Get Hotter Coals Faster with a Charcoal Chimney Starter (Here’s How)

updated May 15, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Jessica Pages/Kitchn

If you’ve got a charcoal grill, you absolutely need to grab a charcoal chimney starter. This inexpensive tool will get your coals hotter in half the time. It’s easy to use and eliminates the need for lighter fluid completely! Instead of lighting coals and constantly tending them, you can get your chimney started and let it do all the work of getting those coals going while you enjoy an icy-cold beverage on the porch.

A charcoal chimney starter is the very best tool you can buy for your grill, because it makes starting your charcoal so much more enjoyable. And since they don’t often come with instructions for use, here’s exactly how to light your coals with a chimney and some tricks for getting the coals hotter, faster.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

What Is a Charcoal Chimney Starter?

A charcoal chimney is basically a metal cylinder with a grate inside to allow for airflow. The small grate separates your fire starter (newspaper, cardboard) from the coals so you can use one to light the other. A chimney is a must for anyone cooking over coals and gets your fire ready faster and more efficiently. Chimney starters cost about $20 and hold up to 3 quarts of charcoal — which is more than enough to cook your dinner and dessert too.

How to Use a Chimney Starter to Light Your Charcoal Coals

  1. Pour 1 teaspoon of neutral oil onto 2 sheets of newspaper and crumple into a compact but not tight ball. The oil helps the paper burn longer. Tuck this into the bottom of the chimney underneath the chimney’s grate.
  2. Set the chimney on top of the lower grill grate and fill it to the brim with charcoal. It is good to have a small mound that sticks up out the chimney — the charcoal will settle as coals on the bottom get hot and burn.
  3. Light the newspaper using a stick lighter or a long match. Light the newspaper (in a few places through the holes on the bottom of the chimney)
  4. Let the charcoal catch fire and get ashy before carefully emptying the charcoal onto the lower grate. It can take 15 to 20 minutes for the charcoal to be fully lit and hot.

Make sure to keep an eye on your fire for the first few minutes to ensure that the coals did catch the fire and that you can see embers down inside. Once you’ve dumped your coals into your grill, allow your chimney to cool before storing. Your chimney can be used while sitting on your grill grates, on concrete or asphalt or any other heat safe surface you have available to you. Make sure it’s out of reach of children and pets that might be passing by!

Do you use a charcoal chimney for jumpstarting coals?