How To Work with a Charcoal Chimney

How To Work With A Charcoal Chimney

You love to grill, and your family loves it when you grill. Maybe you are known to turn out some of the best steaks in the neighborhood (then again, maybe you just recently found your new hobby). Nevertheless, you may be wondering, what is this charcoal chimney deal and how can I get one? We have these answers for you, and some pro tips to get you started.

Charcoal chimneys provide one of the best ways (safest, economical, and efficient) to start your charcoal grill. And the best part is, you can ditch the lighter fluid because these starters work without them. All in all, the chimney is a metal cylinder of magic. Read on for more. 

Steps to Buying and Using a Charcoal Chimney

It is time to get in front of the grill and start grilling. The first step is to light your grill. You are in luck because we have just the thing for you: the charcoal chimney. 

As we mentioned before, this is a simply designed metal cylinder, also known as a chimney starter. You can use it no matter if you grill with charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. Just do not buy any lighter starter or charcoal lighter fluid because you will not be needing it. 

The science behind the charcoal chimney is genius: the heat from the grill rises up into the bottom of the chimney. Because of the protective walls surrounding the coals, the heat has no where else to go. The result is intense heat pointed directly at your charcoal, for an easy start to your grill.

But charcoal chimneys are good for other uses as well. For instance, starting your grill with the charcoal starter allows the coals to burn through any chemicals before you start grilling your food. Now that you know this pro tip, you probably will not even want to use your regular starter anymore.

Not to mention, say you need to light more coals while you are grilling. Just use the charcoal chimney along the way, which is especially helpful if you are grilling with self-igniting or instant briquettes. This is because these coals give your food that smoky flavor due to the petroleum smoky burn that occurs when they are added unlit to the grill. 

By now you are probably wondering: how do I know which starter to buy? 

  • The largest starter available is optimal. You can start your grill in one go. This is compared to a smaller one where you may have to preposition the starter several times across the surface of your grill. Though if your grill is on the smaller size, a medium starter would work just as well. Personal preference here.
  • Check that the material is “charcoal-grill” tough steel. The last thing you want is “beer-can” tough steel. You are grilling. It is serious work, in all seriousness.
  • You want an extra back handle. This will make it easier to pour the hot coals out of the starter and onto the grill.
  • It can get hot, especially for your hand. Therefore, we recommend you get one with a heat shield.

These are sure ways to get the most out of a chimney starter so that grilling is a joy, not a pain (literally). 

And now comes the answer to your next question: how do I start with a charcoal chimney. The steps are simple.

Step One To Using A Charcoal Chimney

You should always open the air vents and loosely pack two or three newspaper pages (or kindling wood) at the bottom. Once again, loosely packed is key because this allows the air to flow freely, which is crucial for the paper to burn efficiently. You will notice that there are holes at the bottom of the chimney.

Poke the kindling material through these holes so they are sticking out in several places. This will make it easier for you to ignite.

Add the Coals Light It Up

Step Two - Add Coals to Your Charcoal Chimney

Now is the time to add the coals to the chimney. Set the starter on your charcoal grate in the grill. This is an ideal place because the air flow to the burning coals is optimal due to the elevation. Now you are ready to light up the kindling material. Just be warned, there will be a bit of smoke at first. 

Step Three - Gain Heat & Start Grilling

Once the coals start to catch fire, which happens after about 2 minutes, the smoke will die down. Still, you should wait about 20-25 minutes for coals to gain heat, but check back regularly to ensure that the coals are still burning. Then it is time for you to start grilling. 

Pro Tips for Grilling with a Charcoal Chimney

Those three steps were easy, not to mention, there is no need for the lighter fluid! Now here are some helpful pro tips for making the best use of your charcoal starter. 

  • Once you have started up your coals, wait until you see fire coming out of the chimney top. Lump charcoal will be ready before briquettes, unless you have the cheap and low quality ones.
  • In this case, the briquettes will burn faster than the chunk/lump charcoal. The charcoal briquettes will turn ashy-gray around the time that fire is coming out of the top.
  • Wear leather gloves! This will help when you go to GENTLY empty the hot coals onto your grill, especially if yours does not have a heat shield. Use some tongs to spread the coals evenly onto the grate.
  • To keep your food from sticking to the grate, brush the grid with cooking oil, or use some cooking spray. It helps with the clean up too.
  • When cooking, pay attention for any coals that are cracking, especially if you grill with lump/chunk charcoal. They have the tendency to spit out hot sparks.
  • Add your coals to glowing goals.
  • If you want to add unlit coals throughout your grilling, you should opt for lump/chunk charcoal because of its cleaner burning capabilities compared to the briquettes, which smoke first.
Three Easy Steps No Lighter Fluid


We know grilling is not just a hobby. It is a passion fit for a chimney. So tell us what you think! Will you opt for a charcoal chimney? Is starting without fluid easier? Do you find your grill cooks better with option of relighting along the way? How are the recipes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

For a more visual tutorial, check out this video!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use a charcoal chimney starter?

Do you need lighter fluid with a chimney starter?

How many briquettes can you fit in a charcoal chimney?

What is the best charcoal chimney starter?

How do I know if my chimney starter is ready?

Each Share Saves a Steak From Being Cooked Well Done