Do you know how to use a charcoal chimney starter?
I used to light my charcoal smoker grill, grills and BBQs, the same way most people do. Dousing the charcoal in lighter fluid, reaching in with a lighter and hope for the best!
This way has worked (sort of) for years. However, when using this method, you are gambling with the safety of our face, arms and most importantly food.
Thankfully, as time has progressed it has became a lot safer to light your grill/smoker, with many great advancements in the industry.
The safer and quite cheap alternative to using lighter fluid, is a charcoal chimney starter.
Even if you don’t have the best charcoal smoker out there, all the charcoal chimney starters will work.
The best thing about chimney starters? They are reusable and incredibly affordable.
How Your Charcoal Chimney Works
So by now, you are probably wondering what is a charcoal chimney starter and what makes it so good?
A chimney starter is a basically a metal cylinder, with two separate chambers and air vents and a set of handles that make it really easy to manipulate.
To start you put the charcoal in the top chamber and use a sort of igniter such as an old newspaper on the lower chamber.
The design of the cylinder allows the air to rise from the bottom to the top of the chimney, making your charcoal light up fast and without the need of chemicals.
Note: Keep in mind is the size. If you are using a large grill, you might want to get a bigger starter, because that way you will be able to light all your charcoal at once. This will not only save you time, but it will also guarantee that your heat is nicely distributed on the grill.
Which Method Should You Use?
Essentially there are two main methods to use when cooking with a chimney starter.
The Minion Method
First there is the Minion Method, in this method you set up the hot coal on top of a full chamber of unlit briquettes.
Charlies Hot Tip
I know the Big Green Egg is one of the most popular charcoal smoker/grills. So I get lots of questions about it specifically. Especially about the type of charcoal to use in it. So I put together all the best Big Green Egg accessories for you!
The Donut Method
Second is the Donut Method, where you put the hot coal on the center (as if it were a donut hole) and then it will heat up the unlit briquettes around.
The great thing about these methods is that they only need a small number of coals to get going.
Just set the chimney on top of an igniter like wood pellets or an old newspaper and your fire will be started.
Charlies Hot Tip
Always use your chimney starter on a safe surface, you want something that can stand heat without the risk of catching fire.
Using a chimney starter, your coal shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes, at around 15 minutes you will see the small flames and ashes on top of your chimney, that means they are ready to be put on your grill.
How To Light A Charcoal Chimney Starter
- Fill the top chamber with your charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal and leave about an inch of space at the top.
- There are several ways to ignite a fire with a chimney starter, but the easiest one is using an old newspaper.
- Just place the starter on the grate and open the bottom chamber of the starter, roll up two or three pieces of newspaper and make sure that there is still some space left, just so you don’t block the airflow, which is what will help the charcoal burn faster and more evenly.
- Light up the newspaper in different places using the vents until the newspaper burns entirely. You can use a butane torch or just use long fireplace matches.
- It will take around five minutes for the paper to start burning the charcoal, the air flow in the cylinder will bring the heat forward and you will start to see a light smoke coming out of the top of the chimney and hear the charcoal crackling.
Note: Keep in mind that lump charcoal burns hotter and faster but can cause more smoke, while the briquettes take longer to burn, but it maintains a steady temperature.
The amount of charcoal you need to use will depend if you are using direct or indirect heat.
Charlies Hot Tip
Use gloves when handling your chimney, as pouring over the coal can result in burns.
Using A Chimney Starter to Cook on Your Grill
If you are cooking on a stainless grill, just fill your chimney starter to the top with charcoal. Then use an igniter like paper and set the chimney on top.
The fire that comes from the pellets or the paper will start to burn the charcoal from the bottom all the way up.
If after five minutes the coal hasn’t started to burn, add a bit more paper or wood pellet and fire it again. This will also work if the fire has stopped for any reason, before burning up.
Charlies Hot Tip
Don’t use petroleum-based fire igniters. They are are not only unnecessary but when used they will burn your coal too fast.
Also for safety use tongs to put down the hot coal on the grill, and long fireplace matches to burn the paper, as you don’t want to burn your hands.
Once you finished your cook don’t forget to give it a good clean with one of the best grill brushes!
Using a chimney starter is a fairly easy task. Not only that but it is a safer, less toxic way to get your barbecue going in almost no time.
This is great when you have a young family and you are trying to keep everything as chemical and nasty free as possible.
Anymore queries? Feel free to ask away below!