How to Light Charcoal with a Chimney Starter

There is nothing worse than trying to fire up your charcoal grill and struggle to get your charcoal alight. Well, I want to show you how to light charcoal with a chimney starter, the easy way.

There are a few ways to get your charcoal chimney going but the most consistent way I have found is simply using a couple of fire lights.

Follow These Steps to Light Your Chimney

  1. Remove the cooking grate from your grill.
  2. Add charcoal or briquettes to your charcoal chimney, the number required will depend on what you’re cooking and whether indirect or direct grilling.
  3. Place 2 or 3 fire lighters onto the charcoal grate and light them with a gas lighter.

lighting firelighters for charcoal chimney starter

  1. Put the charcoal chimney with the charcoal in it over the lit fire lighters, make sure the vent is open on the bottom of your grill and leave the lid off the top.
  2. Now have a beer and sit back with a beer and wait around 20 – 30 minutes for the charcoal to be fully alight. It will be glowing and orange / red colour.
  3. Once the charcoal is ready, pour it onto the charcoal grate where you will be cooking arrange them where needed and return the cooking grate to your grill.
  4. Put the lid back on (with the top vent opened fully) and wait around 10 or 15 minutes for the grill to come up to temp and start grilling or barbecuing.

placing the chimney on top of the fire lighters

How Else Can You Light Your Charcoal Chimney

The method above has proved to be a failsafe way for me to light charcoal with a chimney starter, there are a couple of other ways to do it as well including:

  • Using some kindling wood, set up the smallest kindling followed by slightly larger kindling. Light the smaller wood at the bottom and wait a minute or two until it is well alight. Place the charcoal chimney onto the fire and wait for your charcoal to catch on. Proceed to step 6 above and enjoy your barbecue.
  • Scrunch up a couple of sheets of newspaper and set on top of the charcoal grate. Light the paper in around 4 -6 places then place the chimney on to the lit paper once it is going. Then proceed to step 6.
  • Lighter fluid is another alternative way to light your charcoal in a chimney starter. Simply place 3 – 5 briquettes on the charcoal grate and slowly pour some lighter fluid over them, making sure to only soak the briquettes. Wait around 20 seconds and carefully light under the briquettes using an extra long match or long gas lighter.

Why Light Charcoal With a Chimney Starter

Using a chimney starter to light your charcoal for grilling and barbecuing is a safe and effective way to get your coals lit for a BBQ.

You have the option of loading up just the right amount of charcoal required for your meal, therefore not wasting any extra charcoal. You can easily add a few extra briquettes on top if required too.

The chimney is designed to allow air to flow through which helps the charcoal light up much more quickly and efficiently, and safely.

When is the Charcoal Ready to Use

how to light charcoal with a chimney starter

This is easy to tell. Just look into the chimney starter and your charcoal or briquettes are ready to use once they are glowing orange and feel nice and hot.

They can also appear to have a light grey ash look to them as well, either way once most of the charcoal changes colour from black to light grey / orange you can start to cook

Tips to Light Charcoal with a Chimney Starter

A few handy tips to get the most out of your chimney starter would be:

  1. Place your charcoal chimney on top of a heat proof surface, like the charcoal grate in your grill.
  2. The charcoal will give off black smelly smoke upon lighting but will fade away after a few minutes.
  3. If using lighter fluid, don’t over do it and keep your face and body clear when lighting it.
  4. Get your starting fire going first before placing the chimney on top.
  5. After you tip the coals out of the chimney, place the charcoal chimney on a fireproof surface and out of reach of children and guests.
  6. After your kindling or fire lighters go out, it may appear that the charcoal is not lit. Leave it for 5 minutes and you will find that it is starting to chug along quite nicely. If it has gone out, re-light it with a larger starting fire.


Hopefully by now you know how to light charcoal with a chimney starter because they really are a handy tool for everyone that loves to barbecue and smoke their meals.

There are other ways to get your charcoal going and I’ll talk about them at another time. So get your chimney out, light your charcoal and get grilling.

Talk soon, Herbie

Written By


Hi there, I'm Greg (also known as Herbie) and like most Aussies enjoy a good BBQ. I want to share with you some tips and recipes, along with gear that I like, to help you with your backyard barbecue and grilling hobbie.Anyway, have a look around and let me know what you think and happy BBQing. Cheers Herbie.

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