Lighting a charcoal grill may not be as quick and easy as firing up a gas grill, but the resulting smoky, robust flavor more than makes up for it. Lighting the coals is easy when you know the basics. Fire is contagious. Keeping the briquets close together will help the fire spread from coal to coal easily so they’re ready to use faster. Grilling with charcoal doesn't have to be as intimidating as it seems! Here are some simple tips to help you light the perfect charcoal fire.
As a rule of thumb, the more charcoal you have, the hotter your fire will be. If you're using a chimney starter, filling it about halfway will give you a nice medium heat for cooking foods like burgers or hot dogs. For high heat when grilling or searing steaks, fill the chimney all the way to the top. It is important to discard the ashes from the bottom of your grill after each use. They can reduce the amount of heat allowed to escape through the bottom of the grill, and can potentially coat your food with a layer of residue. Make sure to properly dispose of the ashes, instead of just throwing them in the yard. If the ashes get wet, they can be very damaging to pets. What if you aren’t using a chimney? How do you measure charcoal? The size and shape of your grill will dictate how much charcoal is necessary. Consult your grill's owner's manual for the amount needed for your grill.
Chimney Starter: One of the best techniques to light your charcoal grill is with a chimney starter. Remove the cooking grate from your grill, fill the top of your chimney starter with charcoal, and use either newspaper or fire starters to light the coals from the bottom. A chimney starter works by creating an updraft. The hot air from the fire rises and sucks oxygen in through the bottom, which ignites the coals. In about fifteen minutes, your coals will be white hot and ready to use. Make sure your vents on the bottom of your grill are open, pour the charcoal into the bottom of your grill, replace the cooking grate, and you're ready to go!
Looftlighter: The Looftlighter makes lighting charcoal super easy, and will allow you to begin grilling in a matter of minutes. Simply arrange your charcoal in the bottom of your grill, place the Looftlighter into the charcoal, and press the button. Once sparks appear, pull the Looftlighter slightly backwards and allow the air from the Looftlighter to spread the flame. No lighter fluid, no matches, no hassle.
Electric Starter: An electric charcoal starter is a coil similar to those on a hotplate. Arrange your coals, and place the coil into the pile. As the coals begin to ignite, remove the coil and mix them together. Electric starters ignite only the coals that are in contact with the coil, so you'll need to stir the coals to make sure they're all lit.
Lighter Fluid: A lot of people use lighter fluid to start their charcoal grills. Lighter fluid is easy to use and can be found in most grocery or convenience stores. The worst way to light charcoal is by using lighter fluid, kerosene, or any hydrocarbons; they soak into the coals, and will emit harmful vapors. These products stay in the smoke, and give your food bad chemical flavor. This includes easy lighting charcoal. There are so many fillers and binders involved in the manufacturing process, that it's essentially the same as using lighter fluid. If you have a ceramic grill you should never use lighter fluid because ceramic is a porous material and the chemicals will absorb into the ceramic, and give your food a strange taste. As an alternative natural lump charcoal lights faster, burns hotter, contains no additives or filler materials, and can be re-used multiple times.