How To Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter

 how to use a charcoal chimney starter

Image Credit to: Weber Grills

If you're a fan of the smoky flavor that only charcoal can provide, then using a charcoal chimney starter is a must-have tool for your grilling arsenal. This simple yet effective device makes it easy to light charcoal quickly and evenly, without using lighter fluid or other chemical aids that can impart a chemical taste to your food.

In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about how to use a charcoal chimney starter, from lighting the coals to arranging the pieces of hot charcoal in your grill. We'll also share some tips for using your chimney starter safely and efficiently, so you can enjoy perfect grilled dishes every time.

So, let's get started and learn how to use a charcoal chimney starter like a pro!

How Does Chimney Starter Works?

A chimney starter, also known as a charcoal chimney, is a simple and effective tool designed to quickly ignite charcoal for grilling or smoking. It is especially useful for preparing food items like brisket, which require consistent heat and controlled temperatures. The chimney starter is essentially a metal cylinder with a handle, often featuring a heat shield to protect your hands from the high temperatures.

The bottom of the chimney starter has a grate that separates the charcoal from the ignition source, such as starter cubes or crumpled newspaper. To use a chimney starter, simply fill the top with charcoal, either briquettes or lump charcoal, depending on your preference. The amount of charcoal needed will vary depending on the size of your barbecue and the cooking method you're using.

A popular brand of chimney starters is Weber, which is known for its durability and ease of use. To learn how to use a chimney starter, place the ignition source, like starter cubes or newspaper, beneath the grate and light it. The burning material will heat the air within the metal cylinder, causing it to rise and ignite the charcoal above.

As the hot charcoal at the bottom of the chimney starter heats up, it causes the unlit charcoal above to ignite as well. This process usually takes around 10-15 minutes, and by the end, you'll have a batch of evenly lit, hot charcoal ready for grilling or smoking.

Using a chimney starter not only speeds up the process of lighting charcoal but also eliminates the need for lighter fluid, which can sometimes leave an unpleasant taste on your food. It's an essential tool for any barbecue enthusiast looking to make their grilling experience more efficient and enjoyable.

We will talk more about how to use this smoking accessory in detail later in this article, so make sure to read on!

Why Would You Use a Charcoal Chimney?

 Why Would You Use a Charcoal Chimney

Now that you know the working principle of a charcoal chimney, you might be wondering why you would want to use one. There are several advantages to using a charcoal chimney when grilling or smoking. Here are five reasons why you should consider using a charcoal chimney for your next barbecue:

  1. Faster and more efficient lighting:With a charcoal chimney, you simply use paper, like newspaper or paper towels, as an ignition source. Just crumple the paper, place it beneath the grate, fill the chimney with charcoal, and light the paper. The heat from the burning paper will quickly ignite the charcoal in the bottom, and the rising hot air will light the rest of the charcoal. This method is much faster than traditional methods, like using lighter fluid, which can take a long time to fully ignite the charcoal.

  2. No need for lighter fluid: Lighter fluid can be messy and leave a chemical taste on your food. A charcoal chimney eliminates the need for lighter fluid, as the paper ignition source provides enough heat to light the chimney. This results in a cleaner, more natural taste for your grilled or smoked food.

  3. Evenly lit charcoal: One of the challenges of grilling with charcoal is ensuring that all the charcoal is evenly lit to maintain consistent heat. A charcoal chimney makes this process easy, as the rising heat within the chimney ensures that all the charcoal is ignited and ready for cooking. This leads to better heat control and more evenly cooked food.

  4. Environmentally friendly: Using a charcoal chimney is more environmentally friendly than using lighter fluid, as the paper ignition source is biodegradable and burns cleanly. This reduces the impact on the environment and helps you enjoy a guilt-free grilling experience.

  5. Easy to use: Learning how to use a charcoal chimney is simple and straightforward. With just a few easy steps, you can quickly and safely light your charcoal for grilling or smoking. Plus, the chimney's sturdy handle and heat shield make it easy to handle and pour the hot charcoal onto your grill or smoker.

What Charcoal Chimney Starter To Buy?

Unlike other smoking and grilling accessories, charcoal chimney starters are relatively simple devices that can make a huge difference in the quality of your cooking. They allow you to quickly and easily start your charcoal without the use of lighter fluid or other chemicals that can affect the taste of your food. However, with so many options available, it can be challenging to choose the right one for your needs. Here are some factors to consider when buying a charcoal chimney starter.


One important factor to consider is the size of the chimney. You'll want to choose a chimney that can hold enough charcoal for your needs, whether you're grilling for a small group or a large crowd. A larger chimney will also heat up more quickly and evenly, which can help you get your charcoal ready to cook faster.


Another important factor to consider is the construction of the chimney. Look for a chimney with sturdy metal construction that can withstand high temperatures and frequent use. Some chimneys also have additional features like heat-resistant handles or a removable bottom grate that makes it easy to dump the hot coals.

