How To Start Your Charcoal Grill

Frequently Asked Questions Starting & Lighting A Charcoal Grill

How to Start a Charcoal Grill | The Home Depot

Should the grill be opened or closed when youre starting your charcoal?

When youre arranging or lighting your charcoal, you should always keep the lid open. But, as soon as youre sure that theyre well lit, close it.

Should the vents be closed or open while trying to light charcoal?

Weve said this multiple times already, but fire needs oxygen if it burns properly. So, if you want your charcoal lighting process to be successful, you should open the vents. This will allow oxygen to flow into your coals and help them to burn hotter and longer. Immediately theyre properly lit, you can then adjust the vents to control the temperature.

What do you need to do to light your charcoal quickly?

What you need to do to light your charcoal quickly is to arrange them close together. This helps the fire to spread effectively to adjacent coals without necessarily needing to light them individually. However, you must not keep them together so tightly that theres not enough oxygen to start or continue a fire.

But Dont Let Them Get Too Ashy

Once you see some flames poking out from the top layer of coals in your chimney, you can go ahead and dump them onto your charcoal grate . Once the coals are mostlybut not entirelycovered in ash, its time to cook your food. If youre worried you let them get too ashycompletely greydont panic, just add more coals to the pile.

The Best Way To Start Your Charcoal Grill

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A great cookout starts with a great fire. And nothings more of a drag than struggling to get your charcoal lit! But proper preparation can make the process go smoothly. A few simple steps can help get a great fire burning quickly.

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How To Light A Charcoal Grill With An Electric Starter

This is probably the safest and cleanest way to light charcoal, but it requires some equipment . Check out this ultimate guide to electric charcoal starters from Outdoor Mancave to find the right starter for you.

Hereâs how to use an electric charcoal starter:

1. Arrange your charcoal in your Kick Ash Basket in a pyramid shape.

2. Place the tip of the electric starter directly inside the middle of the coals. The starter will begin to heat up the coals.

3. Once the coals begin to spark, pull the lighter out of the pyramid and hold a few inches away. Keep the firestarter there or slowly move it around the outside of the stack until all of the coals are heated and a fire starts.

4. When a fire starts, remove the starter from the coals and turn it off.

5. Once the coals have turned a grayish white , they have âburnedâ enough and are ready for grilling. Spread them in an even layer in your Kick Ash Basket, put your grill grate in, and get to cooking.

How To Start Your Charcoal Grill A Step

How to Keep Charcoal Grill Hot

We are going to get you going by teaching you how to start your charcoal grill. The first only real rule about lighting charcoal is that if you are going to cook food on the charcoal, never use lighter fluid. No matter how much time you wait after starting a charcoal fire with lighter fluid, there is still likely to be residue on the coal, and the taste will bleed into whatever youre cooking.

Theres a couple of ways to start your coals, but the best way is to use a chimney starter. A chimney starter is essentially a metal tube with a grate to hold the charcoal, a handle, and a few holes on the bottom. The instructions for using a chimney starter are below.

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Don’t: Heat Both Sides Of Your Grill To The Same Temperature

With gas grills, you have the option to customize the temperature on each side with the simple twist of a dial. The way you do this with charcoal, though, is by distributing at least 75 percent of the coals to one side, creating two different temperature zones. This allows you to cook different foods at different speeds and gives you more options for letting your food rest over little to no heat while you get everything else set up prior to eating.

When Is Charcoal Ready To Grill

When the charcoal turns grayish-white, you’ll know it’s ready to begin cooking. If you start grilling before this, the Sniders point out that the biggest consequence will be less heat.

“One of the biggest advantages of charcoal grills versus stovetops is that charcoal can get much hotter,” the brothers said. “This allows you to achieve an incredible sear on meats and vegetables and creates new reactions that develop deep flavor. If you don’t wait long enough for your charcoal to light up, you won’t get this advantage.”

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Fastest Way To Keep Your Charcoal Grill Hot

Add coals regularly to keep your grill burning hot. Don’t wait until you’re almost out of briquettes to add more. Instead, add 5-10 pieces of charcoal when you have roughly half of your charcoals remaining, usually every 30 minutes or so.

HOT TIP: Wearing gloves while lighting charcoal will help protect your hands from the intense heat.

Start By Lighting The Charcoal Grill In A Chimney Starter

How to start your grill – How to light your charcoal

How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? A chimney starter is an essential tool for any experienced griller. Its basically just a heavy duty metal can with handle and ventilation holes on the side, but it makes starting charcoal so much easier.

Before you start using your new chimney make sure to properly prepare it by removing all labels and washing out any residue from manufacturing or shipping. Once the label has been removed, light up some of your paper towels inside the chimney, let them burn until they go out by themselves and then remove them. This will ensure that your chimney is clean and ready to use.

