Before we get into how to use a charcoal chimney starter I just want to tell you that using a charcoal chimney to start a BBQ is the best, fastest and safest way. As I’m sure you many know soaking charcoal with lighter fluid can leave food with an odd taste, a charcoal chimney cuts out the need for any lighting fluid needed to be poured on the charcoal.
You can fully light a full chimney of charcoal in around 15-20 mins, which is fantastic because you can grill and eat quicker. But before we get into how to use a charcoal chimney, what are is it?
What is a charcoal chimney?
A big metal mug with holes in it basically, sorry I did chuckle to myself when I wrote that. Its function is to heat the charcoal quickly and evenly which is difficult to do with lighter fluid or just paper.
The reason for their design is the holes in the bottom allow the flames from whichever starter you are using to heat the charcoal. The holes in the side of the charcoal chimney are to allow fresh air to circulate the unlit charcoal and provide fuel for the fire.
Starting charcoal inside a charcoal chimney keeps the charcoal away from elements when trying to get a BBQ going, this helps when grilling in the winter.
How to start a charcoal chimney
- Place one or two firelighters on the charcoal grate of the BBQ and light
- Fill the charcoal chimney with the desired amount of charcoal
- Place the charcoal chimney directly on top of the lit firelighters
- Once lit pour the lit charcoal onto the charcoal grate in the bottom of the BBQ.
As with charcoal, you need to wait until the charcoal is fully ignited before cooking with it.
Caution: Do not use the charcoal chimney anywhere it could cause a problem i.e. on wooden posts or grass. A charcoal chimney will stay extremely hot for some time after use so be careful what you do with it until cold to touch.
Should you use firelighters or newspaper?
I always like using firelighters as they tend to burn longer than anything else but they aren’t cheap. You can use either with a charcoal chimney starter and filling the underside of the charcoal chimney with newspaper or even tissue soaked in a small amount of cooking oil works great. Depending on the amount of charcoal you are lighting you might need to keep adding to the paper as it burns away.
Wear protective gear!
Moving hot charcoal around is dangerous, please wear protective gloves. All good BBQ enthusiasts have a pair of heat resistant gloves or even a pair of oven gloves, this will protect you from serious burns.
Most charcoal chimney starters have a protective plate between the handle and the chimney, to keep the heat away from the handle however it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious.
If you need to move the charcoal around during the lighting or when fully lit. It is recommended by everyone that you use a set of BBQ tongs while wearing gloves.
Extra Tips when learning how to use a charcoal chimney
Do not force more fire lighting into the charcoal chimney to speed the lighting up, it doesn’t work.
If you are using the chimney starter full of charcoal, once the charcoal at the bottom of the charcoal chimney is lit, give the chimney a gentle shake to move the charcoal around. This puts some of the unlit charcoal either in contact with the flame from the firelighter/paper or allows unlit charcoal to touch ignited charcoal.
If using the newspaper in the underside of the charcoal chimney to light charcoal try not to overstuff the newspaper, air needs to circulate for this to work.