Type of Burner

Finally, you'll want to consider the type of burner or fuel you'll be using with your chimney. Some chimneys are designed specifically for use with charcoal, while others can also be used with other fuels like wood pellets or lump charcoal. Make sure you choose a chimney that's compatible with the type of fuel you'll be using.

Step by Step Instructions on Using Charcoal Chimney

Don't know how to use one? Don't worry, we've got you covered. We've prepared a step-by-step instruction so you can start using your starter right away. Don't just light the charcoal chimney starter without having an idea. Here's how to use it:

Step 1 - Remove the Grill Grate

Begin by removing the cooking grate from your charcoal grill or smoker. This step will provide you with easy access to the charcoal grate and ensure you have ample space to work with as you start a charcoal fire. Make sure the grill is cool and safe to touch before attempting to remove the grill grate.

Step 2 - Fill the Chimney Starters With Charcoal Briquettes or Lump Charcoal

Using a charcoal chimney starter, fill it with your preferred type of charcoal, either using lump charcoal or briquette (depends on what you prefer to use). How much charcoal you use will depend on how much heat you need for cooking. Generally, a full chimney starter should suffice for most grilling tasks.

Step 3 - Set Light Charcoal Cubes on Charcoal Grate and Light Them

Place one or two lighter cubes, or a crumpled sheet of newspaper, on the charcoal grate. Ignite the lighter cubes or newspaper using a long match or lighter, ensuring that they're burning well. This is a simple, effective, and safe way to light a charcoal without using lighter fluid.

Step 4 - Place Chimney on Top of Lighter Cubes

Once the lighter cubes or newspaper are burning well, carefully place the chimney starter filled with charcoal on top of the burning materials. The heat from the fire will rise, igniting the charcoal in the chimney.

Step 5 - Wait 10-15 Minutes for Coals To Light

After you light your charcoal, allow the chimney to sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until the coals at the top appear ashy and glowing. This is a sign that the coals are ready for grilling. During this time, the hot coal at the bottom of the chimney will ignite the unlit charcoal on top.

Step 6 - Pour the Charcoal Onto Charcoal Grill Grate

Once the coals are ready, carefully lift the chimney starter by its handle and dump the charcoal onto the charcoal grate. Use heat-resistant gloves or tongs to pour the coals to protect your hands from the heat.

Step 7 - Arrange Coals for Direct or Indirect Heat

Once you've poured the coals, arrange the hot coals in your desired configuration, depending on whether you want direct or indirect heat. For direct heat, spread the coals evenly across the grate. For indirect heat, pile the coals to one side, creating a cooler zone on the other side for slow cooking.

Step 8 - Put Cooking Grate Back Into Place and Put the Lid On

Carefully replace the cooking grate over the hot coals, ensuring it's properly secured. Place the lid on the grill or smoker, and let it preheat for a few minutes before you start cooking.

Step 9 - Adjust Dampers To Desired Temperature

Use the dampers on your grill or smoker, usually located on the bottom and top, to control airflow and maintain your desired cooking temperature. Open dampers will increase heat, while closed dampers will decrease it.

Step 10 - Use Caution and Put Chimney in Safe Location

After pouring the hot coals, set the chimney starter aside in a safe location, away from flammable materials and out of reach of children or pets. The chimney will remain hot for a while, so use caution when handling it. Allow the chimney to cool completely before storing it.

Some Useful Tips When Using Chimney Starter

A chimney starter is an essential tool for anyone who loves grilling with charcoal. It ensures a more even and efficient burn for your coals, giving you the perfect grilling experience. Here are some useful tips when using a chimney starter:

  1. Fill your chimney with the right amount of charcoal: Depending on the size of your grill and the amount of food you're cooking, you may need to use less or more charcoal. Overfilling the chimney can make it difficult to light and control the heat.

  2. Place the chimney onto a safe surface: To avoid any accidents or damage, position the bottom of the chimney onto the patio or a fireproof surface. This ensures that it remains stable and secure during the lighting process.

  3. Use a suitable lighting material: For lighting a chimney starter, use crumpled newspaper, wax cubes, or fire starters. Place them under the chimney and ignite them to start the charcoal burning process.

  4. Monitor the charcoal burns: Keep an eye on the coals as they burn. Once they are covered in white ash and glowing, they are ready to be poured into the grill.

  5. Safely transfer the coals into the grill: Use heat-resistant gloves or a pair of tongs to carefully pour the hot coals from the chimney starter into the grill. Distribute the coals evenly for consistent cooking.

  6. Place the starter somewhere safe: After emptying the chimney starter, let it cool down completely on a fireproof surface before storing or disposing of the ashes.


To sum up, using a charcoal chimney starter is a simple and effective way to light your grill without the use of lighter fluid or other chemicals. With the right tools and techniques, you can enjoy perfectly grilled dishes with that irresistible smoky flavor. Remember to use the right amount of charcoal, use newspaper or lighter cubes to light the coals, and handle the starter with caution when it's hot.

And when you're ready to serve your perfectly grilled meats and vegetables, don't forget to have a good-quality wooden cutting board on hand to make the preparation and serving a breeze. With these tips and tools, you're ready to take your grilling game to the next level.