starting a charcoal grill

How to Light a Charcoal Grill – 3 Easy Ways

Things Every Man Should Know

Spring and summer are right around the corner and I know you are going to want to spend a little more time outside.

Whether you choose to spend your catching waves at your favorite beach, getting in touch with mother nature camping, or just lounging around the pool – one thing that can turn any summer activity up a few notches is some delicious barbecue!

So it is time to bust out your grill, likely give it a much needed scrubbing, and invite some friends over.

While you may have trouble deciding whether to grill burgers, ribs, or hot dogs, one thing that should be a simple decision is using a charcoal grill over propane.

No other way of grilling can give your meat the same smoky flavor and ability to sear meat perfectly!

How to Light a Charcoal Grill

If you are new to barbecuing or only used to the simple start up and stop that propane grills offer, charcoal grilling may seem a bit complicated at first. However, even grilling novices can appear like grilling pros in their first foray in the charcoal grilling world.

The following are three simple methods to light a charcoal grill.

food heating up on a charcoal grill

The Classic Match or Lighter Method

Step One: Arrange the coals into a pyramid. This first step is extremely important in all three methods. Arranging your charcoal in a pyramid will increase the grill’s temperature and guarantee that the fire will spread more easier from coal to coal.

Step Two: Use your matches or lighter to light the edges of a few of the coals until the fire begins to spread.

Step Three: Wait for the fire to spread and die down. Don't worry, this is normal. You want the charcoals to burn than turn a gray or ashen color. This generally takes about ten to fifteen minutes, as long as the grill is hot enough.

Step Four: Start Grilling!


The Lighter Fluid Method

how-to-light-a-charcoal-grillStep One: Create a nice pile of charcoal as in the step above.

Step Two: Squirt a liberal amount of lighter fluid on top and around your mound of charcoals. Afterwards take a match or lighter and carefully light one of the charcoal edges, the fire will quickly begin to spread among the other coals.

Step Three: Wait for the coals to turn gray.

Step Four: It’s time to cook!


The Chimney Starter Method

Step One: A Chimney Starter is a cylindrical device made of metal with a handle. Newspapers are stuffed into the bottom of the starter, and charcoals are placed on top. Most Chimney Starters hold about 100 charcoal briquettes.

Step Two: Use your lighter or a match to light the newspaper at the bottom of the cylinder until a fire begins to stoke and spread to the charcoal above.

Step Three: When a flame can be seen burning on top of the charcoal at the brim of the cylinder, it is time to dump it into the base of the grill, and as always wait until they turn an ashen color. This method usually takes upwards of 15 minutes, longer than the other methods.

Step Four: Grilling time!

Charcoal Grilling Tools of the Trade

To make your charcoal grilling experience a success, make sure you have the following grilling accessories and tools:

● Charcoal Briquettes (Obviously!)

● Matches/Lighter

● Lighter Fluid/Chimney Starter

● Stiff Wire Brush (To clean the grill)

● Spatula

● Knives

● Long Tongs

● Grilling Fork

● Basting Brush

● Veggie Grate (check this one out on Amazon!)

● Skewers

● Meat Thermometer

● Grilling Gloves

Get all of your utensils that you need here, in one all-inclusive pack!

Four Benefits of Using a Charcoal Grill

1. Flavor: Charcoal grills, unlike propane grills, give your barbecue a delicious mesquite and smoky flavor.

2. Temperature: Charcoal grills get much hotter than propane grills. Temperatures of charcoal grills can reach around 500-700 degrees. If you are a steak lover, cooking on a charcoal grill is a no brainer! A charcoal grill will cook the perfect steak.

3. Price: Charcoal briquettes are cheaper to purchase than propane.

4. Portability: Charcoal grills are easy to transport. Next time you are heading for the beach or park, you can easily disassemble and place your grill in the trunk.


Charcoal grilling is not for everyone. Some people do not like the extra time and work that goes into using them.

If this sounds like you and you are still looking to tailgate and grill out an easier way, check out these grill recommendations, here.

However, true barbecue enthusiasts appreciate the ritual that goes along with charcoal grilling. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes finesse.

But the extra effort is worth it in the end. Not only does it yield better tasting barbecue, it allows more time for laughter, fellowship, and making memories among friends — which great barbecues are all about.