How to Light a Charcoal BBQ: Ways to Fire up Your Backyard Grill

how to light a charcoal BBQ

A charcoal BBQ grill can help you cook delicious and tasty meat on a sunny summer day with your family or friends.

While a charcoal BBQ grill is quite efficient in cooking meat and other food types, many people might find it quite challenging to light it up. However, lighting this type of grill is not as tough as it sounds.

With the right tools, you can quickly light it up and cook juicy, tasty, and delicious steaks. This post will show you how to light a charcoal BBQ grill and how to light coal. We are also going to give you different BBQ lighting tips.

Let’s take a look at the simple steps you should follow while lighting up a BBQ grill.

Different Tools Used to Light a BBQ Grill

chimney starter on small grillDifferent tools can be used for lighting a BBQ grill. Below are examples of such tools.

  • Chimney starter – This is a cylindrical appliance that helps you light up your charcoal. A chimney starter has a grate that holds charcoal into position. Not to mention, it also has an opening on the bottom-most part, which allows you to light up the charcoal in the cylinder.
  • Electric charcoal starter – As the name hints, this is an electric device that produces heat energy, making it easier for you to light up charcoal. Electric charcoal starters come with an insulated handle that protects your hands from nasty burns. The front part of an electric starter has a heating element that converts electrical energy into heat energy.
  • Lighter fluid – This is a highly flammable liquid that burns for a certain period.

Lighting a Charcoal Grill With a Chimney Starter

Step 1: Put Charcoal Into the Chimney Starter (Fill the chimney)

The first thing that you need to do is to put charcoal into the chimney starter. Most chimney starters can accommodate 100 briquets. Fill the chimney with charcoal.

Step 2: Light the Briquettes on the Chimney Starter

Use newspapers to light up the briquettes. Place some newspapers on the bottom-most part of the chimney starter. The newspapers should be close to the holes that are found at the bottom part of a chimney starter.

You can use a gas lighter or a match stick to light up the newspaper. Flames coming from the newspaper will ignite some of the charcoal that is above it. After a short while, the colour of the charcoal will change from black to grey. The fire should also produce a clean flame as it spreads from one coal to another.

Step 3: Pour the Charcoal Into Your Barbecue Grill

Check whether the briquettes are burning with a clean flame or not. If they are burning with a clean flame that produces grey ash, pour the hot coals into your barbecue grill. It might take around 20 minutes for the charcoal to light up completely. Make sure that you are

It would be best if you were quite cautious as you are doing this. Grip the insulated handle, then gently pour the briquettes into the charcoal BBQ grill. Put the coals to one another. This makes it easier for fire to spread quickly.

Lighting a Grill With an Electric Starter

If you plan to use an electric starter to light your grill, you have to look for a power source.

Step 1: Place the Charcoal on Your Barbecue Grill

After that, pile up the charcoal in the container. You can arrange your charcoal in a pyramid shape. The amount of charcoal that you are using should be enough to fill it.

Step 2: Fire up the Charcoal

Start by connecting your electric charcoal starter to a power source. Place the electric starter on the middle of the pile, then ignite some of the briquets that might be on the section.

Step 3: Remove the Electric Starter After Some minutes

If the charcoal starts to spark up, move the electric starter away from the pile of briquets. It should be inches away from the starter. Ignite the charcoal until it lights up completely. You can also move the electric starter from one position to another and turn the briquettes with a poker.

Step 4: Add the Grilling Grate

Once the charcoal lights up completely and starts to produce some flames and grey ash, place the grilling grate in its correct position. If you want to speed up the combustion, you have to open the lid of the grill. You can adjust the temperature of the grill by changing the rate of combustion.

Lighting Your Barbecue Grill With Lighter Fluid

Step 1: Arrange the Charcoal Briquettes in a Nice Pile

The first thing you need to do is to add a substantial amount of charcoal to your BBQ grill. After that, pile up the briquettes into a small heap. Fire spreads easily when the blocks are piled up together.

Step 2: Pour the Lighter Fluid on the Briquettes

Sprinkle the lighter fluid on the briquettes. Pour it evenly on every side, making sure every briquette is covered with the lighter fluid.

Step 3: Light up the Fluid

After that, light up a match stick and throw the match stick on the pile. On the other hand, if you are using a lighter to light up the charcoal, light up a piece of paper, then throw it on the pile of charcoal briquettes. Check whether the blocks are burning with a clean flame.

Two Different Types of Fuel for a Charcoal Grill

Charcoal Briquettes

Charcoal briquettes are made from different products. Examples of such products include wood lumps and sawdust. Not to mention, they are sold at various supermarkets. Since these have extra additives that make them burn longer, you can use them for a long time.

However, when these are lighted, they produce a pungent chemical smell for a short period. To get rid of that smell, allow the blocks to burn continuously until they turn into a grey colour. When it turns into a grey colour, it doesn’t affect the taste of food.

While briquettes may take a long time to light up, they burn with a clean flame. Not to mention, they might be suitable for you if you are looking for a fuel that burns consistently with a clean flame. The easiest way to light up briquettes in a smoker or grill is through a chimney starter. Since the blocks have the same size, they can be easily turned from one side to the other.

Hardwood Lump

This type of charcoal is made by burning logs of wood in a place with low oxygen concentrations. In some instances, the chronicles of wood might be burned in an environment with no oxygen at all. The whole process might take days for the sap to dry off from the logs of wood.


Since this type of charcoal is made from hardwood, it produces natural smoke, making it great for cooking meats on BBQ grills. It will give your steak a good, smoky flavour. Apart from that, this charcoal takes a short time to light up completely. Hence, lighting hardwood charcoal is relatively easy.

Lighting Your Charcoal BBQ

And there you have it, everything you need to know on how to light a charcoal BBQ grill. While lighting a BBQ grill might be intimidating, using the right tools can make this process easier for you.

Once it starts to burn with a clean flame, you’re ready to cook. You can begin cooking burgers, steaks, sausages, and even white meats.

Do you use charcoal BBQ grills at home? How do you fire them up? Share your tips and tricks on how to light coals and briquettes in the comments.

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