Getting the coals lit!!

Charcoal Grill Basics: Charcoal Lighting Tips

There are some great tools out there for lighting charcoal without resorting to the use of lighter fluid.  The most commonly known device is the charcoal chimney that many have written about extensively.  However there are some other great ways to light your charcoal that are not as well known and deserve some attention.

 One way to light your charcoal is with an incredibly simple device called an “electric starter”.  An electric starter is an oval heating element that is typically about eight inches long.  You place the starter in the bottom of your grill and pour your charcoal on top of the starter.  You then plug the starter into an electrical outlet and it gets extremely hot.  Within a few minutes the charcoal ignites and you remove the starter from the grill.

A second product for consideration comes from Weber who makes great white starter cubes.  The starter cubes are made from clean burning paraffin that leaves behind no residue.  You can pour unlit charcoal into your grill and place two or three starter cubes among the coals.  Light the starter cubes and they will burn hot enough to ignite the surrounding charcoal.  In about 15-20 minutes your coals should be fully lit and ready for cooking.

A third option to consider is to switch charcoal.  No, I am not going to suggest buying charcoal that is presoaked in lighter fluid.  See if you can find a bag of lump charcoal at your hardware store.  Lump charcoal is very different from the briquettes that most people use.  Briquettes are composed of compressed charcoal dust and binders and are engineered to burn evenly.  Lump charcoal is pure charcoal straight from the kiln.  There are no binders in lump and it has not been shaped in any manner.  As a rule it is much, much easier to light lump than it is to light briquettes.  Be warned though, lump burns very hot and very fast.

A fourth option, and one resorted to by those die hard grillers who will fire up their grills in any type of weather, is the use of a propane torch.  Small propane torches are easy to find in home improvement stores.  The torches are typically used for sweating plumbing joints and run off of the small propane bottles used to power camp stoves.  Charcoal doesn’t stand a chance against a propane torch.

The fifth option is a more refined approach to the propane torch and that is to buy a Weber Performer.  The Performer is Weber’s latest addition to its line of charcoal grills.  The Performer has many bells and whistles but its best feature is the inclusion of a built in charcoal ignition system.  The charcoal ignition system is essentially a built in propane torch with an electronic lighter.  The ignition system is powered by the same small propane tanks used to run camp stoves.

So there you have it, five new ways to light your charcoal if you don’t own a chimney.  Have fun and get busy grilling!