Light your charcoal
“Skip the lighter fluid–it gives your food a funky smell and taste,” says Carroll. Instead, use a chimney starter, available at any hardware or kitchen store for about $15. Stuff a sheet or two of newspaper into the bottom of the chimney, set the chimney on the grill grates, and fill it with charcoal. Light the newspaper and watch for smoke to emerge from the top of the chimney. In about 15 minutes, your coals will be lightly covered with ash–a sign that they're ready to go. Hold the chimney in a heatproof glove or with a heavy dish towel, and shake out the coals into your grill.
Create a cooking zone
If you're using a kettle grill, you'll need to create an indirect heat zone in the center of your grill using a technique called “banking.” Using a grill hoe or a pair of long metal tongs, push the coals to the edges of your grill, leaving an open space in the center. If you're using a bullet smoker, just add the hot coals to the bottom of the cooker. To add smoke, wrap your presoaked wood chunks or chips in foil, poke some large holes in the package, and toss directly onto the hot coals.
Regulate the heat
The sweet spot for barbecue is between 225Â°F and 250Â°F. “A low, even heat will help break down the collagen in the muscles and create tender meat,” says Carroll. But it's important to monitor the temperature closely. “If the heat is below 140Â°F, it encourages bacteria to form. If it's too high, you're baking, not barbecuing.”
To lower the heat, vent the grill or open the lid for a minute or two.
To raise the heat, add 4 to 6 more lit coals, one at a time. (Keep a supply on hand in the chimney starter.)