News vintner Mike Davidson is grilling with gas after having a hardship with charcoal:

It’s about a month into grilling season here in Seattle, and after an unappetizing experience with MatchLight “Easy Lighting” (viz. “Soaked With Fuel”) Charcoal the other day, I finally decided to go out and get a proper gas grill for my deck.

I’m a big fan of grilling with dragon’s-breath-in-a-can¹. It’s fast, it’s clean, and who doesn’t like a device that comes with it’s own fuel supply. If you do the science a good grill is only a few parts shy of a being Titan missile and that’s too damn cool not to have one.

Later, in his comments, Mike explains the cause of the “unappetizing experience”:

…the deal with the MatchLight was that I let the stuff burn and smolder for 10 minutes, as directed, and then threw the kabobs on for a little while.

Say waaa? Uh…er, yeah, huh?

Ah, I think I see the problem here. Mike used “directions”. Hell, if man had used directions human civilization would still be a family of four running around Eden naked, eating twigs, and taking unlimited piggy-back rides on dolphins and sasquatch.

Charcoal grilling requires a lot of fuel, a few matches, and if you’re safety conscious, some type of anti-fire technology like a water hose (you get a 1-up if it’s actually hooked-up to the spigot). It’s imperative for you to know that the purpose of charcoal in this process is to serve as a soaking agent for fuel. Other agents can, or may, include stacks of dry wood and old warehouses down by the docks.

Like a good steak, charcoal has to be seared to produce the best taste (this helps to contain the gassy-fuel fumes inside the brick, I think) and that can only be done by soaking the bricks in lighter fluid.

This is done by simply by pouring an entire can, sometimes two, all over the bricks — think Splash Dance. If fuel begins to drip out of the bottom of the grill it’s time to make fire with said matchstick. Don’t worry about the left over fuel because you can later squirt it into the fire producing these magnificent Sammy-Hagar-Cabo-Wabo-style fire plumes.

Repeat this step as necessary and remember, if at first you torch the bricks into instant ash don’t fret. Like the classic bag of hot dog buns to package hot dogs ratio there are always more bricks in a bag of charcoal than you can safely fit into a grill. It’s like a two-fer in every bag. That said, after years of using a gas grill I don’t think I’d go back to charcoal

In closing my lawyer has advised me to add that engaging in this ritual should be done at safe distance from children, pets, your abode, and Jehovah’s Witness.

¹ Admittedly I am not the one who usually grills the food. My food preparation has been outsourced for eleven years but I am allowed to refill the fuel delivery system. That said, applying fire to things that can catch on fire is something I know a thing or two about and there are a few good stories that involve trees, gas (liquid form), a porcupine, roman candles, the United States Forrest Service, a helicopter, and two guys from Rhode Island.