Charcoal Chimney Starter

In my last post, I discussed the difference between charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal. Now that you’ve chosen which fuel you will use, you must know how to properly light it. The first thing that probably comes to your mind is lighter fluid and a match. If that’s the case, then you have a long way to go before you can call yourself a Grill Master.

First, ditch the lighter fluid and stay away from the charcoal briquettes that have lighter fluid infused in them. Lighter fluid is toxic and can add a nasty taste to your food. In addition, using too much lighter fluid can result in a flare-up that could cause serious injuries.

Do yourself (and those you are cooking for) a favor and pick yourself up a chimney starter. A chimney is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get your charcoal ready to do its job. Basically, a chimney starter is a metal cylinder that has a rack on the bottom that the charcoal sits on. The rack has holes in it and underneath is where you put newspaper that will light the charcoal sitting above.

Chimney starters can be found at most hardware and big box home supply stores like Home Depot. They run about $20 bucks and they are well worth it. The only thing you need besides the chimney is a few pieces of newspaper and some matches and voila, you’ve got yourself a non-toxic way to light your charcoal.

Now, I’m not going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to use a chimney starter. If you can’t figure it out, you probably should leave the grilling to somebody else. However, what I will do is give you a couple of useful tips.

  1. Put the charcoal in the chimney before putting the newspaper in the bottom. If you put the newspaper in first, the soot from the charcoal bag will prevent the fire from reaching the charcoal above.
  2. Don’t use too much newspaper. I usually use three crumpled up pieces of newspaper, which is enough to get the charcoal started. Too much newspaper will prevent air from getting to the paper in the middle and you’ll find yourself adding more because it won’t burn all the way through.
  3. Light the newspaper in multiple places. This will ensure that you have all of the pieces of newspaper lit.
  4. Once you see flames coming out of the top of the chimney, your charcoal is ready to go. Don’t wait until all of the charcoal is grey or your just wasting it by burning it faster.

It usually takes a chimney between 10 – 15 minutes to fully light your charcoal. That is plenty of time to get your food prepped or to sit down and have a nice, cold beer.

9 thoughts on “Charcoal Chimney Starter”

  1. I don’t really have newspaper around so I end up using paper towels. I find putting a little vegetable oil helps because it acts like a candle and makes the towels burn a little longer.

  2. Pingback: Lodge Lodge Camping Dutch Oven Charcoal Chimney Starter – A5-1 | Cast Iron Cookware Sets Reviews
  3. There’s a warning on my chimney starter’s label saying not to use it with a table top or portable charcoal grill…I can’t find any info on why, do you know? Also, everyone tells you where NOT to sit the chimney starter after you’ve dumped the charcoal into the grill, so it can cool off (not on concrete, wood, gravel, glass) but no one says where you SHOULD sit it…on the grass?

    1. Kristy-

      Charcoal chimneys generate an intense heat directly above and beneath them. Generally speaking, table top/portable grills are made of thinner metal and they are not made to handle that amount of directed heat.

      As to where to put it to cool, usually best to set it upright in dirt (not mud) or sand, but I have set mine on concrete for the majority of it’s life.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  4. Kristy –

    I usually sit mine on my concrete patio to let it cool, too. Obviously if my dog or son are outside, I find a safer place to put it. Just keep in mind that the metal is extremely hot, so putting it on wood or glass would be ill-advised.

What do you think?