One of the keys to successful grilling is making sure the coals are the correct temperature for the type of food you're grilling, and how you want it cooked. Once you light your coals, it usually takes about 30 minutes before they're ready to check for temperature. You'll know they're ready when are glowing and have a nice white ash coating. That's when you can spread the coals out and start checking the temperature by carefully holding your hand, palm facing down, over the coals at the distance the food will be cooking. Start counting seconds ("one thousand one, one thousand two," etc.). If you have to remove your hand at 2 seconds, then the coals are HOT. If you can hold your hand over the coals for up to 3 seconds, then they're MEDIUM-HOT; 4 seconds means MEDIUM; and 5 or 6 seconds means the coals are ready for cooking foods that require long, slow cooking over low heat. Just remember, this isn't some "macho endurance test" where you're trying to impress your guests with how tough you are. The point is to know if your coals are at the right temperature so that your food won't burn, or be undercooked, or take too long. So use common sense, instead of bravado, and your guests will be more impressed with your grilling prowess. And while you're waiting for the coals to get to your desired temperature, you can go ahead and assemble any condiments like barbecue sauce, relish, and ketchup and mustard so that you'll have everything handy when you need it.
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