How to Use a Charcoal Chimney: A Complete Guide

May 6, 2024
Avatar for Shakil AhmedShakil Ahmed
How to Use a Charcoal Chimney: A Complete Guide

Imagine this: it’s a sunny day in summer, and you’re getting ready to have a barbecue in your backyard with your friends and family. Everything seems perfect – the grill is ready, the meat is all seasoned and ready to cook, and everyone is excited about the tasty food. 

But just when you’re about to start grilling, you realize you don’t have any lighter fluid left. You start to worry for a moment, but then you remember your handy charcoal chimney sitting in your garage. Now, you would wonder how to use a charcoal chimney.

Here’s the brief: To use a charcoal chimney, fill it with charcoal, light it up, wait until it’s hot, then pour the coals onto the grill and start cooking!

Let’s get into the details of this topic further.

First, Let’s Know What a Charcoal Chimney is

First, Let’s Know What a Charcoal Chimney is

A charcoal chimney is a metal tube with a grate at the bottom. It’s like a big ice cream scooper! The grate lets air in, and the chimney holds the charcoal.

Why Use a Charcoal Chimney?

There are a few good reasons to use a charcoal chimney when you’re grilling:

  • Quick Lighting: Charcoal chimneys use lighter cubes or crumpled newspaper to light the coals from underneath. It’s much faster than trying to light them directly on the grill.
  • Even Burning: The chimney makes sure all the charcoal gets lit up evenly, so your grill doesn’t have any spots that are too hot or too cold.
  • No Bad Taste: Lighter fluid can sometimes make your food taste weird. But with a chimney, you don’t need to use it!
  • Safer: Starting the fire in a separate container away from the grill is a safer way to get your coals started.

So, Here’s How to Use a Charcoal Chimney

Here’s How to Use a Charcoal Chimney

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use your charcoal chimney:

What You’ll Need:

  • Charcoal chimney
  • Charcoal (lump or briquettes)
  • Newspaper (crumpled)
  • Lighter cubes (or chimney starter) (Optional: Grill gloves).

Step 1: Get a Chimney Starter

A charcoal chimney starter is like a metal tube where you put charcoal. It has a grate at the bottom to keep the charcoal in place and handles so you can carry it when it’s hot. 

You can make one yourself if you have the right tools, but it’s easier to buy one. They come in different sizes depending on how much charcoal you need.

Step 2: Stack the Coals Carefully

Now that you have your charcoal starter ready, it’s time to pile charcoal briquettes on top. The grate or mesh at the bottom of the chimney keeps the charcoal in place. 

It usually bends upward, forming a little pile of briquettes inside the chimney. You don’t have to fill the chimney all the way; just use the amount of briquettes you normally do for your grill. 

Check the grate to make sure it’s not loose or weak.

Step 3: Place and Light Your Combustible

Some folks like using lighter cubes or other ready-made combustibles. You’d place these in the middle of your grill and light them up (regular candles won’t work; you need something stronger). 

Others prefer using crumpled newspaper at the bottom of the chimney starter. Then, they light the edges of the newspaper. It’s a cheaper method but needs a bit of practice to avoid overfilling and blocking airflow.

Step 4: Let the Coals Heat Up

Put your chimney starter in the middle of the grill with the combustible lit and growing. Keep an eye on it for the first few minutes to make sure it stays lit. 

Soon, you’ll notice the charcoal catching fire and getting warm. If it’s raining, cover the top or find another way to protect it, but make sure there’s still a way for the smoke to escape.

Wait for about 15 minutes or so, based on the size of the chimney and how much charcoal you’re using.

Wondering why smoke comes out of your fireplace? Visit our informative blog to learn.

Step 5: Pour the Coals into the Grill

Hold the chimney by the handle, open the grill grate, and slowly pour the charcoal briquettes inside. Be careful not to pour too fast, as it can cause sparks and spills.

Now, close the grill and put the lid on. Wait for about 10 minutes to let the heat build up properly, just like if the coals were heating inside the grill the whole time.

Once they’re ready, adjust the grill as you normally would and start cooking! 

Step 6: After You’re Done, Safely Put Out a Charcoal Grill

To put out the coals at home, close the grill lid and vents and wait for them to cool down, which might take a day. Never use water to speed up the process, as it can cause burns and make a mess. If you’re in a hurry, dump the coals into a metal trash can with a lid to extinguish them quickly and safely. 

Remember to dispose of the cooled coals properly by separating unburned pieces, then reuse them next time to save money and reduce waste.

Wondering why your chimney smells when it rains? Give our informative blog a thorough read to learn.


Follow the below tips to safely use a charcoal chimney.

  • Avoid peeking! Don’t lift the chimney while the coals are burning. It can mess up the airflow and slow things down.
  • Protect your hands: The handle of the chimney can get hot. If you’re not comfortable touching it with your bare hands, wear a grill glove when pouring the coals.
  • Catch the ash: When you lift the chimney, some ash might fall. Put it on a stable, heat-resistant surface like a patio stone to prevent any accidents.
  • If you’re using lighter fluid instead of lighter cubes, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never add more fluid once the charcoal is lit.
  • To avoid flare-ups, wait until the charcoal has stopped smoking before placing your food on the grill.
  • Experiment with several types of charcoal and wood chips to achieve different flavors in your grilled dishes.

Besides, check out our informative blog to learn, “Do gas fireplaces need chimney sweep?

Contact a Pro

You can contact a pro for advice or assistance if someone is unsure about safely disposing of coals, especially in situations where they’re in a rush or dealing with large amounts of hot charcoal. 

A professional can provide guidance on proper disposal methods to prevent accidents or environmental damage. Here, Air Duct Now can help with expert guidance and solutions.

Plus, if you need chimney services in Los Angeles, CA, contact us. We clean, sweep, and repair chimneys to keep your home safe and comfortable. 

With over 15 years of experience, we’re a family-owned business, licensed and insured. Whether you need an inspection, repair, or cleaning, we provide affordable and fast solutions. 

Get in touch today for dependable chimney service in Los Angeles.

Wrapping Up

Mastering how to use a charcoal chimney can make your grilling better. Just strictly follow the steps mentioned in this guide to light your charcoal safely and easily. Each step is important for delicious grilled food. So, when you grill next time, remember these tips and enjoy cooking outdoors!


How to use a charcoal chimney starter?

Fill the chimney with charcoal, light it underneath with crumpled paper or lighter cubes, and let it burn for 15-20 minutes until the coals are ashy and red-hot. Check out this visual guide for a clear understanding.

What type of charcoal is best for a chimney?

Both lump charcoal and briquettes work well in a chimney. Lump charcoal lights faster but burns hotter, while briquettes take longer to ignite but offer more consistent heat. Choose based on your grilling preference.

Can I use lighter fluid with a chimney?

While technically possible, it’s not recommended. Lighter fluid can leave a chemical aftertaste on your food. The chimney’s design allows for fast and efficient charcoal lighting without it.

Can I reuse the leftover coals from the chimney?

Yes! Unlit coals can be stored in an airtight container for your next grilling session.

Is it safe to leave the chimney unattended while lighting the coals?

Never leave a lit chimney unattended. Keep it on a stable surface away from flammable materials. Adult supervision is recommended around open flames.

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