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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Jefferson chapter.

Over the past week, my mom has developed a new hobby: cooking outdoors. With the nice weather and all, she decided to pull a grill I did not even know existed out of our garage. With a brand-new grill and with minimal experience, she set out on her grilling journey with me and my brother in tow. Safe to say, our first time was a total disaster. 

I came home from classes one day to find her in the backyard, throwing coals into the grill. I watched her as she threw some lighter fluid on the rocks and attempted to set it aflame with a lighter. Nothing happened. We both looked at each other before trying again. After a couple more tries, I got impatient and wanted a shot at lighting the coals. Again – no fire. 

We tried to troubleshoot our dilemma, but in the end, my mother ended up lighting some paper on fire and tossing it onto the coals. Luckily, a huge fire started to build before being quickly swept away by the wind. I take a look at the bag that our coals were from and in bold letters on the front: ‘No Lighter Fluid Necessary’! We were so naive and impulsive – jumping straight to the fun part without actually taking the required steps beforehand. 

While the food ended up tasting pretty okay (some of the meat was a little undercooked), we learned from the first time. I watched a couple of videos, talked to the men in my life, and generally learned how to grill more effectively. So here are some of my tips :

  1. A big fire does not mean a good fire.
    This is the core of grilling and will require patience. A good fire does not develop in mere minutes – it can take up to 20 minutes. If anything, a good indicator of a ready grill would be gray or white coals. This would signify the fire is hot enough to cook. 
  2. Pyramid Method
    Stacking the coals in a pyramidal shape is essential for inducing the coals to burn. However, these coals should not always sit in this position – moving them around and spreading the heat evenly throughout the grill is important, too.
  3. Less lighter fluid is more.
    Last year, I attended a family cookout where the fire was powerful due to the vast amount of light fluid they used. All of the food ended up tasting like lighter fluid. So, I do not recommend using too much to build your flame. A little goes a long way.

Disclaimer: Grilling can involve inherent risks, such as the potential for burns . Always prioritize safety when grilling. Please follow your grill manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and maintenance, as well as doing more research into proper grilling safety.

Xiaoxin Li

Jefferson '27

Hello! My name is Xiaoxin and I'm currently a sophmore at Thomas Jefferson University studying health sciences and eventually medical lab sciences and biotechnology. I love cats and birds (weird combo, I know), k-pop, art, writing, and volleyball! I dabble a little in astrology and fashion, too. ʕ •ᴥ•ʔゝ☆