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We have all done it. You’re at a friend’s house, you have carefully setup your hookah and your coals are ready… when you realize that you don’t have any tongs. Crap.

Is it time to work on your fire-juggling skills and develop an act on the fly?

No.

It’s time to raid the kitchen!

Hookah Tong

Any pair of metal tongs will do the job. The kind of steel tongs used for grilling and salads will treat you nicely, but the smooth tips don’t really grip the charcoal very well. If you’re careful, they are a a fine option. Some of these tongs have been tipped with silicone to keep you from scratching your Teflon pans and you may be worried about gripping red hot charcoal with what looks like plastic. So long as the silicone is rated for high temperatures, they are fine. You don’t want to hold the coal for an hour in silicone tongs, but the tongs should survive a little adjustment.

A better option is a pair of cheap, stamped metal ice tongs. They are flexible, adjustable and have pointy little teeth that dig into the charcoal nicely. Nobody knows how they get into the silverware drawer or where they come from, but every house seems to have a pair. The nicest part? They are super cheap and can be left at friend’s houses without sweating the loss.

Speaking of cheap, bamboo chopsticks are a good last ditch option if you’re good at using them. Super long chopsticks are often used in Japan for fine adjustment of charcoal. Just soak the tips in a little water, dry them off on a paper towel and confidently adjust your charcoal with great accuracy. If you’ve never used chopsticks, you don’t want to learn by handling charcoal.

Lastly, a large spoon and fork will do fine. Use the fork to gently slide the charcoal piece into the spoon and use the tines of the fork to keep it in place while making your adjustments. It’s a little awkward to get the hang of, but its better than facing the wrath of the volcano goddess or your friends when you drop hot charcoal and have no way to pick it up.

Lastly, keep a bowl of water around for emergencies and accidents. That’s just a good idea in general.