Ever been in a situation where you need to cook some food but have no real fuel available other than trash and yard detritus? Well, with the purchase of a 12 dollar charcoal starter and a few extra bits and bobs, you'll be able to start a fire and prepare a quick meal with some dry twigs, bark, and some junk mail. This is a great tool to have around in case the power ever goes out for a while or want a reliable way to have a fry-up while camping.
Step 1: Tool and Materials
The tools you'll need for this endeavor are as follows;
1) Some mounting brackets. The type you use isn't very important, just make sure you have the identical ones. I used these little spare brackets from Ikea. You'll need at LEAST four.
2) sets of nuts and bolts that fit in your brackets.
4) You'll need a charcoal starter like this one http://goo.gl/iyje2c Mine is an older one that's gotten pretty rusty from sitting around the back porch for a few summers. Rusty is fine.
5) Some small mesh hardware cloth.
You'll also need the following tools
1) Electric screwdriver with a drill bit slightly bigger than your bolts
2) measuring tape
3) small wire cutters
When you are ready to cook, you'll need
1) EITHER charcoal OR some dry twigs and bark bits (I used yard detritus for my meal)
2) A pan you don't mind getting all sooty on the bottom.
3) A few eggs
4) Oil (Olive, vegetable or coconut)
5) A few eggs.
Step 2: Drill Your Holes
First you need to wrap your measuring tape around the top of the charcoal starter. Find the starter's circumference and divide that by the number of brackets you need to put in. Use that number as the space you need between each hole so your brackets will be evenly spaced. My charcoal starter was 22 inches around, and I planned on using six brackets, so I put a mark every 3.7 inches. How far from the rim of the starter depends on the brackets you use, but you'll want around a half inch, and no more than an inch of clearance between the lip of the starter, and where your brackets stop (this is where your pan will go, in case you are wondering.)
Drilling the holes takes a little guesswork. Using a metal punch would be ideal to start the holes out, but seeing as how I don't have one of those lying around the house, I just took my time and drilled slow. Make sure you keep your drill perpendicular to your metal and don't press too hard and you should be fine. Keep your hands AWAY from the blind-side of the metal when you are drilling - your hand is never quite where you think it'll be when the bit pops though the other end in all it's hand-ripping fury.
Step 3: Make Your Ember-catcher.
This is an optional step, and will be entirely unnecessary if you only plan on using charcoal. A charcoal starter is already made with a large-holed grate to keep the coals in. However, if you plan on using twigs and such, the finer mesh will keep the burning embers from falling out.
Place your hardware cloth around the edge and clip around the inside of the chimney. You'll need this to fit INSIDE your chimney so it will have to be slightly smaller. After you are done, itt should just drop right in.
Step 4: Screw on Your Brackets
Using your screws and bolts, afix your brackets to the outside of your starter. You'll need to make sure you get the brackets on straight and even. Your brackets are eventually where you place your pan. I decided to put half of them facing in and half facing out, that way I can heat a small can, or a larger pan. Versatility is important after all!
Step 5: Light That Fire!
You can use this little toy with either charcoal, or yard detritus. In my trial run, I decided to use wigs and sticks. Using charcoal is far easier and much less smokey, but if you are using this out in the woods, you might not want to lug around an extra bag of charcoal.
Load the starter with your fuel of choice. Get some trash paper (I used junk mail) and crumple them up into a large loose ball. You'll want two or three sheets at least (or maybe a whole sheet of newspaper). Put your crumpled paper balls in the bottom section so they aren't in very tight. After you get everything set up, place it on a non-flammable surface - either stone, or bare earth. Get your lighter or matches and just light the paper visible in the little air vents around the bottom edge of the stater. You should have fire in no time! I feel the need to point it out again, if you are using twigs, you WILL get smoke.
Step 6: Get Cookin'
About a minute after lighting your starter, you should be getting a lot of heat (and if you used sticks and bark, a fair amount of smoke). It's best to attempt this when there's at least a small breeze and in an open area. Another minute later, you should have a good hot pan!
Add some oil and crack some eggs. The hens who provided the eggs look very confused about what I'm doing to THEIR eggs.
Step 7: Dinner.
After a few minutes, you end up with a dinner delicious enough that all the pets in smelling-distance are begging. Enjoy.
Now, you will not be caught with your pants down during the next camping trip, power outrage, or non-nuclear apocalypse.