how to light charcoal bbq - dickson bbq

How To Light A Charcoal BBQ

BBQ parties provide you the opportunity to make memories and have fun throughout the summer months. Gathering friends and family to enjoy delicious snacks and games or simply catch up on recent events.


But several barbeque staples such as steaks, chicken, and burgers require cooking to optimal temperatures, and often require specific temperatures to cook properly. To make sure your grill is lit properly and provides the proper amount of heat for cooking, it’s important to learn how to light charcoal BBQ safely and adequately.


On top of this, even with the best charcoal grills, you’ll want to fire it up the right way to keep it running optimally and without issues. You’ll want to use the right type of charcoal and follow the right steps to light up your grill. While failing repeatedly can be frustrating, there are some general tips you can follow to make sure you can get your grill running in no time. Here are some suggestions to help speed up the lighting process the next time you’re barbecuing.

Type of Charcoal to Use for Your BBQ

Before getting into the nitty-gritty about how to light a charcoal BBQ, it is important to understand the different charcoal types and identify the best one for your needs. The first choice you’ll make is between briquettes and lumpwood charcoal for your barbecue.


Lumpwood charcoal is produced from uncompressed materials like tamarind, cherry, mesquite, and coconut shells. It favours a slow and low method of cooking because it's difficult to distribute evenly under the grill. It also burns quicker and hotter, producing less amount of ash in the process, but also requiring lower heat settings to get the most out of it.


On the other hand, briquettes are made from sawdust and wood material. Due to their uniform shape, they burn for longer and release heat more evenly over time. They are a perfect choice for meats like fish and steaks that need searing to lock in flavour.


The lighting process of these two charcoal types varies slightly, with briquettes requiring to be heated for a long time before they are ready to be used. However, one thing that remains the same for both types is that you must light them for no less than 30 minutes before cooking anything.

Using Lighting Gel to Light a Charcoal BBQ

Making use of lighting gels is another great method of lighting charcoal briquettes. Gels take a pretty long time to heat the coal – about 30 minutes. This is how to light charcoal BBQ using this technique:


  1. Remove the cooking grate and circle around coal pieces at the center of your barbecue.
  2. Sprinkle the lighter gel around the center of the circle already made.
  3. Over the area covered in lighting gel, arrange some briquettes until you form a small pyramid.
  4. Use a lighter or match to start a fire on the gel and leave for a few minutes until the coal pieces change into white.
  5. When most of the pieces have turned white, use tongs to spread them out evenly and top off with the cooking grate. Now, you can get to barbecuing!

Using a Chimney Starter to Light a Charcoal BBQ

If you opt for briquette charcoal for your BBQ session, a good way to start a fire is by using a chimney starter. Here is a lowdown on how to light charcoal BBQ with this method:


  1. Locate and open up your cooking grate.
  2. Use a briquette scoop to measure a suitable amount of charcoal and transfer it into the chimney starter.
  3. Place around three starter cubes on the cooking grate and light them up. The Weber Wax Light Cubes is a great choice.
  4. Alternatively, you can use an active torch such as a MAP torch or a Looftlighter to start a fire with the charcoal. You can find a quality Looft lighter option in our catalogue, which makes for one of the easiest steps on how to light a charcoal BBQ with firelighters.
  5. Afterwards, place the chimney starter on top of the starter cubes.
  6. Leave for about 10-15 minutes until flames show over the chimney starter, indicating that the charcoal has begun to heat up. At this time, you should notice the top coal pieces getting covered with ash as they turn grey.
  7. Turn the glowing coals into a grill basket as soon as the briquettes are ready.
  8. With the use of tongs, place the coal pieces into position. After that, you can return the cooking grate.

Using Lighting Gel to Light a Charcoal BBQ

Making use of lighting gels is another great method of lighting charcoal briquettes. Gels take a pretty long time to heat the coal – about 30 minutes. This is how to light charcoal BBQ using this technique:


  1. Remove the cooking grate and circle around coal pieces at the center of your barbecue.
  2. Sprinkle the lighter gel around the center of the circle already made.
  3. Over the area covered in lighting gel, arrange some briquettes until you form a small pyramid.
  4. Use a lighter or match to start a fire on the gel and leave for a few minutes until the coal pieces change into white.
  5. When most of the pieces have turned white, use tongs to spread them out evenly and top off with the cooking grate. Now, you can get to barbecuing!

Using a Fire Starter to Light a Charcoal BBQ

Using fire starters is another good way to light a charcoal briquette. Examples of fire starters are paraffin wax, compressed cardboard, wax-coated wood shavings, wood wool, etc. 


If you are looking for fire starters, the QNorth BBQ Fire Starter Sticks, Big Green Egg Speedilight Charcoal Starters, and Fogostarter Fire Starter are great choices.


Here’s how to light a charcoal BBQ with fire starters:


  1. Remove your cooking grill and arrange your briquettes at the bottom of your barbecue in an even fashion.
  2. Position about four fire starter pieces in the center.
  3. Form a pyramid in that center area by placing coal pieces around and at the top of the fire starters.
  4. Start a fire on your fire starter and leave for around 20 minutes until they turn white.
  5. When almost all the pieces have turned white, use tongs to spread them out and replace the cooking grill. Your charcoal BBQ is ready to use!

Should you leave the Lid when Starting a Charcoal BBQ?

Most people are often confused about whether to open or close their barbecue lid when starting a fire. We recommend that you leave the lid open when positioning and lighting your coal pieces. This is because the fire needs air and oxygen to burn properly, and leaving the lid open will allow for proper ventilation and heating.


Additionally, make sure to open the vents until it’s actually time to start cooking. You can tell your grill is ready when the charcoal is glowing. At this point, you can close the lid when grilling, especially when cooking thick cuts of meat or items with longer cook times, like potatoes.

Endnote

Now that you know how to light charcoal BBQ using different techniques, you can proceed to organize a successful cookout with your loved ones. With the help of the tips mentioned above and our catalog of BBQ products and accessories, you’ll be all set for BBQ season this summer.