How to Start a Charcoal Grill

Many of us love charcoal grills because of their high temperature, perfect preparation process, and smoky flavor. However, it is not easy to get a hang on the operation of charcoal grills because they are not as automatic as gas grills that come with knobs and buttons. 

If you have a charcoal grill but aren’t sure how to use it, this article contains step by step guide to setting up a charcoal grill. After this post, you will be ready to prepare and perfect your grilled food.

METHOD 1: Lighting up the coal with a chimney starter

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chimney.gif

STEP 1: Open the vents and clean the grill

Set up your grill outside the house in an open environment on a flat, and ensure that you set up a few feet from anything that could get caught up by the fire. 

Clean your grill, remove charcoal, ash, and leftovers that could block circulation and prevent things from cooking properly. 

STEP 2: Open the lid and vents on your grill 

The traditional grill has a vent at the top and another at the side or bottom. Remove the grill grates and place them aside. 

STEP 3: Fill the chimney with charcoal

Fill your chimney with the necessary amount of charcoal for your grilling. Generally, a standard chimney can hold 100 briquettes. However, you might not need that many. Ensure to get good quality charcoal.

STEP 4: Add newspaper to the chimney and light it

Place one or two sheets of newspaper into the charcoal grates according to the instruction on the chimney. Light the newspaper in several spots underneath the chimney and allow the briquettes to heat up for about 10 minutes while leaving the grill lid open.

STEP 5: Dump the coals into the grill

After a few minutes, the coals start to glow through the vents, and flames begin to catch over the top of the coals. When this happens, pour them out into a pile and spread the coals out. Ensure to use a pair of heat-resistant insulated gloves to protect your hands.

STEP 6: Spread Out the Coal

For direct heating, spread out the hot coals evenly. If you are opting for indirect heating, spread it in one half of the grill. After spreading out the coal, replace the cooking grates, and leave the grill to heat up to your expected temperature.

METHOD 2: Setting up your charcoal grill with lighter fluid

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Setting-up-your-charcoal-grill-with-lighter-fluid.jpg

STEP 1: Neatly arrange the coals into a neat pyramid

Pile the coals up into a mound. Place them close together to ensure coal-to-coal contact, which will assist the fire to spread.

STEP 2: Apply lighter fluid to the mold of coals

Add lighter fluid directly on the charcoal mound and on the sides. Light the coals immediately after applying the fluid. 

STEP 3: The Coals are ready when they turn gray 

The edges of the coals become grey, and the ash will continue to spread as it burns. When almost all the briquettes turn grey, you can spread them out and use them. This process takes about 15 minutes.

METHOD 3: Lighting charcoal grill with a match stick

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lighting-Charcoal-Grill-with-Match-Stick-1.jpg

Step 1: Arrange the coals into a pyramid

It is crucial to arrange the coals into a pyramid or mound for coal-to-coal contact so that the fire can spread faster. 

STEP 2: Light up the Coals 

Use a large match stick to light up a few briquettes at the edges. The flame will spread to other coals as they continue to burn.

STEP 3: The coals are ready when gray ash spreads

While spreading through, the flames will eventually subside, as the edges of the coals gradually turn gray. In about 10 minutes, the ash will spread to each coal, lighting them up. The briquettes are now ready for use. 

Important Tips About Setting up a Charcoal Grill

  • The way you arrange your coals will affect the different heat zones and the way your barbecue gets heated.
  • The direct heat method works the best option for vegetables, steaks, and meals that you want to cook quickly. For direct heat cooking, spread the coal across the grate for even distribution of heat.
  • Indirect heat works great for roasting or preparing meals that need slow cooking. The warming rack works for setting up slow heating.
  • Reposition the coals and place your food on the area of the grate that doesn’t have any coal directly under it.

Leave a Comment