How to Use a Charcoal Chimney?

Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: September 01, 2023
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Nothing can ever beat the feeling when you grill your food, and as any grilling expert will tell you, the best smoky flavor comes only from a charcoal grill. However, starting a charcoal grill can be a long and complicated process that can only be made easier with a charcoal chimney Trusted Source Chimney starter - Wikipedia chimney starter or charcoal chimney is a device for igniting charcoal lumps or briquettes. It consists of a metal tube with a grate to hold charcoal. A lighting cone is a similar, conical, device placed over an existing grate. The tube is typically cylindrical, but may also have other cross-sections. . Using a charcoal chimney may seem intimidating at first, but with this guide, you will soon learn how to use a charcoal chimney.

Once you master the art of using a charcoal chimney, then you will be able to fire up your favorite charcoal grill and have a cookout of a lifetime. Your summer days will definitely be made with numerous barbeque and grilling events.

Remember about safety

When it comes to using a charcoal chimney, you always have to be careful and take as many safety precautions as you can.

  • Since you will be working directly with fire, it is always ideal for you to wear heat-resistant gloves. Heat resistant gloves can help you handle the hot chimney starter and help prevent your hands from burning.
  • Wearing closed-toe shoes is also recommended while using a charcoal chimney. There is always a strong possibility that hot charcoal pieces fall out of the bottom of the chimney. In order to prevent any damage to your feet, you should wear appropriate shoes that can protect you from the hot charcoals.
  • Never place flammable material near the charcoal chimney. Since the chimney can get very hot while it is being used, flammable material can easily catch fire and wreak havoc. Therefore, it is recommended to have an open space while using the charcoal chimney.
  • Ensure that you are not using the charcoal chimney in a closed space inside. Using it in an open space will ensure that any harmful gas from the smoke goes directly into the air instead of suffocating you.
  • Make sure that you have a fire extinguisher nearby. In case any fire breaks out, you should always be prepared.
  • Always remember that the chimney will remain hot for a while even after you have used it, so don’t touch it unless it has cooled down.
  • Using the chimney directly on a concrete surface can be damaging. There is always a risk of explosion. Therefore, make sure that you use it on a non-concrete surface. Once you have made sure that you have taken all the safety precautions possible, you can use the charcoal chimney with the following methods.

Charcoal chimney starting methods

Charcoal chimneys are absolutely essential for grilling and barbequing as they make the lighting process so much easier. However, there are numerous ways to start a charcoal chimney, so even if you can’t master one, you can easily use some other method. Here are some of the methods that can help you use and start a charcoal chimney.

Lighter cubes

How to Use a Charcoal Chimney?

Lighter cubes are odorless, non-toxic fuel cubes that can light up very easily. In order to use them, you will first need to take out the cooking grate from your grill. Place lighter cubes on the grill and light them up. Then, you make use of a charcoal starter. We recommend the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter. You would need to fill up your chimney starter all the way to the top with charcoal. Set up the chimney starter on top of the lighter cubes. The lit-up cubes will help light up the charcoal on fire.

Since the charcoal is in a chimney, the flame will grow upwards, and eventually, all charcoal will catch fire. Depending on the weather conditions, this process will take between 10 to 15 mins. During this time, ensure that you are taking all safety precautions. Once the coals have been heated up, you carefully pour them onto the charcoal grate and arrange them accordingly. Once this has been done, you can start grilling up your food and enjoy your meal. In the meantime, also ensure that you place your charcoal chimney somewhere safe.

The great thing about lighter cubes is that they will light up even when wet. They are an ideal companion for any charcoal grill as they light up very fast and are smokeless as well.


If you are unable to buy lighter cubes because you are too far away from the stores, then you can even use an everyday item such as newspaper to light up your grill. First, ensure that you have the best portable charcoal grill that can be used anywhere easily. Once you do that, get a charcoal chimney and flip it over. Scrunch up some newspaper and push it into the bottom of the chimney. Then, you fill up your charcoal starter with charcoal. Once you have prepared the starter and positioned it over the grill, you can set the newspaper inside on fire.

Since it is made up of paper, newspaper lights up very easily and quickly. This helps surround the charcoal with fire. Once your charcoal has turned into a white ash color, you know that it has been lit up. Using fire-resistant gloves, dump the charcoal on the grill and arrange them accordingly. Once this is done, you are ready to cook.

The great thing about using a newspaper is that you don’t only get to build up a fire quickly, but you also don’t have to use extra chemicals while lighting it up.

Vegetable oil

Another way that you can help burn your charcoal quicker is to use vegetable oil along with a newspaper. For this purpose, you use the same method as mentioned above. However, this time you spray your newspaper and chimney with some vegetable oil. The oil ensures that the newspaper lasts longer, and you won’t have to keep lighting it up. The newspaper does not burn away until all of the oil burns, which can take some time. During this time, your charcoal can light up pretty evenly in your charcoal chimney.

Leftover coals

How to Use a Charcoal Chimney?

After you are done grilling, you will see that you have some leftover charcoal. That leftover charcoal does not have to go to waste as you can save it and use it in a charcoal chimney the next time you want to fire up your grill.

In order to use leftover charcoal, you need to first make sure that you have removed as much of the ashes as you can. Once you do that, you put fresh charcoal in the charcoal chimney. However, do not fill the chimney completely up with new charcoal. Instead, top it off with the leftover charcoal that you had saved up earlier. This helps increase the airflow as old charcoal can be packed up closely. This helps the fresh charcoal catch fire easily. Once you do that, you can light up the charcoal and release it into the grill as soon as it starts turning ashy white.

Alternative options

You do not have to limit yourself to the methods listed above. You can also use the following alternatives to use a charcoal chimney:

  • You can use charcoal lighter fluid, such as offered by Kingsford.Lighter fluids make lighting up your charcoal very easily. You spray the fluid onto the charcoal, which helps them catch fire easily and light up for your grill.
  • You can also use sawdust starters. Sawdust starters are made up of recycled sawdust and paraffin wax. You place chunks of the starter under the charcoal chimney and light it up. These starters light up on fire pretty easily.
  • Alcohol-based liquid gel starters can also be used in the same manner as lighter fluid. One advantage to these starters is that they do not contain any foul-smelling petroleum products. This helps you light up your charcoal odorless.
  • Apart from newspapers, any paper base can be used up in the charcoal chimney to help light the charcoals on fire. The great thing about paper is that it burns up completely, so it creates less of a mess while you fire it up.

Dump the charcoal and enjoy

Once you have learned and figured out at least one way of using a charcoal chimney, you will be able to light up your charcoal with ease. As soon as your charcoal light up and starts changing color, you know that they are ready to use. Taking all the necessary precautions, you dump the charcoal onto the grill. After that, arrange the charcoal accordingly and start grilling up your food.

Final Thoughts

Although it may seem intimidating and dangerous at first, charcoal chimneys are pretty easy to use once you figure out how to use a charcoal chimney. Charcoal chimneys will reduce the time it takes to fire up your grill as they will help you light up your charcoal in a short amount of time. There are numerous ways to use a chimney starter, so even if one method fails, you can always use another one.


Chimney starter - Wikipedia
chimney starter or charcoal chimney is a device for igniting charcoal lumps or briquettes. It consists of a metal tube with a grate to hold charcoal. A lighting cone is a similar, conical, device placed over an existing grate. The tube is typically cylindrical, but may also have other cross-sections.

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