January 4, 2018

How To Use A Charcoal Chimney Starter

When it comes to charcoal smokers, grills and BBQs, most people only know one way to light them. Dousting the charcoal in lighter fluid, reaching in with a lighter& hoping for the best.

This way has worked (sort of) for years, however, when we use this method we are gambling with the safety of our face, arms and most importantly food. 

In the past, I have always felt a little bit guilty when the kids are around and use this method. It is not a good example to be setting.

Thankfully, as time has progressed it has became a lot safer to light your  and there have been great advancements in the industry.

There is now a safer and quite cheap alternative to using lighter fluid.A charcoal chimney starter. Even if you don't have the best charcoal smokers out there, all the charcoal chimney starters will work.

How Your Charcoal Chimney Works (It's Really Quite Simple)

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.

The most important thing to 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.

 The best thing about Chimney Starters? they are reusable and incredibly affordable.

Which Method Should You Use (The Minion or Donut?)

There are two main methods to cooking with a chimney starter. 

First there is the Minion Method, in this method  you set up the hot coal on top of a full chamber of unlit briquettes. 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, you need to flip your chimney starter so the air vents are on top.

The great thing about these methods is that they only need a small number of coals to be lit, so you don’t need to use a full chimney to get your fire 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 Chimney Tips

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 Up Your Charcoal Chimney Starter

Step 1.
Fill the top chamber with your charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal and leave about an inch of space at the top. 

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.

Step 2.
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.

Step 3.
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.

Charlies Hot Chimney Tips

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 Chimney Tips

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 got your smoker going and finshed your cook don't forget to give it a good clean with your best grill brush!

Final Thoughts

​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.

Once you have tried a chimney starter you will never feel the need to use any other method again, as they are quick, incredibly cheap and will last you many many years.

Happy smoking


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