How to Light Charcoal BBQ?

Have trouble lighting a charcoal grill? Here are three simple methods for igniting the coals. There is no doubt that grilling is one of the best methods to prepare summer staples, whether you prefer the flavor of roasted veggies or the seared flavor of the steak. In this article, you will get all the crucial information about light charcoal BBQ. One of the most important summertime skills is how to handle a charcoal barbecue.

Although charcoal grills are undoubtedly the best way to achieve that traditional “grilled” flavor if you’ve never used one before, you may be unsure how to get one going. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult—and once you’ve figured it out, you’ll be much closer to the ideal hamburger. You’ll be able to brag about it at the subsequent backyard BBQ.

A Few Pointers Before you Start

There are a few things to remember if this is your first time using a charcoal barbecue. Despite not being quite as user-friendly as gas or electric grills, they are nevertheless just as effective (or fun).

1. Understanding How to Set Up a Grill for Lighting

For the best barbecue, you should thoroughly clean your grill before adding or purchasing charcoal. You can omit this step if you’re working with a brand-new grill.

However, before relighting a charcoal grill that has been used or passed down, it must be comparatively clean. Before starting work, remove the dirt and debris.

2. Pick the Appropriate Charcoal

There are several different kinds of charcoal available. We favor manufacturers of charcoal like Royal Oak Lump, which has a mildly smokey smell and burns hot and clean.

Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal, which uses a mixture of oak, hickory, maple, and pecan wood, is another excellent substitute.

Don’t cut corners on this step because a poor quality brand of charcoal will be more difficult to light, which will cause more frustration and less delectable grilled burgers.

3. Find Out How to Set Up Charcoal

You can’t just pour your charcoal onto your grill and hope for the best, even though it would be far simpler. For the finest results, you must organize your charcoal pieces.

Again, how you arrange it will depend on your preferred approach; if you use a chimney, it will be different from how you arrange it if you use lighter fluid.

How to Light a Chimney-Started Charcoal Grill?

Members of our Test Kitchen concur that charcoal chimneys like this are acceptable. The chefs adore them! It’s the way we advise starting a charcoal barbecue.

Josh explains, “My preferred method for lighting coals is a charcoal chimney. While the coals are heating, a chimney allows for optimal ventilation and easy movement. The first steps in using a charcoal chimney are as follows:

Step 1: Fill the chimney with charcoal

The charcoal recommended by your product should be poured into your chimney, and your charcoal should fill the container to the top but not overflow.

Step 2: Place the starters under the chimney in step two.

Any materials that catch easily can be used as starters since they will be set on fire. Josh suggests utilizing items you may already have around the house that burn more slowly than paper, such as paper cups, wood chips, dryer lint, or even wax, as opposed to the common practice of using newspaper or old paper.

Step 3: Start the fireplace.

Under the chimney, light the starters on fire. Keep a close eye on the coals for the next ten minutes.

Step 4: When flames appear, add coals to the grill.

Flip the chimney over once you notice flames peeking through the coals. Pour the coals out by gently grabbing the handle.

Step 5: Add a grate once the coals have turned white.

Once the coals have become white after a few more minutes, spread them out, cover them with a grate, and start grilling.

How to Use Lighter Fluid to Light a Charcoal Grill?

Although parents and granddads worldwide adore this technique, our Test Kitchen members aren’t overly fond of it. Our test cook and food stylist Josh Rink advises against using lighter fluid improperly since it could be deadly. People frequently light unevenly or overcompensate by adding more liquid than is necessary. We advise following these instructions if you decide to use lighter fluid.

Step 1: Set the coals in place.

Create a pyramid out of your charcoal. Make sure your foundation is substantial, then pile the coals in progressively thinner levels.

Step 2: Evenly drizzle lighter fluid over the coals.

However, in general, coat your coals with the liquid and use your lighter fluid as directed on the container.

Step 3: Wait for 30 seconds

Before lighting, give the coals 30 seconds to absorb the lighter fluid.

Step 4: Light the coals.

Light the coals evenly with a grill lighter or a long-nosed match. Once your coals are ablaze, do not add lighter fluid.

Step 5: Add a grate once the coals have turned white.

When the coals are prepared for use, they will catch fire and turn white. Spread them out equally, place your grill grate on top, and begin grilling.

How to Use an Electric Starter to Light a Charcoal Grill?

Another alternative for lighting your charcoal grill is electric firestarters. Although we prefer the Looflighter Electric Firestarter, you may choose from various electric firestarters to use with your grill.

Step 1: Start by setting up your coals.

On the grill, distribute the coals and arrange them into a pyramid.

Step 2: Position the starter’s nose in the center of your coals.

Place the snout of your electric firestarter directly into the coals after plugging it in. It will start heating up right away.

Step 3: Pull the lighter slightly away when you see sparks.

Pull the lighter a few inches away from the pyramid once the sparks start to fly.

Step 4: Continue to light until the fire begins.

Move the firestarter around and heat the coals while keeping it a few inches away from the stack until the fire ignites. Take the starter out.

Step 5: Add a grate once the coals have turned white.

Spread the coals and add the grate once they are completely white.

You’ll be whipping up grilling recipes like it’s nobody’s business once you perfect a technique, whether you choose a chimney, lighter fluid, or an electric starter.

