 minutes the coals looked dead, but with the lid off for a few minutes there was enough oxygen to get them red hot again on their own. Should I not preheat the grill and/or cook more with the lid off for better airflow? – user138912 May 30 '18 at 8:26
  • I don't use a lid at all. I do all my firing up in the grill itself. Maybe your two vents,(one above and one below the fuel) create a sufficient chimney effect from the lid to obviate fanning... but I prefer a little gentle bowing followed by fanning. It takes maybe 10 minutes to get the charcoal going, (putting some work in), followed by another 10-15 minutes of intermittent judicious stirring and fanning while I'm basically doing other things, for the embers to settle down to even cooking temperature, with the faintest trace of active, transparent flame.. certainly not floppy yellow flame. – Robin Betts May 30 '18 at 12:07

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