Before you can master the art of braaing with charcoal, you must learn the art of building a fire you can cook on.
Remove the lid and open all air vents before building the fire. For proper airflow, remove accumulated ashes from the bottom of the grill if present (only after the coals are fully extinguished). Charcoal requires oxygen to burn, so be sure nothing clogs the vents.
Place your kindling — either firelighters or crumpled newspaper — in the centre of the charcoal grate. Avoid using lighter fluid because it is messy and can impart a chemical taste to your food unless it is thoroughly burned off.
Form your briquettes into a pyramid-shaped pile with the peak in the centre of the grill or pile the charcoal into a Weber RapidFire chimney starter.
Light the kindling. Add more charcoal briquettes if required.
Arrange coals when covered with a light grey ash — usually after 25 to 30 minutes — use long-handled tongs and organise the coals according to the cooking method you are going to use (see below).
Place cooking grate (grill) on top and allow it to warm up before adding food. It is recommended that the grill be heated up and the fuel kept red hot, with the lid on, for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking for the first time.
Hot smoke for additional flavour. Consider adding hardwood chips or wood chunks that have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and drained or moistened fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or bay leaves, for extra flavour. Place the wet wood or herbs directly on the coals just before you begin cooking. Learn the basics of hot smoking…
Lift the lid to the side during cooking, rather than straight up. Lifting straight up may create suction and draw ashes up onto your food.