How To Light A Charcoal Fire

The first thing you want to consider is what kind of charcoal you want to use.  If you need help with that you can find a comprehensive write-up I did on charcoal here.  Once you have figured that out you need to prep the coals for lighting. The soundest investment that you can make in your grilling journey is a chimney starter.  Trust me, it will make your life so much easier .   They cut down on light time, they heat your coals evenly and allow you to arrange them easily.  I’ve seen the prices in the big box stores range from 9.99 up to 24.99.  I have owned both ends of that spectrum and would invest in the pricier one because they are built better and last longer.  I have one by Weber that is really good. If you don’t have one don’t worry. You can do it the old school way and gather your coals in a little mountain which makes for the best even lighting . Hit them with a good squirt of lighter fluid and follow the instructions on your fluid bottle to light.

How to build a charcoal fire
Lighting stack without a chimney starter.

Next you will need an accelerant or some way to light the coals long enough to catch them on fire.  Most common accelerants include lighter fluid, paper starters, lighter cubes, and plain old paper.  Most charcoal brands have an option in their line of briquettes coated in lighter fluid.  Keep in mind that when you use lighter fluid you are introducing more chemicals into the equation but having a chimney starter all but eliminates the need for lighter fluid.  I 100% of the time go with the lighter cubes.  They are efficient as hell.    All you have to do is light 1 or two cubes, sit the chimney on top, and let it work.  They will burn for about 6-7 minutes which is long enough to light the bottom layer of coals which will then light the ones on top of them and so on…

“The soundest investment that you can make in your grilling journey is a chimney starter.  Trust me, it will make your life so much easier.”

How to build a charcoal fire
Lighter cubes in action

Next thing you need to do is arrange your coals for cooking whether it is for direct or indirect cooking.  If you used a chimney starter just carefully pour your coals out where you want them.  If you didn’t just use a small grill rake or metal spatula to spread them out.  Bingo!  You’re ready to make happiness whether its for yourself, family, friends work, whatever.

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