Grilling using charcoal produces great tasting meats, vegetables and seafood, but we realize it’s not the most convenient approach. Most of us are accustomed to gas grills which we simply light with the push of a button. But truth be told, nothing compares to a properly prepared charcoal grilled meal. Whether you are grilling in your backyard, tailgating or out camping, it is important to learn how to light a charcoal grill so that you get the most out of your meal while preventing your dinner party from going up in smoke! Here are some simple steps to follow in order to properly light your charcoal grill.

Prep:

  • Always clean out old ashes from the bottom of your grill.
  • Make sure the bottom vents are open. This will allow steady airflow and make the process easier.
  • Check you have enough charcoal. You don’t want your fire to dye out before your done grilling.
  • Grab a pair of thick gloves, matches and/or a lighter, and long-handed tongs.

 

Lighter Fluid Method

Feuer machen

This is the easiest and fastest way to make a fire. However, some would argue that lighter fluid can ruin the taste of your barbecue and can add unnecessary chemicals. So try to avoid this method as much as possible. Lighter fluid is very volatile and burns off rather quickly. So just give it some time to burn off before adding any food to the grill.

  1. Arrange your lump charcoal or briquettes in a pyramid shape. This will help increase the contact between the coal and help spread the fire quicker.
  2. Saturate the charcoal in lighter fluid, coating each piece evenly.
  3. Light the charcoal pyramid at the edge, let the charcoal burn until it turns white, and then spread it into an even layer.

TIP: If you don’t have any lighter fluid, try soaking a paper towel in cooking oil and placing it between the coals. The oil will make the paper burn for a longer time allowing the flames to spread onto the coals.

 

Charcoal Chimney Method

Chimney for lighting charcoal on a grill, glowing at bottom

If you enjoy grilling often, we suggest investing in a charcoal chimney. You won’t need to use any lighter fluid so you can use the money spent on that towards another steak.

  1. Fill a charcoal chimney with your choice of lump charcoal or briquettes. The standard chimney holds about 100 briquettes.
  2. Place crumpled up newspaper, about one or two sheets, underneath the charcoal chimney. Don’t overstuff the bottom as it might prohibit airflow.
  3. Light the newspaper in different spots. As the newspaper burns in the chamber below, the flames light the edges of the charcoal above.
  4. Look through the vents of the chimney and check if the charcoal edges have turned gray. If it hasn’t burn another sheet of newspaper.  (Tip: drizzle the paper in cooking oil before placing it into the chimney so it burns longer.)
  5. After about 10 minutes you should be able to see a glow through the vents and flames flickering from the top.
  6. With thick gloves, lift the chimney and pour the lit charcoal into a pile at the bottom of the grill.
  7. Wait until the coals are covered in ash and are grayish white. Then spread them out evenly.

Paper Method: 

charcoal in the grill

 

If you don’t have a chimney starter and/or want to show off your fire starting skills this is the way to go.

  1. Start off by crumbling up a few sheets of newspaper and place them together at the bottom of the grill. Like previously mentioned, you can soak parts of the paper in cooking oil to help the flames last longer.
  2. If you happen to have small dry sticks near you, gather some up for kindling. Place a handful on top of the paper, preferably crossing some in a shape of a nest. Save the rest just in case the fire needs extra fuel. You’ll know the sticks are dry if they easily snap in your hands.
  3. Place a few pieces of charcoal on top of the pile in the center. You only need 3 or 4 pieces to start the fire.
  4. Light the paper in various spots so that you can get an even fire going throughout the pile.
  5. If you added kindling, they will start to catch the big flames from the burning paper. If they don’t and the fire seems to be dying out, add 1-2 more pieces of loosely crumpled paper near the edges of the sticks. Keep adding paper and sticks until the charcoal starts getting gray edges and begins to smoke.
  6. Now that your charcoal is smoking you can slowly add more pieces to the center. Place one by one. Pouring them straight out of the bag can kill your fire.
  7. You are ready to cook when the inside of the pile is glowing bright red and the coals are mostly covered in the gray ash. Spread them out with tongs.

Now that you’ve properly lit your charcoal grill, its time to grill up a storm and feed your hungry guests!