How to light charcoal grill without any lighter fluid in 5 simple steps

We’ve been getting some reader questions lately.  Some are about things that we often overlook, like how to start a charcoal grill. It seems simple, but many people fear the charcoal grill because of these seemingly confusing tasks. I know first hand, because the very first time I had to prep the weber grill I kinda froze (seriously!). I had no idea how to start it. I had to call the hubs and have him walk me through it. True story.

Oh, it really is that simple, I finally realized.

So as we continue to receive similar questions from readers we’d thought we’d pass them on here. We want to give y’all ZERO excuses to avoid grilling. Z.E.R.O. Our whole goal here is to get y’all to grill year-round like we do. So fear no more!

Starting a charcoal grill is as easy as 1-2-3. All you need is a charcoal chimney (you can find them super reasonable on Amazon <–that’s the one we use), some charcoal, paper, and a lighter. Never, ever, use lighter fluid! Repeat after me, never, ever, use lighter fluid. Without further adieu, I’ll leave it to the grill-master, Sean, for the step by step.

BBQ Corner -- How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid |

By contributing writer, the grillmaster and hubby, Sean

Starting a charcoal fire is easy and does not need to involve chemical laden lighter fluid.

Invest in a charcoal chimney, and you can get going within 20 minutes of lighting up. Whether you use lump charcoal, briquettes or even sneaking in wood chunks, it works without fail. The chimney will help you get your coals hot, without the need for any lighter fluid. We never use lighter fluid!

***Safety Tip*** Light inside your grill or on a concrete surface away from anything that can burn. The chimney will get hot, and be sure there is not a low hanging canopy either. Always light this outdoors.

Step 1: There are two sides to the chimney, a shallow side and a deep side. The shallow side is for your paper and the deep side for your charcoal. Crumble up a sheet of newspaper and place it loosely inside the shallow side. Don’t pack too tight otherwise it might smother out. Then flip over the chimney to prep for the charcoal.

How to light a charcoal grill. It's super simple! |

Step 2: Add your charcoal to the deep side. If you are using lump charcoal, be sure that the smaller lumps are at the bottom just above the paper, as they will heat up faster. Sometimes you can get huge pieces, and if they are at the base, it takes a little longer to get those lit.

How to use a chimney to start a charcoal grill.

Step 3: Place the chimney in your grill. Light the paper in a couple of different places and watch it burn. You should see smoke coming out from the paper combusting. The chimney forces the flame up and the holes on the side create perfect venting.

How to start a charcoal grill using a chimney. Never use lighter fluid again! |

How to light a charcoal grill without using lighter fluid.

Step 4: Watch and wait. Over the 20 minutes you should see the embers start to glow and the fire travel toward the top. When you have good ember and the top charcoal turning ashen, dump the charcoal into your grill with a heat resistant glove. I typically dump into an indirect cooking method, but there is really no wrong way to do it, just make sure your charcoal is set and even.
For a refresher on direct vs. indirect, see this post.

How to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid. Step by step lesson.

Direct Heat vs. Indirect Heat when cooking on a charcoal grill. How to perfect it every time!

Step 5: Finally place your grate back over the top and start cooking! If you are cooking something that will take a while, a general rule is to refresh your charcoal every 45 minutes.   You can buy grill grates that open to refresh your coals as well if you use your kettle style grill for long cooks.

How to light a charcoal grill without using lighter fluid. A simple 5 step lesson!

Stay tuned later this week as we put these steps to work and share one of our newest favorite recipes cooked on our grill. It’s ridiculous!

Do you have any grilling or barbecue questions? Send them our way!! You can leave a comment here or email mary @

Note: this post contains affiliate links. That just means that if you click over and purchase the recommended products, we get a small percentage. We only endorse and recommend products that we really use and believe in. And you can probably tell from the pics of our chimney that we get darn good use out of it! Basically, it rocks and if you cook on a weber or other charcoal grill you need one! 



hubbyAbout the author:

Business by day, BBQ by night. Father of twins. Husband of the author of this awesome blog.  Finally ditched PBR and replaced it with Occidental Kölsch.




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