How to Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter

How to Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter

If you don’t currently use a charcoal chimney starter then you really need to start!

Whether you use instant light charcoal bags or use BBQ lighter fluid or firefighters you’ll find that a charcoal chimney starter is so much easier.

Here are a few tips on how to use a charcoal chimney starter, what they are and why we think you should get one.

What is a charcoal chimney starter?

A charcoal chimney starter also known as a charcoal chimney is a device used to light BBQ charcoal. It is made from a metal tube with a handle and a raised grate inside to hold the charcoal. A fire is lit beneath the grate and air draws the flames up through the chimney to light the charcoal.

Once the charcoal has all lit simply wait for a short time until it has gone grey and you can then simply tip the charcoal into the BBQ and start cooking.

Which is the Best Charcoal Chimney to Buy?

There are many different makes of charcoal chimneys to buy, including those from well-known companies such as Weber.

Many people do buy a Weber chimney charcoal starter because they’re well known in the BBQ world. They are one of the best selling makes of charcoal starters every year and we arent surprised but why spend twice the price.

We bought a really cheap charcoal chimney starter made by Woodside. It’s half the price of some of the Weber models costing just £12.99 and to be honest we were really surprised by the result.

Woodside Charcoal Chimney Starter

Yes, Weber does a smaller compact version which is ideal for taking camping and for smaller BBQ’s but if you have a full-sized BBQ grill then some of the cheaper ones will do fine.

If you want to see a full range of the best charcoal chimneys take a look here.

Why Use a Charcoal Chimney?

If you’ve ever spent time in front of a BBQ trying to get the firefighters to work, covering it in lighter fluid, or wafting the charcoal with some cardboard to try and get the flames to catch then you need to get a BBQ chimney starter.

Likewise, if you only ever use instant light bagged charcoal, then you really need to keep reading.

Charcoal can be difficult to light even on a good day so you really need to make things as easy as possible to get your BBQ lit nice and quickly.

People generally only use instant bag charcoal because it is easier. As you will find out, instant bag charcoal is easier than other methods (Excluding using a chimney) but it is also more costly.

All you need to do is put the bag on the top of the BBQ grate and light it, and that is fine for small BBQs or if you don’t plan on having them often.

It’s also great if you do not have storage space for charcoal. However, there are occasions when instant light charcoal works out much more expensive.

If you’re cooking for more than three, quite often you’ll need to use two bags. Each bag normally holds 1kg of charcoal.

Let’s take a look at Big K Charcoal for an example. 4 x 1kg bags of instant light charcoal costs £9.99, approximately £2.50 per kg whereas a 10kg bag of lump wood charcoal costs £14.13 or £1.41 per kg.

As you can see, although you will either need to use firelighters or paper to light the chimney and obviously buy the charcoal chimney itself, it won’t take long for you to start saving money in the long run.

With a cheap charcoal chimney starter, you will start to save money after only 14kg of loose lump wood charcoal.

If you’re not sure how much charcoal to use take a look at our How much charcoal do you need for a BBQ? article.

How to use the Charcoal Chimney Starter?

Using and lighting a charcoal chimney starter is really easy. Fill up the top part of the charcoal chimney with charcoal. Then put paper in the bottom section or put firefighters underneath it and put it on the BBQ charcoal grate, finally just light the paper or firefighters and wait for the charcoal to turn grey.

Our simple step-by-step guide below will give you a little more detail.

Step 1

Buy your charcoal chimney.

Step 2

Fill the top section of the chimney with lump wood charcoal or charcoal briquettes up to your required height.

Step 3

Put your firelighters onto your BBQ charcoal grate or put some newspaper into the bottom section of the chimney.

Step 4

Light the paper/firelighters and place the bottom of the charcoal chimney over the flames and wait for the flames to rise through the chimney.

Step 5

Once the coals have turned grey they are ready to use so pour the charcoal onto the BBQ grill and cook away!

What to Use as a Firelighter

What you choose to use as a firelighter is entirely up to you.

Some people prefer to use the good old BBQ white block firelighters, made from a kerosene mix. Whilst others prefer to screw up old newspaper and stick it in the bottom of the charcoal chimney starter, then set light to the newspaper.

Block firelighters are really easy but many people are shying away from them nowadays due to how some of the cheaper ones are made and the smell they produce. If you want to find out more about lighting a BBQ without firefighters you can check out our related article.

Meanwhile, using a newspaper can be a little tricky to start with and can take a few go’s to get it right. It’s fairly easy when you stuff paper into the bottom to use too much and block the air holes. This in turn will prevent the fire from lighting properly.

When we use our charcoal chimney we use natural firelighters. They are made from a mixture of natural wood and natural wax and so are odourless and are better for the environment.

Natural Firelighters

Lighting Tips

We’ve been using our charcoal chimney for around a year now and as a result of use we’ve come up with a few helpful tips.

  • Always give yourself plenty of time before you plan to start cooking.
  • If you are using firefighters, natural or not, light them and then put the chimney on top, don’t bother trying to put a match through the holes in the bottom.
  • If you are using paper, do not stuff it full. Make sure there is enough room for air to flow in the holes and up the centre.
  • Don’t forget that you can always add more charcoal after your pour it out.
  • When you get to the bottom of the bag or charcoal, make sure the bits are large enough to not fall through the bottom of the chimney and smother the firelighters.

Charcoal Chimney Safety Tips

Whenever you are dealing with extreme heat or naked flames you need to take certain precautions and safety measures.

  • Light your chimney on your BBQ grate and not on any other surface.
  • Remember a charcoal chimney starter is made from metal and although the handle will often be fine to touch, the rest of the chimney will be extremely hot and will remain hot for a while after you have emptied the charcoal from it.
  • We’d always recommend wearing heat-resistant gloves to protect your hands.
  • Always put a used charcoal chimney somewhere safe after use as it can still cause damage to patios and decking.
  • Keep children and pets away from the chimney whilst lit and after it has been emptied.