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July 1, 2012

Lighting Charcoal – part one

by BBQ Insanity

The first step for any barbeque is to light the charcoal.  Lighting charcoal can be a tricky business, and success can be quite random, depending on weather conditions, particularly with variable winds.  For a near 100% success rate, I recommend a chimney lighter like the one pictured.

Chimney lighters actually come in various designs, but the concept is always the same.  It’s specially designed to maximize airflow and ensures your coals light every time. The coals are kept a few inches above the fire lighters, allowing plenty of intake air.  To assist ignition, this chimney style lighter has holes all the way up along it’s body.  The one pictured on this page is one made by Weber.


For safety and convenience when lighting charcoal, place the chimney starter inside the barbecue while it is lighting.  If it’s the first set of coals in the cooking session, I’ll place the chimney starter in the main BBQ as pictured on the right.  If I’m lighting more coals as a top up to an existing grill, I like to use an old grill that I don’t use anymore (as pictured on the left).  For extra safety, always wear protective gloves when handling the chimney starter.  Although the handle is specially designed for heat resistance, and there is a protective metal sheet between the handle and the tube, the chimney gets extremely hot as the heat is concentrated into such a small area.   Another safety tip is to wear boots or shoes (and not open top sandles) when pouring the white hot coals from the chimney.  It’s very possible that small (but very hot) pieces of burning charcoal can fall astray and land on your foot!

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