Whatever fuel you choose – wood, briquettes, or gas – get more than you think you need (leftovers don't go bad). If working with real wood, Michael Chiarello – the Northern California chef behind the grill-centric Napa restaurant Bottega and the new cookbook 'Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors' – says get your fire going a good hour before you want to start cooking and never put food over flaming logs: "Flames are for fireplaces; coals are for cooking," he says. This requires maintaining two separate halves of your fire: one for burning fresh wood, the other as a place to collect the burning embers with a small shovel, over which you'll do all of your cooking. Here, you want to maintain a smooth bed of hot coals without active flames, hot enough that you can only hold your hand above the grill for about three seconds before pulling away. If burning hardwood charcoal or briquettes, use a chimney starter to ignite the first pile 30 minutes before you want to start cooking and keep refilling the chimney at regular intervals – or simply toss fresh charcoal right onto the embers every 10 to 15 minutes.
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