What about the coals you ask? Well, they are pretty simple to prepare as well. Make sure that all of them are broken in half, each half will be used one at a time for keeping your fire contained within the chimney. You can do this by banging on some of them with another piece of charcoal or metal object. Take one of your half pieces of charcoal and place it in the bottom of the chimney starter, make sure that its spread evenly along the bottom by tapping on it lightly with another piece of charcoal or metal object. Place the other half right on top of it, then attach your paper towels to one side around three edges leaving one edge free so you can light up the whole thing.

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How To Start Your Charcoal Quickly With A Chimney

Grilling can’t begin without a heat source, and since the majority of us are using grills that are heated by charcoal, it’s nice to know some basics to start your charcoal quickly and efficiently.

Strong, direct heat must be applied to your charcoal in order for it to begin to smolder. This can be done by squirting a flammable lighter fluid on it, by burying a metal coil electric coal starter underneath the charcoal, or by applying direct flame in a controlled enclosure such as a metal charcoal chimney.

Other Tips For Lighting Your Charcoal Grill

Now that you know the three most popular methods of lighting a charcoal grill, here are a few more tips to improve your experience:

  • Avoid using self-lighting charcoal. Often, these contain chemicals that can make your food taste strange if they arent completely burned up during the lighting process.
  • If youre having trouble getting it started, try adding some airflow to the charcoal. Use a hand fan or even a hairdryer to circulate fresh oxygen into the fire.
  • Dont throw more lighter fluid on coals that are already burning. This is just asking for an explosion!
  • Keep the lid closed after you get your coals going. This prevents heat from escaping.

Once you get the hang of it, lighting your charcoal grill is simple. With these tips in your arsenal, you may decide to cook all of your meals over your charcoal grill and we wouldnt blame you.

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Do I Open The Vents Or Close Them When Lighting Charcoal

As we said above, fire needs oxygen to burn. So, open the lid, lid vent and vents on the bottom of the grill to let in air to fuel the flames. This will help oxygen reach the coals once theyre lit so they can burn hotter. Once theyre fully lit, you can adjust the vent opening to control the cooking temperature.

The Electric Charcoal Starter

How to Start a Charcoal Grill

This method is also a good way to start your grill without chemicals.

The electric starter is just like an electric stove burner element but bent in a U shape with a handle.

Its not as fast or sexy as the Looftlighter, but it will get your fire going. You can see a quick video of the set up here.

Step 1 Place the burner element in the base of the grill with the handle sticking out.

Step 2 Pile the charcoal on top

Step 3 Plug it in.

Step 4 Once the coals start to glow, unplug the burner and remove it.

This method lights a smaller area of charcoal than the chimney method so it may take longer to get a big fire going if youre grilling over a large area. But if you only need a small fire or just smoking low and slow, this works well.


Electric fire starters work with any type of grill.

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Mistakes People Make When Lighting A Charcoal Grill

We’ve already waxed poetic about how crucial a charcoal grill is to summer cooking. We love the flavor it gives meats, veggies, and seafood, we obsess over what kind of charcoal to use, and we can’t help but snap photos of our perfectly charred food. But we realize it’s not the most user-friendly thing to use. There’s no button you can push to start it, no knob to turn up the heat. And there are a lot of things to screw up along the way. We asked grilling enthusiast

Chris Morocco to fill us in on the most common mistakes people make when lighting their charcoal grills and how to avoid them. Here’s the best way to fire it up this summer.

Hardwood Charcoal? I’m Using Briquettes!Briquettes may light easier and burn longer than hardwood, but there are so many fillers, binders, and chemicals in those perfect black lumps. But real hardwood–charcoal that is made of completely wood and burned until it’s pretty much pure carbon–burns hotter, and imparts a purely smoky flavor. No chemicals involved.

Just a Squirt or Three of Lighter Fluid…More often than not, lighter fluid will impart a gross, chemical flavor on anything you throw on the grate. It will totally ruin the point of using hardwood. You can light your charcoal using nothing but newspaper, a match, and one very necessary tool.

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How To Use A Chimney Starter To Light Your Charcoal Grill

A chimney starter is an excellent tool for lighting charcoal faster. Chimney starters cost about $20 and hold up to 3 quarts of charcoal enough to cook a beer can chicken or several rounds of burgers and dogs. Heres how to light it:

  • Pour 1 teaspoon of oil onto 2 sheets of newspaper and crumple into a compact but not tight ball. . Tuck this into the bottom of the chimney.
  • Set the chimney on top of the lower grill grate and fill to the brim with charcoal. It is good to have a small mound that sticks up out the chimney.
  • Light the paper using a stick lighter or a long match. Light three sides of the paper for even burning.
  • Let the charcoal catch fire and get ashy before carefully emptying the charcoal onto the lower grate. It can take 30 to 40 minutes for the charcoal to be fully lit and hot.
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    Paper Kindling Charcoal Method

    With this method, you build a fire to light your charcoal.

