Our Three Favorite Methods for Lighting a Charcoal Grill

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So you have a fresh new charcoal barbecue and a bag of charcoal.

You’ve definitely heard that lighter fluid should be avoided, but how do you get the charcoal lit so you can start grilling?

If you’ve never done it before, this may seem to be a difficult chore, but don’t worry; I’ll explain the best three ways for lighting a charcoal grill.

The first way does not need any additional equipment, but if you intend on igniting charcoal often, you should consider choices two and three to save time.

How to start a charcoal grill: three easy methods

How to Start a Charcoal Grill: Our 3 Favorite Methods

1. Light the charcoal with newspaper

Starting your grill with newspaper is a fast and simple method to get it going. All you need is some newspaper and some coals to get started.

Simply follow these simple steps to complete the method:

  • Make a ball out of some newspaper. Small twigs, wood chips, sawdust, and even the bag from your charcoal may be added.
  • Surround the ball of paper with coals, but avoid suffocating the paper and tinder.
  • Light the paper and wait for the flames to catch on the coals.
  • Once the flames have caught, gently throw a handful of charcoal onto the grill, being careful not to go too near to the tinder.
  • snuff the cover on the grill to minimize the quantity of oxygen and maybe snuff out the fire.

Lighting a grill with newspaper is the most basic and low-tech way, but it is also the least dependable and slowest method we will explore.

2. Light the charcoal with a chimney starter

The most common and simplest technique to ignite charcoal is using chimney starters. They function by lighting the charcoal with an open flame, which generates a chimney effect and attracts all of the oxygen to the coals.

All you need to get your coals going is a chimney starter, some newspaper or two to three firestarter cubes, and your preferred charcoal.

  • Fill roughly two-thirds of the way with charcoal in the chimney starter.
  • Place a few firestater cubes on your grill grates
  • Place the chimney above the flame and light the cubes. Crumpled newspaper may also be used.
  • Wait 15-20 minutes for the coals to become white ash.
  • Once the flames have calmed down, gently transfer the hot embers to your grill and begin cooking!

3. Light the charcoal with an electric or propane starter

Electric and propane starters produce a significantly higher flame than the newspaper approach, so getting your coals burning will take less time.

Electric starters fire the charcoal with a spray of superheated air. Propane starters function by spraying a jet of gas over the coals, causing them to catch fire.

The Looflighter operates by lighting charcoal or wood pellets with a jet of high-pressure, hot air.

To use the Looflighter, just plug it into an electrical outlet. To emit a jet of hot air, point the Looflighter’s nozzle toward the base of the chimney starter or grill and click the trigger.

The Red Dragon is designed to burn weeds and brush, but it also works well for beginning charcoal. It includes a long nozzle that may be used to focus heat onto the coals, causing them to fire fast. It also runs on regular gas, much like a regular propane barbecue.

It is very simple to use a propane starter. Simply switch on the propane tank and ignite it with the piezo starter. Then, with the Red Dragon pointed towards the base of the coals, pull the trigger. The propane starter will provide a lot of heat, igniting the coals rapidly.

Don’t use self-lighting coals

Many businesses sell self-lighting charcoal briquettes. We do not suggest them since they are often soaked in lighter fuel, which might impart a disagreeable flavor to your meal.

There are a few methods for getting typical charcoal briquettes started. We’ll go through three approaches, ranging from a no-tools approach to employing some of the most prevalent charcoal lighting tools on the market.

How to use lighter fluid if you really have to

To start your charcoal barbecue, we do not suggest using lighter fluid. Lighter fluid may impart a disagreeable flavor to your meal and is also a possible fire threat.

Are the effects of lighter fluid on the final flavor exaggerated? Almost definitely, yes. However, lighter fluid might contaminate your food and is not as safe or effective as some of the other ways.

However, if lighter fluid is all you have and you are determined to use it, follow these steps:

  • Bank your charcoal over to one side of your grill
  • Soak the charcoal in 1 cup lighter fluid.
  • Allow the lighter fluid to soak in for about five minutes.
  • Light your charcoal
  • Leave for around 20 minutes, or until the coals are entirely ashy and the lighter fluid has burned out.

Does lighter fluid really affect the taste?

Yes, it very definitely can. Lighter fluid isn’t suited for use in grills, and it might leave a small petrol flavour in your meal. It is also less safe than some of the other approaches, so avoiding it is definitely for the best.

If you’re going to use lighter fluid, be sure to wait at least 20 minutes after lighting for the coals to ash over before cooking to reduce the risks. This will guarantee that the bulk of the lighter fluid has been boiled out, reducing the possibility of a negative influence on your dish.

The easiest ways to light a charcoal grill

So there you have it, three simple methods for lighting your charcoal barbecue. Whichever you select, make sure you allow enough of time before cooking to bring those embers to a good even fire.


What is the fastest way to start a charcoal grill?

One of the quickest methods to ignite charcoal is using lighter fluid. Simply pour it over the coals, wait 30 seconds, then ignite the charcoal with a long lighter. Pour the lighter fluid slowly since you don’t need much to ignite your charcoal barbecue.

Should you start a charcoal grill with the lid on or off?

SHOULD I OPEN OR CLOSE MY GRILL LID BEFORE I START CHARCOAL? While you arrange and ignite your charcoal, keep the lid open. Close the lid after the coals are well-lit. Most charcoal grills become hotter shortly after they’re lit.

How long do you let coals burn before cooking?

Depending on how much charcoal you’re lighting, let 15-20 minutes for it to thoroughly heat up before putting it into the base of your grill.

How do you start a charcoal grill and keep it hot?

Most charcoal grills feature bottom vents. When you open the vents wide, you get more air and a hotter fire. Close the vents partially to obtain less air and a cooler fire. When lighting the charcoal and preparing the grill, make sure the vents are open.

How do you keep charcoal lit?

When charcoal is placed vertically rather than flat on the bottom of the grill or smoker, it is more likely to remain ignited. As you may be aware, heat rises. As a result, stacking your charcoal enables heat to rise up and into the upper coals from the bottom coals.

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