How to Light a Charcoal Grill

aerial view photography of burned charcoal

Lighter Fluid, Chimney Charcoal Starter and Electric Starter

The inexperienced charcoal griller will often pile up the briquettes, squirt the lighter fluid and immediately start the fire. There are other methods besides lighter fluid to start a briquette BBQ. Learn the various methods and the proper way to use them.

Before Lighting a Charcoal Grill

Before lighting the charcoal, the grill should be free of ash from the previous BBQ. The lid and the grate that the food is cooked on should also be removed. The amount of briquettes that are used should be enough to cover the grill in a single layer.

Lighting a Charcoal Grill with Lighter Fluid

  1. Make a pile of charcoal briquettes in the middle of the grill.
  2. Thoroughly soak the briquettes with lighter fluid but don’t over do it. Let the briquettes soak for at least five minutes. This helps to insure that the taste of the fluid isn’t transferred to the food and that the briquettes will ignite without adding more fluid. Carefully light the briquettes using long stick matches or a fireplace lighter.
  3. Allow the briquettes to turn white.
  4. Carefully spread out the charcoal evenly across the grate for direct cooking. For indirect cooking, place two piles on either side with a space in the middle.

Lighting a Charcoal Grill with a Chimney Charcoal Starter

The chimney starter is a metal cylinder with vent holes.

  1. Tightly stuff a good paper ignition source like newspaper into the bottom of the chimney cylinder.
  2. Add the charcoal to the top of the cylinder.
  3. Carefully light the paper using long stick matches or a fireplace lighter.
  4. Allow the briquettes to turn white, usually about 20 minutes.
  5. Carefully spread out the charcoal evenly across the grate for direct cooking. For indirect cooking, place two piles on either side with a space in the middle.

Lighting a Charcoal Grill with an Electric Starter

The electric charcoal starter is a device that has a handle with a long circular rod that heats the coals.

  1. Make a flat pile of charcoal briquettes using two-thirds of the briquettes in the middle of the grill.
  2. Place the electric starter on top of the briquettes making sure the handle is not touching the briquettes.
  3. Pile the remainder of the briquettes on top of the electric starter so that most of the rod is hidden by the charcoal
  4. Carefully unplug and remove the electric starter when the briquettes around the starter turn white.
  5. Allow the charcoal to burn a few minutes after the starter is removed
  6. Carefully spread out the charcoal evenly across the grate for direct cooking. For indirect cooking, place two piles on either side with a space in the middle.

Using lighter fluid is the fastest method of starting a charcoal grill but there is a risk of the food taking on a nasty flavor. The chimney takes some getting use too and can be frustrating if the paper keeps going out. The electric starters only disadvantage is the amount of time it takes to get the charcoal going.

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