    Its more labor intensive and not always reliable. But, if you can do it with one match you might get a merit badge from the Boy Scouts for fire building.

    Step 1 Make a base for your fire by putting down a layer of charcoal or briquettes.

    Step 2 Wad up 2 to 4 sheets of newspaper and place them in the center.

    Step 3 Add thin, dry sticks in a criss-cross pattern over the paper. Press down to make a level surface.

    Step 4 Add some charcoal on top and light the paper.

    Step 5 Once some of the charcoal lights and starts to ash over, add more to build up your fire.


    • You need fire building skills, dry kindling wood and patience
    • Youre making a fire to start a fire
    • Slow
    • Hard to do in wet conditions

    This method takes the longest. But youll get the satisfaction knowing you can build a fire and that you didnt use any lighter fluid or starters.

    Why Use A Charcoal Chimney

    How to Start a Charcoal Fire

    There are other methods to light charcoal and avoid using chemicals or starting big balls of fire.

    Lighting briquettes or coals using chemicals can affect food taste as the chemical smell can remain as the coals burn and are absorbed by the meats.

    A charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder that can hold charcoal so it can be ignited.

    We recommend using a charcoal starter as these devices provide a faster and safer coal lighting process than lighter fluid.

    Pouring chemicals on hot charcoal can also be dangerous and are not recommended.

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    Bus Stations Near Thomasinas Charcoal Grill In Wagga Wagga

    Station Name
    Lake Albert Rd after Hammond Ave 6 min walk
    Lake Albert Rd at Railway St 8 min walk
    Railway St after Lake Albert Rd 9 min walk
    Railway St before Lake Albert Rd 9 min walk
    Wagga Wagga Station, Coach Bay 3 9 min walk
    Wagga Wagga Station, Coach Bay 1 9 min walk
    Baylis St before Edward St 10 min walk
    Baylis St before Morgan St 11 min walk
    Railway St opp Collins St 12 min walk
    Lake Albert Rd opp Copland St 13 min walk
    Railway St at Collins St 13 min walk

    How Do You Know When A Charcoal Grill Is Ready


  • Wait until your charcoal has burned to an even temperature before placing any meat on the grill grates. When the charcoal firsts turns white, it is hot on the outside, but still cool on the inside.
  • Use a grill tool to move the charcoal around.
  • While grilling, keep an eye on your temperature gauge.
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    How And When To Apply Bbq Sauce

    Now is not the time to skimp on the BBQ sauce. A good sauce while grilling will help to lock in moisture and add tons of flavor. However, if you’re using a sweet sauce , wait to brush it on until the middle and end of cooking to prevent it from burning. Make sure to have some sauce set aside that is just for the grill and one just for serving, so you don’t cross-contaminate raw and ready-to-eat food.

    Watch the video to see how to grill spice-rubbed baby back ribs over indirect heat, and how to brush on the barbeque sauce at the end before a quick final grill to finish them off.

    Should I Use A Charcoal Chimney Starter

    How to Start A Charcoal Grill

    Yes! You should always start your charcoal grill with a chimney starter. It’s a metal cylinder with a handle that you fill with charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, and it’s great for heating up coals quickly.

    Use a chimney starter to heat your charcoal faster and more evenly.

    Here’s how to use one:

    • Stuff some newspaper or any scrap paper into the bottom compartment of the chimney, and rest it on your grill’s lower grate.
    • Fill with charcoal and then ignite the paper with a long lighter or match.
    • Let the charcoal burn until the briquettes look mostly white or gray, about 15-20 minutes.
    • Always refer to your chimney starter’s manual for specific instructions.

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    Oh, and ditch the lighter fluid — it can give your food a funky chemical taste, which is the opposite of delicious. You won’t need it with a chimney.

    If you don’t have a chimney starter, you can use lighter fluid to ignite the coals in the grill, but I implore you to get a chimney. They are inexpensive and you won’t regret it.

    Once your coals are starting to turn gray, they are ready to go into the grill.

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    How Can I Save Unused Charcoal

    After you have coveted your grill and killed the fire, a good amount of charcoal can be left inside. Keep in mind the charcoal keeps burning until they cool down completely. So you might not have enough salvageable colas left.

    But if you do, there is a way to save them for next time. Fill up a metal basket with cold water and then dunk the charcoal in the water. Wear a heat-proof glove and use metal tongs to move the charcoal around.

    Grab each individual charcoal and dunk them in the water for 60 seconds. Then transfer them to somewhere with enough air.

    Allow them to dry in the sun. When they are completely bone dry, store them in an airtight container until needed.

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