How to light a charcoal BBQ with firelighters

Now you may not own a charcoal chimney starter so will be lighting your charcoal the good old-fashioned way.

So onto how to light a charcoal BBQ with firelighters when not using a charcoal chimney

The easiest way to light a charcoal BBQ with firelighters is to place a couple of firelighters together on the bottom grate designed for the charcoal. Then light the firelighters with either a lighter or matches – be safe.

Once the firelighters have ignited, place charcoal on top and bunch charcoal around the firelighters, in a pyramid-shaped mound. Be careful not to starve the firefighters of oxygen and make sure there are a few small gaps for fresh air to get through to the firelighter.

As soon as a few pieces of charcoal have been correctly lit you can place more charcoal on top or around these lit pieces if required. The correctly lit charcoal will heat the remaining unlit charcoal and be ready for grilling on.

Unfortunately, you may need to use a couple of firelighters to ignite charcoal this way, it’s easy to say the more you use the faster you will be ready to grill.

It’s an easy method to follow however it just takes a little bit more time for the charcoal to catch and then ultimately be ready for use. Sometimes it can take upwards of 30 minutes for the charcoal to be ready.

The charcoal will have a hot red color to it and the thick black smoke will need to have stopped for it to be ready to cook with.

Another method using kitchen paper and oil

I’ve got another method I have used a few times when using my portable BBQ, that’s extremely easy to do. I know this doesn’t quite follow the theme on how to light a charcoal BBQ with firelighters however what if you are caught short of firelighters.

It involves rolling up kitchen paper into tubes and drizzling over cooking oil. Building a small mound of charcoal and sliding the oiled kitchen paper rolls between the charcoal when building the mound.

Light the oiled kitchen paper rolls and watch them light your charcoal. Again, you’ll need a few rolls to light a mound of charcoal. This method works extremely well with lump wood charcoal because it is easier and fast to light.

Should I close the lid on my BBQ when lighting?

No, do not close the lid on any BBQ when lighting, you need as much fresh oxygen getting to the charcoal as possible. Closing the lid will not completely starve the igniting charcoal of oxygen but it will restrict it and slow the process down even further.

Can’t I just use white spirit to light a BBQ?

You can and you will cook quickly using it however you won’t see any decent BBQ cooks using white spirit style products to light a charcoal BBQ for several reasons.

Firstly, it is dangerous on a whole other level, it burns extremely quickly and you find you’ll need to squirt more onto a BBQ while it’s partially lit which again is dangerous. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos online of people pouring petrol onto fires, white spirit does the same thing!

Secondly, the White spirit has harmful chemicals in it. I don’t know about you but I spend a lot of money on some of the produce I grill, I do not intend on ruining the flavor with white spirit.


Hopefully, you should understand how to light a charcoal BBQ with firelighters after reading this. Stay safe when lighting charcoal, it is easy to get this wrong and end up at A and E with burns.