How Nonstick Spray Can Get Your Charcoal Chimney Started Faster

updated May 23, 2020
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Credit: Matt Russell/Kitchn; Food & Prop Stylist: Emily Ezekiel/Kitchn

Charcoal chimney starters are the best tool for getting charcoal — lump or briquettes — to light faster and burn hotter. Despite their relatively easy setup and use, charcoal chimneys have one small flaw: Lighting the paper that fuels the charcoal is a pain. You have to tuck a stick lighter through tiny holes in the chimney and then hope that a gust of wind doesn’t wipe out your small flames before the charcoal gets started. Most people use a little bit of oil to help the paper stay lit and catch the charcoal, but there’s a faster, cheaper ingredient for starting your charcoal chimney: nonstick spray.

Nonstick spray coats your paper for starting the chimney more evenly, catches faster, and burns longer. Here’s how and why nonstick spray can help get your charcoal chimney started even faster.

Credit: Alice Choi

Jump-Start Your Charcoal Chimney with Nonstick Spray

First, a word of warning: Nonstick spray usually contains a propellant like food-grade alcohol, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, or propane, so you should never spray nonstick spray directly onto a heat source, open flame, or lit charcoal. This trick works safely because you can coat your newspaper (or recycling) away from direct flames. That propellant helps the paper catch faster, but the nonstick oils and fats keep that flame burning slowly and evenly. Plus, because nonstick spray can be evenly applied, it makes for an easy application and consistent flame.

Here’s how to actually use nonstick spray to start your charcoal chimney: Stack two sheets of newspaper and coat evenly with a short, swift spray of the nonstick spray. Then crumble those sheets into a loose ball and tuck them in the lower section of your chimney starter. Fill a chimney starter with two to three quarts of charcoal and then set the chimney on the lower rack of your charcoal grill. Use a stick lighter to light the newspaper in two to three places. Watch as the paper lights quickly, burns evenly, and gets your charcoal started faster.