What are the Tips for Keeping the Heat Up in Charcol BBQ?

This brings up the second issue that demands an answer: how do you maintain the heat? This is crucial since it can make the difference between a pleasant grilling experience and a challenging one. Fortunately, there are several techniques to keep your fire going strong:

Stimulate the Fire –

Leaving the charcoal alone is one of the simplest ways to let your fire go out. You allow the coals to burn unevenly by allowing them to remain stationary, reducing the intensity of your flames.

The fire will eventually go out if it is not put out and is not relocated. Remember that a fundamental rule for using charcoal grills for cooking is to move the coal frequently. By doing this, the fire is kept alive, and the heat is maintained.

Add Extra Lighter Fluid –

Adding more lighter fluid is another efficient way to maintain your fire. This shouldn’t be shocking as it’s also the simplest technique to start the flame. Nevertheless, you must exercise caution when adding the fluid because it is highly combustible.

Even if it doesn’t ignite, the fire will get bigger before slowing down to burn more steadily, so it’s best to exercise caution. It should be mentioned that to ensure that the heat is distributed uniformly throughout the grill, you should distribute the liquid among its various parts.

Ensure Proper Airflow –

This is a crucial but frequently forgotten part of charcoal grilling. Remember that oxygen is necessary for a fire to continue burning. Therefore, adequate ventilation is just as crucial as a consistent fuel supply.

Fortunately, this is simply because stoking the fire and shifting the charcoal around ensures ventilation. You may also open the vents on charcoal grills anytime you need assistance with this process.

How to Burn Charcoal?

Charcoal produces colorless carbon monoxide gas when it reacts with airborne oxygen at a red-hot temperature. This gas then burns with additional airborne oxygen to make carbon dioxide gas, which is a blue flame.

Due to the heat produced by both of these events, the carbon dioxide gas exits the combustion zone. At the same time, the charcoal becomes bright red and radiates heat energy, hopefully releasing most of its heat through convection upon direct physical contact with the cooking pot.

As the gas radiates heat into the surrounding space, its temperature drops. Since charcoal burns relatively odor- and smoke-free compared to wood or coal, flues are typically not utilized with it. Charcoal burning can release carbon monoxide gas that hasn’t been burned. Because of its extreme poisonousness, spaces, where charcoal is burning, must have enough ventilation.

One of the charcoal’s most important qualities—and the reason it is so widely used, particularly in cities and populated areas—is that it can be burned in a small, portable burner without a flue. Even if it is more energy-efficient for a nation to try to use actual wood burned efficiently for cooking rather than turning it first into charcoal, such a strategy is challenging to put into practice.

It is challenging for most individuals who currently use charcoal to switch to wood, and a wood stove with a vent is expensive. The rammed earth stove might be free, but a metal flue might cost $10 or more. Installing flues may not be practicable for city dwellers, so the pollution-free characteristics of charcoal fuel are appealing.

What is the Charcoal Grill’s Heat-Retention Time?

Typically, a charcoal barbecue will remain hot for up to an hour before burning out. Depending on how hot it was to start, this can change a little (such as whether it was at high heat or medium heat levels). However, if you work hard and keep the fire fed, your charcoal barbecue can maintain its ideal temperature for several hours.

The charcoal will burn out rather rapidly, so keep that in mind. As you might have guessed, charcoal serves as the fuel for charcoal grills. Ensure there is charcoal at the bottom of the grill to generate the flames and heat required for grilling. Use lighter fluid to cover the charcoal before lighting it with a match or a lighter.

It is important to note that a typical charcoal grill requires between 25 and 30 minutes to reach the ideal heat levels required to cook food effectively. You must ensure that you consistently burn things, such as charcoal if you want to continue cooking.

Therefore, you must keep an eye on your grill to prevent the fire from dying out and wasting your efforts. After all, the idea of firing up the grill and waiting for it to heat up may be rather stressful, especially if you have visitors anticipating a nice lunch.

After Grilling, What to do with Hot Coals?

It would help if you gave the hot coals some time to cool off after the fire has been extinguished. Throwing hot coals into the trash right away after grilling is the last thing you want to do. This is incredibly unsafe and reckless. After all, there is still a fire risk from the hot coals.

Ashes from the previously used burned charcoal will be there when you use your grill, and the flames may burn out more quickly due to this accumulation.

So, before attempting to light the grill, it’s also crucial to clear away part of the ashes. The charcoal won’t be able to get the airflow it needs to feed the fire because the ashes will suffocate it.

It’s a good idea to establish these routines so that you may continue to execute them while grilling. These hints can help your fire burn hotter and longer, giving you the flawlessly seared or grilled meat you were hoping for.

The widespread notion is that using charcoal to barbecue is a laborious process, and nothing could be further from the truth if you know what you’re doing. If you keep this advice in mind, you should be grilling in no time.


You can easily light charcoal with a couple of sheets of newspaper and one of these tube starters; the coals will catch and begin lighting immediately. A chimney shields the coals (and you) on a windy day. You can quickly and safely tip the coals into the barbeque once they’re ready.

Push newspaper balls or natural firelighters (such as wood shavings or wool) between the charcoals. Lighting the paper and firelighters will cause them to catch and burn naturally. Then let them die again because using flames will only result in burned food. To cook, you need ashen coals.