How to Start a Charcoal Grill?

It can be a bit more work; most people love the taste and smoky flavor of grilling any food on a charcoal grill. But before making those perfect juicy burgers or smoky ribs, you need to start the grill.

Unfortunately, many people who love grilled foods don’t know how to start a charcoal grill and how much charcoal to use in a grill. But don’t worry, in this guide, we will tell you how to light a charcoal grill.

Start a Charcoal Grill with Lighter Fluid

Lighter Fluid Method

Most people are familiar with this method of starting the charcoal grill. However, people also tend to mess up with this method. The lighter fluid method is dangerous and can also ruin the food by changing its taste. To start the grill using this method, you need to arrange your coals into a pyramid or neat mound.

Then pour or squirt the charcoal lighter fluid over them. Pour more fluid on the center, and less on the sides as most of the heat is required at the center. About 3 to 4 tablespoons of fluid are sufficient for lighting a pound of charcoal and using more than that can lead to flare-ups.

Use a grill lighter or matches for lighting the fuel. Make sure to do this quickly as the fuel evaporates if left on the charcoal for a few minutes.

Never squirt the lighter fluid on a live fire, as it can lead to flare-ups that can be difficult to control. Though it may not look great, lightning in the first layer is sufficient to get the coals going. Once started, the charcoal burns until an outer ashy layer is formed. Once the gray ashy layer is formed on all the coals, they are ready for cooking.

Light with Newspaper

Many people don’t have lighter fluid, but it is possible to start a charcoal grill even without lighter fluid. So, you might think about how to light charcoal without lighter fluid, and here is the solution – the newspaper method. You can lighten the charcoal grill using a newspaper.

  • Place the newspaper under the grill. Roll up the newspaper and place it where you want to place the charcoal. If you want multiple heating zones in the grill, place the newspapers in each location where you are going to place the charcoal. Spray the newspaper with cooking oil to lighten it.
  • Place the charcoal around the newspaper. Use enough charcoal to adequately cover the newspaper while still allowing airflow to encourage ignition.
  • Burn the newspaper. Find an open piece of newspaper and light it with a long lighter. Remember to publish your newsletter in each area you establish.
  • Wait for the charcoal to ignite. This will take a little longer than a charcoal fireplace, but all the charcoal should be lit in about 15 minutes. Keep the gate open to allow oxygen to light the fire. You can grill when the charcoal is brownish white.

Charcoal Chimney Starter Method

Charcoal Chimney Starter

A chimney starter may be the best grill starting method for you. A chimney offers proper ventilation around the coals when they heat, and it also allows easy mobility. A charcoal chimney starter is a cylindrical metallic device that allows charcoal heat to be more concentrated for airflow.

Make sure you choose the right grill and put the right type of charcoal. Find the appropriate type of charcoal for whatever it is you are cooking while making your selection.

Once you have high-quality charcoal, you are prepared to fill the chimney. In contrast to gas grills, charcoal grills lack temperature control knobs that can be turned to raise or lower the grill’s temperature. Instead, you can control the temperature of a charcoal barbecue by varying the amount of charcoal you use.

To burn embers in a charcoal fireplace, grill masters need a fire starter of some sort. A newspaper is a great option, or you can buy a specially designed lightweight bucket. Place newspaper or cubes on the charcoal grate, which is the bottom of the two cooking grates. This placement gives you enough room to illuminate the fuel source and top the chimney.

Light the fuel source from below with a match or lighter to light it quickly. For optimum airflow, leave the grate cover open and allow the flames to rise up the chimney.

After about 15 minutes, all of the embers in the chimney will turn brown ash, including the ones above. At this point, you can slowly and carefully pour the embers onto the charcoal grill. Use a charcoal rake or tongs to spread the charcoal for direct or indirect grilling.

After removing the embers, it’s best to close the lid and let the grill reach the ideal temperature. While there are many grilling tips and shortcuts that will improve your grilling game, there are some that use a fireplace to power a charcoal grill. By the time your neighbors finally burn the coals, you may already have a delicious meal!

Start Charcoal Grill with Electric Starter

Starting a charcoal grill with an electric starter is one of the safest ways to burn coal, but it does require some tools (aka electric starting).

How to use Electric Coal Starter:

  • Take the charcoal in an ashtray and arrange it in a pyramid shape.
  • Place the tip of the electric starter directly in the center of the coal. The starter motor starts to heat the coals.
  • When the embers start to explode, take the lighter out of the pyramid and hold it a few inches away. Leave the yeast there or slowly swirl it around the pile until all the embers are hot and the fire starts.
  • When the fire starts, remove the lighter from the charcoal and put it out.
  • When the coals are white (usually 10-15 minutes), they are sufficiently “burnt” and ready to grill. Spread them out in an even layer on your ash basket, set up your cooking grate, and start cooking.

Fire Starter Method

Firelighters or lighters, you can use cardboard, paraffin wax, or wood shavings to ignite the charcoal. They are also good for starting fireplaces and don’t leave ashes like a newspaper. In addition, paraffin wax is non-toxic and leaves no odor or residue.

You can also make your own fire starters. Here are the steps to use a fire starter to start the charcoal grill.

  • Place your charcoal in the grate in the form of a heap.
  • Then place your fire starter on the charcoal.
  • Use the fire starter to ignite the coals.
  • Once the coal starts burning, move them around to create uniform heat.

That’s all it takes to use them to light the coals.

Heat Gun/ Loof Lighter Method

Loof Lighter

This is one of the most unconventional but one of the best (and probably fastest?) ways to start charcoal. Heat guns and loof lighters are essentially super powerful hair dryers. The coils heat the air to extremely high temperatures, which are then powered to aim at the coals or anything else that needs to be heated. While it might seem odd to buy something to light a grill, heat guns can be a pretty useful tool in DIY and household maintenance projects.

To start your charcoal fire with one, start by creating a pile of charcoal. Then point the heat gun or lighter within inches of the center of your embers and start heating on the highest setting. Concentrate the hot air in one spot for 60 seconds or until the charcoal ignites and glows. Then slowly move the lighter a few inches away from the charcoal to distribute the heat a little better. After a few more minutes, the coals should be brown and ready to spread.

The two best benefits of the look lighter method are that it does not use any chemicals, and it is the fastest method of lighting charcoal.

How Long The Charcoal Takes to Heat up

You should wait for at least 20 minutes for the coals to light and heat up. This is because you need to allow the charcoal to reach a stable temperature for grilling so that it can cook the food uniformly and precisely without flare-ups.

After cooking your food, make sure to leave the grill to cool and clean it thoroughly using the right cleaning agents to ensure you don’t get yellow flames when you use it again.

Summing Up

Although it may seem intimidating, it’s easy to start a charcoal grill; choose the correct type of charcoal, lighting method, and amount for the food you are grilling and the size of your grill.

Experts agree that using the fireplace method and cooking in the classic two-zone arrangement gives you more control over cooking safety, temperature, and time.

John Rinder
Latest posts by John Rinder (see all)