How to Start a BBQ Fire With Charcoal

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If you are interested in getting the best possible results every time you grill something, you probably lean toward using a charcoal grill.

Most pros will agree that charcoal produces a fantastic flavor in anything you grill, much better than electric or propane grills.

However, as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait, which applies to charcoal grills.

While charcoal grills produce the best results, they are, of course, more challenging to use and more time consuming than electric or propane grills, mainly because you first need to get those coals lit and white-hot to the point where you can grill over them.

This process can take up to 30 minutes. However, most agree that the extra time is well worth the wait when you bite into the final product.

To help make your life easier, we want to teach you how to start a BBQ fire with charcoal, and there are several methods of getting the job done.

How to Start a BBQ Fire With Charcoal

Although there may be other methods out there, there are six reasonably easy ways for you to get those charcoals lit and ready for battle. Let’s take a look.

1. Using Newspaper

A common way of getting that charcoal lit is by using newspaper. Simply place a useful few rolled-up newspaper pages in various locations in the grill, and then pile some coals on top of the newspaper.

Make sure that you pack the coals pretty densely. With the newspaper rolled up under the coals, light the newspaper.

The newspaper won’t burn for too long, so you will probably need to feed more of it into the fire for 5 or 10 minutes to ignite most of the coals. This is an excellent way to get it done with minimal resources, mainly if you are like most people and have extra newspapers lying around.

2. Making an Old-School Fire

If you like making fires in general, you could always choose to start with an old school fire. This way is similar to the newspaper method, but instead of just newspaper, you will also use thicker cardboard and small wood kindling.

Make a little teepee with your newspaper, cardboard, and kindling, just like you would when making a campfire.

Take a few handfuls of coals, spread them around/over the teepee, and then light it up.

As the first coals catch fire, add the rest of the coals to get them lit. This method may take more materials to get started than the above newspaper method, but the advantage is that you don’t have to keep feeding more material into the fire to light up the coals.

3. Using Lighter Fluid

Another easy way to get your coals lit is by using lighter fluid. Get a good bottle of high-quality lighter fluid.

Pour the charcoal into the grill, however much you plan on using, and then pour some lighter fluid on them.

Make sure to get a fair amount of lighter fluid on the coals, but not too much. About ¼ cup of lighter fluid per pound of charcoal should suffice.

Let the lighter fluid soak into the charcoal for about 30 minutes before ignition.

Ensure that you can no longer smell lighter fluid fumes before you start grilling; you don’t want your meat tasting like lighter fluid.

How to Start a BBQ Fire With Charcoal

4. Using Coals with Built-in Lighter Fluid

Perhaps the most straightforward option is to buy charcoal that has lighter fluid built right into it. All you have to do for these is touch a flame to the coals for a few seconds, and they will light up.

5. Using a Charcoal Chimney

You can also use a special charcoal chimney to get your coals lit. To use one of these devices, fill the bottom of the chimney with some cardboard and newspaper, light it up, and then place several handfuls of coals on top.

It will take about 15 minutes for the coals to get white-hot, at which point you can pour them into the grill and use them right away.

6. With an Electric Charcoal Starter

The final option is an electric coal starter. These are devices with handles and large metal coils. When you plug the starter in, the coil gets red hot.

Simply place this device under the charcoal and let it do its job.


As you can see, there are many ways to get your charcoal lit. Just remember that you need to let all of the fluid burn off if you are using lighter fluid before you begin grilling; you could quite literally poison yourself.

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