How to Light Your Charcoal Grill: 3 Simple Steps

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Grilling with charcoal can be a daunting task for any grill beginner.  If you want to be a master charcoal griller, the first step is knowing how to light the coals.  Here are a few different ways to start your charcoal that will get you grilling in no time!

Follow these simple steps to start your charcoal.

1. Select your charcoal.


You’ll need enough charcoal to create a layer on one half of your grill. There are a variety of charcoal options to choose from, including different types of lump coal (for a long cook) and briquettes (for a quick cook).  Check out our article on how to buy charcoal for more information about choosing the right coal for you.

2. Set up your grill.

Vent settings with this coal set up to maintain cooking temps of 275-300°f.

Open lid, lid vent, and bottom vent on your grill.  This will help oxygen reach the coals once they’re lit so they can burn hotter.  Remove the grill grate, clean it of debris, and lightly coat it with oil. Replace grate.

3. Light the charcoal.


There are multiple different methods to light charcoal, some using special equipment to make the job easier.  Find the trick that works best for you.

  • Chimney Starter
    1. Place newspaper or paraffin cubes on charcoal grate. 
    2. Set chimney starter on top and oil with charcoal.
    3. Light the newspaper through holes in the bottom of the starter.
    4. Wait until coals are ashy (about 20-30 minutes).  Take handle and carefully pour ashes onto grate.
  • Electric Charcoal Starter
    1. Be sure to have an outlet nearby to plug the electric charcoal starter in.
    Stack charcoal in a pyramid on grate and place starter in middle of stack.
    3. When coals are ashy, carefully remove starter with tongs.
  • Lighter Fluid
    1. Stack charcoal into a pyramid on grate.
    2. Use about a ½ cup of lighter fluid to wet sides of the pile.
    3. Carefully light the coals.  They are ready to use when ashy.
    Safety tip: Never use gasoline or pour lighter fluid onto an open flame.  
  • Newspaper
    1. Stack charcoal into a pyramid on grate.
    2. Crumple a few sheets of newspaper (or paper towels) and arrange in pyramid.
    3. Light the newspaper and allow the coals to catch fire and turn ashy before grilling. 


Additional tips for charcoal grilling:

  • Don’t worry about keeping coals lit- once they turn to ash, they will continue to put out heat for a while.
  • Don’t use fast light charcoal because it often uses chemicals that can transfer to foods while cooking.
  • Once you have your charcoal lit, you can set up cooking zones for the best way to cook your desired food.

Grilling with charcoal is easy with Char-Broil®’s great selection of Charcoal Grills.  Order your dream grill today. 

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