Lighting Charcoal seems like a dark art, but there are three basic techniques that guarantee zero stress when you come to light your grill.
Firstly, here is a little background on different types of charcoal.
How to Light Charcoal Method 1
The most convenient form of charcoal comes in light-able paper bags. Place a couple in your BBQ rack and, in theory, you just get a good lighter and light up.
In practice, I’ve found these to be hit and miss and have ended up resorting to lighters or gel more than a few times over the years.
How to Light Charcoal Method 2 – The old Fashioned Way
If you have loose briquettes or lump-wood and need to light up the old fashioned way here’s how you do it:
Pile your fuel into a roughly conical pile and to get the fire going, try one of the following rounds the base of the pile:
- Rolled up sheets of newspaper
- Firelighters. Not too many, break them up – they contain kerosene which makes food taste vile if any are left when you start cooking.
- A fire lighting tool like this.
(A graphic illustration of when charcoal isn’t ready for cooking with(!), thanks to Cowbark via Flickr for the image)
Once there is a fire going, leave it for 20 minutes or more, but keep an eye out – don’t let it go out – it might need fanning a bit.
If it looks to be burning well after 5-10 minutes, give the coals a thorough stoking, heap it back into a pile and leave it again for 10 minutes or so.
By this time the flames should have died down – if not wait until they do, it won’t be very long. The coals should be coated in gently smoking white ash.
Now spread the coals evenly round about ¾ of the rack, leaving a space to move any food into that starts to overcook or burn.
You’re ready to cook when it looks like this:
How to Light Charcoal Method 3 – The Chimney Charcoal Starter Method
Another method for lighting charcoal – which is much more efficient – is to use a charcoal starter chimney. These gadgets are well worth considering and are an efficient and clean method for lighting charcoal.
I can’t say enough good things about this gadget.
Charcoal and various means of lighting are available on Amazon
Recommended Further Reading
Get the low down on two main types of charcoal.
See more BBQ tips