The best way to start a charcoal barbecue

No need to buy charcoal lighter fluid (or “boy scout water” as they call it in my home state of Colorado) or self-starting charcoal briquets. Just put two crumpled sheets of newspaper in the bottom chamber of this metal chimney and add briquets (I buy the large bags at Trader Joe’s for $7 each) to the top. Light the newspaper with a match and go back into the kitchen to prepare food for grilling. In 20 minutes the briquets will be cherry red and ready to use. Once you use this you’ll wonder how you grilled without it. Take a look at the insanely happy Amazon reviews (4.9 star average with over 800 reviews.) - Mark Frauenfelder

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter $15


  1. Is this any better than the traditional method of cutting a few holes in a coffee can and using newspaper to light the charcoal? 

    1.  No. If you’ve got some welding skills and some free time, you could certainly MacGuyver your own.

    2.  Came here to say roughly the same thing.  Lemme clip’n’paste my comment from Cool Tools:

      “Alternately, for fifteen bucks,
      you can buy a gallon of paint and when you’re done with the contents of
      the can, you can cut out the bottom, notch it or punch a few holes near
      the bottom and use that for the same purpose.”

      I used one to start up my hibachi for about four years.  Not bad for, essentially, free!

  2. I am always baffled when I see someone still struggle with lighter fluid. I don’t usually say anything because I don’t want to be THAT guy–the scold who needs to lecture people at parties–but word has been out on these for a while.

  3. My only complaint with these is newspaper: I never have any and sometimes it wouldn’t actually get the charcoal going before converting the newspaper to ash. For the last couple of years I’ve used a couple of paper towels that have been lightly drizzled with vegetable oil. That works every time.

  4. I’ve used chimney starters for decades. But not all chimneys are created equally. The no-name hardware store brands never start very efficiently (it took 40 minutes to start the coals last year) and they tend to rust away to nothing in a year or two. But we got the Weber this spring and have been very happy with it. The fire’s ready in 10-15 minutes, and no sight of rust anywhere.

  5. If this can prevent the entirety of Prospect Park from being saturated by a haze of lighter fluid smoke and fumes every Sunday, I’d publicly fund the damn things. 

  6. Add about a teaspoon of ordinary vegetable oil to the newspaper to be sure it burns long enough to light.  And don’t try stuffing a third sheet of paper in there instead, it will block too much airflow.

  7. What’s the heavy chromed bracket thing astride the handle?  Never really figured that out. 

    1. I use it as a second handle.  When you’re dumping insanely hot coals (and mine tends to shoot hot flames and sparks out the ass end as I pour), it’s nice to have the extra control.

  8. What I wonder is how to mitigate the ash from the paper.  If I’m dumping a second round of coal onto the grill, the ash flies all over the place, including any food that’s already on the grill.  Generally my solution is to just not mention it to anybody.

  9. PROTIP:  Leave the coals in the chimny and place your grate on top.  This is now a super-hot grill 800-1000 degrees perfect for searing meats and veggies quickly.

  10. OK, this is weird. We’re back on Disqus?

    Oh, right. Topic.

    I’ve used the coffee can chimney for years. No welding required.
    Beer can opener to cut holes in the bottom-sides, and a pair of slip-joint pliers to pick the thing up and dump the coals when they’re ready.

  11. pppftt…I buy a box of alcohol swabs, individually wrapped, throw a few in my bbq bag…when you need to light, open and throw two on the briquettes, light em, and they burn hot enough to start them every time. $1.29 for a summer’s worth.

  12. In the woods I’ve used just a Swiss army knife.  Use the can opener to cut the legs to a pair of U shaped flaps by making two vertical slits about 3/4 inch apart, one pair near the top and one near the bottom of the can (make them along a vertical line).  Finish cutting the U with a knife blade. Fold them both 90 degrees out. You want about 2 inches of metal sticking out from each end.  Cut a thick stick to fit between them and fasten with screws to make a durable handle, or just use the awl (and a fairly heavy stick for a hammer) to poke some sharp metal prongs into the ends of the stick-handle to stab it in place. Use the can opener to create a series of triangular holes along the bottom edge. Finally, use the can opener to remove the bottom of the can (doing this step last gives support for the rough handling of cutting everything else.)  With a secure handle, it can last for a couple of years before rust takes it.

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