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How to Start a Charcoal Grill - 4 Effective Methods

How to Start a Charcoal Grill - 4 Effective Methods - Proline Range Hoods

If you want to learn how to start a charcoal grill, you’ve come to the right place. It’s a little more involved than lighting a gas or propane grill, but it’s not complicated.

Here are four easy ways to start your charcoal grill.

How to Start a Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid

Hotdogs on a charcoal grill - how to start a charcoal grill

You have several options to light your charcoal grill without lighter fluid. These techniques are safer than lighter fluid but they take a little longer to light your charcoal grill. A chimney starter is one of the best options. Newspapers work great to ignite your chimney starter.

To start a charcoal grill with newspaper, crumple up a couple of pieces. Set them into the bottom of the starter and load it with coals. Ignite the newspaper with a long lighter through one of the holes in the bottom of the starter. Let the charcoal burn for 10 to 15 minutes and you’re done! The hottest coals will look white.

Here’s a closer look at this method.

How to Start Charcoal Grill with Chimney Starter

Here’s a quality chimney starter from Amazon if you don’t have one yet. It makes lighting your charcoal grill quick and easy.

https://youtu.be/CdVBhjMZp2g?t=123

1. Add a couple of wads of newspaper to the bottom of your chimney starter.

Don’t crowd the chimney starter with newspaper as it’ll have trouble lighting.

2. Fill the rest of the starter with coals.

You can fill the whole starter with coals if you are going to do a lot of grilling. With more coals, you reduce the risk of cold spots on your grill. But if you’re only grilling for a short time, it’s fine to use fewer coals.

3. Ignite it with a long lighter through one of the holes in the bottom.

4. Let the charcoal heat up for 15 to 20 minutes.

There should be quite a bit of smoke coming from the starter. Charcoal typically produces white smoke. The hottest charcoal should look white, while cooler coals will have a little white around the edges.

5. Remove grill grates and pour the charcoal inside.

Pouring charcoal into grill from chimney starter

Lay the charcoal evenly across the bottom of your grill. If you’d like, you can put just a couple of coals under one area of the grill. Or leave an area without coals. This can be the resting area for food if your grill gets too hot. That way you can avoid burning your food.

If you’re doing some slow cooking, you can fill the starter halfway with coals and let it burn for five to 10 minutes. Here’s a quick video on that method.

https://youtu.be/sMqiSbnhKqg?t=4

How to Light Charcoal with Cooking Oil

https://youtu.be/eAbt1itDzWA?t=31

1. Remove the grill grate and line the coals at the bottom of the grill.

To get the hottest grill, you’ll want about 75 to 100 briquettes. This is equivalent to a full chimney. If you are cooking at a lower temperature, you can use about 50 briquettes.

When lining the coals, the arrangement matters. The way you arrange coals depends on what you’re cooking. Spreading them out evenly works well if you want less intense consistent heat. You could also concentrate coals on one half of the grill, perfect for searing steaks. Here’s a closer look at a few popular ways to arrange coals.

https://youtu.be/zb-CB0ZSo_g

2. Apply cooking oil to a paper towel and lay it over the coals.

Depending on the size of your grill and where you lay your coals, you may need a few paper towels for this. You can use any kind of cooking oil. In the video, olive oil is used.

3. With a long lighter, light the paper towel on a few edges.

This is just meant to get the fire started. You do not need to light the entire paper towel. A little fire will get the coals burning over time. A long lighter is safest to use.

4. Let the coals burn for 15 to 20 minutes.

After a few minutes, you should start to see smoke. The coals in the middle will be completely white, while others will be white on the edges. You can move some of the coals on the edges to the middle so they can all heat up evenly.

How to Start Charcoal Grill with Electric Chimney Starter

Here is an electric chimney starter from Amazon that works quite well.

https://youtu.be/rKDfqmYKvYk?t=29

1. Load the coals into the charcoal starter.

You can pack the starter full of coals for the most intense heat. Or fill it about halfway if you don’t need high heat.

2. Plug in the starter.

3. Let the charcoal heat up according to the manufacturer’s instructions (typically five to 10 minutes).

Every electric charcoal starter may be a little different. So it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly.

