The best way to start a charcoal barbecue


28 Responses to “The best way to start a charcoal barbecue”

  1. vetnoir says:

    If you aren’t using one of these you are doing it wrong.

  2. jandrese says:

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

    • pocoTOTO says:

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

    • Paul Renault says:

       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!

    • tiredofit says:

       We build a new one every year, no issues.  It’s really easy.

  3. GawainLavers says:

    Does anyone grill without these?

  4. pocoTOTO says:

    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.

  5. SpudNYC says:

    Alton Brown also uses one to char steaks.

  6. markclark says:

    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.

  7. DoctorDJ says:

    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.

  8. -hms- says:

    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. 

  9. 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.

  10. Preston Sturges says:

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

    • bfarn says:

      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.

  11. bfarn says:

    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.

  12. Kelly says:

    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.

  13. malarkey says:

    Where do you get a newspaper these days?

  14. kmoser says:

    Better idea: buy charcoal briquettes that don’t need lighter fluid. They get hot enough to cook in 5-10 minutes.

  15. wygit says:

    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.

  16. DeWynken says:

    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.

  17. pjcamp says:

    What is this “newspaper?”

    News comes on screens.

  18. very-jaded says:

    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.

  19. Preston Sturges says:

    You can also get the chimney going with a few seconds of flame from a propane torch.

Leave a Reply