Working with a Charcoal Chimney

    This apparatus is also known as a chimney starter. A charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder that allows you to start your charcoal grill the right way. It is the cheapest, safest and most efficient way to start a charcoal grill. It is used to light up both lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. The best part? No liquid starter or charcoal lighter fluid is needed!

The slender cylindrical shape allows for intense heat to start the closely stacked coals faster. This is scientific. An updraft is created by the rising hot air at the bottom of the chimney. This sends powerful heat waves up the cylinder. The coals have no chance but to light up. Serious stuff right there! This is the best way to light a charcoal grill!

Charcoal Chimney Coals lighting in a Charcoal Chimney

Using a chimney allows the coals to burn out any chemicals contained in them before you can cook over them.

Use the charcoal chimney to light more coals if you need to add while cooking. This is especially necessary with instant or self-igniting briquettes.

They have a petroleum smoky burn to them when added unlit onto the charcoal grill and your food will acquire that 'flavor'.

Grillspot Tips! - When out shopping for a chimney starter, look for the largest one. The recommendation for a large chimney is simply to be able to start your grill in one clean sweep or swoop.
    • Make sure it has an extra back handle for ease of pouring of hot coals onto the charcoal grill.
    • Get one with tough steel. We do not want 'beer-can' tough steel, but rather 'charcoal-grill' tough or better.
    • Look out for one with a heat shield  in front of the heat-proof handle. Two-in-one tip!

If you have a small grill to use, a medium size chimney should do the trick.

How to Light a Charcoal Chimney

Open the air vents. Loosely put two or three pages of newspaper or kindling wood at the bottom. Do not crump the newspaper in too tightly as this will restrict air flow necessary for the paper to burn efficiently. Through the bottom chimney holes, pinch out or stick out some newspaper at two or three places for easy igniting.

Add the coals into the chimney. Place the chimney starter on a solid fire-proof surface for safety. One of the best places you can place it is right on top of the charcoal grate in the grill. This elevated place on the grill allows for maximum air flow for the burning coals. Light up the newspaper or kindling. Get ready for loads of smoke!

Notice that there is no need of lighter fluid when using a chimney starter.

The smoke should die down after approximately two minutes as the coals start to catch on fire. Stick around to make sure the coals are actually burning. After 20-25 minutes the coals should be ready for grilling.

A sure sign that the coals are almost ready is when you start to see fire coming out of the top of the chimney. If you are using charcoal briquettes, the corners of the coals on top should just start turning ashy-gray  in color by the time fire is spewing off the top. Lump charcoal will be ready for grilling sooner than briquettes.

Super cheap briquettes made from low quality materials will burn even faster than lump or chunk charcoal.

With your leather grilling gloves on, gently empty the hot coals in the chimney onto the charcoal grate or firebox of your grill. Keep a set of metal tongs handy to use to spread the coals evenly on the grate. Also tongs will be ideal incase you need to pick up or move some hot coals around.

Watch out for crackling coals that may send out hot sparks especially if you are using lump charcoal. If you need to add more coals, add a few on top of the glowing coals and give them a few minutes to catch on.

Adding unlit coals to an ongoing grill is easier with lump charcoal because it has clean burning qualities. Many types of charcoal briquettes have to 'smoke' first. If you still need some more coals, walk straight to the house and don't look back. Just kidding.

Now you are ready to start. One of several grilling tips here is, before you proceed, use your favorite cooking spray to lightly spray your cooking grid to reduce the possibility of your food sticking on the cooking grid.

Lightly brushing the grid with any other cooking oil will fulfill the same purpose. Clean-up will be easier! Your grilled food will also taste mmm...... Have fun with the charcoal chimney!

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"All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbeque and there was no meat, "Yo Goober! Where's the meat? I'm trying to impress people here Lisa. You don't win friends with salad."

-Homer Simpson

"Grilling, broiling, barbecuing - whatever you want to call it, is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach."

-James Beard

"It is very important that when you put something on the grill, you leave it in place to cook. If you move it around too quickly, chances are it is going to stick."

-Bobby Flay