4. Unplug the starter. Let it sit for 10 minutes as the charcoal finishes burning.

5. Remove grill grates and pour the charcoal into the grill.

How to Light Charcoal Grill with Lighter Fluid

The lighter fluid method is one of the fastest ways to light your charcoal grill. But, if you use too much, grilling with lighter fluid can sometimes transfer an unpleasant taste to your food. It’s not healthy to consume traces of lighter fluid. Also, this method can be dangerous if not done properly. Do not apply lighter fluid to lit coals. You might cause a flare-up.

Look for petroleum-free plant-based lighter fluid which is healthier than petroleum lighter fluids if ingested. It also has a fainter odor. Not to mention it’s more environmentally friendly. Here’s one from Amazon.

Follow the steps below to safely light your charcoal grill with lighter fluid.

  1. Line coals in the bottom of your charcoal grill.
  2. Pour lighter fluid over the coals – about ¼ cup per pound of charcoal works well.
  3. Wait 20 to 30 seconds for the lighter fluid to make contact with the rest of the coals.
  4. Light the coals on each end of the grill with a long lighter.
  5. Let the coals burn for five to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the grill grates and pour the charcoal into your grill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you leave the grill open when starting charcoal?

Keep the lid open to maximize airflow. With abundant oxygen, the charcoal will heat up quickly. Closing the lid cuts off the oxygen and makes it difficult to heat up the charcoal.

How do you light charcoal fast?

Lighter fluid is one of the fastest ways to light charcoal. Just pour it over the coals, wait 30 seconds, and use a long lighter to ignite the charcoal. Gently pour the lighter fluid, as you don’t need much to light your charcoal grill. If it struggles to light, you can add a little more. But if you put too much, your meat may impart some chemical flavor which is unhealthy.

How long does it take to start a charcoal grill?

It usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to start a charcoal grill. The coals should look gray or white.

How long do you let coals burn before cooking?

Let coals burn for about 20 minutes before cooking. If it’s cold or wet, they may need to burn longer. The coals will turn from black to white. Some coals may still be black in the middle and white on the edges.

How do you keep a charcoal grill going?

Open the vents on your grill to maximize airflow. Also, you can try stacking coals in layers which creates more intense long-lasting heat.

Why does my charcoal not stay lit?

Your charcoal might not have enough oxygen, so open the vents on your grill. Also, you might not be using enough coals. You can add coals to produce more heat.

Can you reuse charcoal?

Yes, reused charcoal will not last as long as new charcoal. But it’s a cost-effective way to grill. Mix in some new briquettes with old ones to keep your grill burning hot.

Hopefully, this post helped you start your charcoal grill. Using a chimney starter is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to light your charcoal grill.

For more outdoor grilling and kitchen content, check out the links below.

Related Articles

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How to Get Your Outdoor Kitchen Ready for Summer

Do you leave the grill open when starting charcoal?

Keep the lid open to maximize airflow. With abundant oxygen, the charcoal will heat up quickly. Closing the lid cuts off the oxygen and makes it difficult to heat up the charcoal.

How do you light charcoal fast?

Lighter fluid is one of the fastest ways to light charcoal. Just pour it over the coals, wait 30 seconds, and use a long lighter to ignite the charcoal. Gently pour the lighter fluid, as you don’t need much to light your charcoal grill. If it struggles to light, you can add a little more. But if you put too much, your meat may impart some chemical flavor which is unhealthy.

How long does it take to start a charcoal grill?

It usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to start a charcoal grill. The coals should look gray or white.

How long do you let coals burn before cooking?

Let coals burn for about 20 minutes before cooking. If it’s cold or wet, they may need to burn longer. The coals will turn from black to white. Some coals may still be black in the middle and white on the edges.

How do you keep a charcoal grill going?

Open the vents on your grill to maximize airflow. Also, you can try stacking coals in layers which creates more intense long-lasting heat.

Why does my charcoal not stay lit?

Your charcoal might not have enough oxygen, so open the vents on your grill. Also, you might not be using enough coals. You can add coals to produce more heat.

Can you reuse charcoal?

Yes, reused charcoal will not last as long as new charcoal. But it’s a cost-effective way to grill. Mix in some new briquettes with old ones to keep your grill burning hot.
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