backyard basics How To Light A Charcoal Grill (2023)
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How To Light A Charcoal Grill (2023)

Want to be the king or queen of the grill? Then you’ll need to master lighting it quickly and safely. Keep reading for all the tricks of the trade.

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How To Light A Charcoal Grill

Can we all agree that using a grill is the elite method for preparing any meat or veggies? From corn on the cob to juicy succulent steak, your kitchen appliances simply cannot compare.

And paired with a warm starry summer's night, a couple of bottles, and plenty of friends and family, there is just nothing better than the hustle and bustle of a garden grilling session. My stomach rumbles just thinking about it…save me a sausage!

The only issue with a charcoal grill is that it can be a little tricky to light. And while chilling in your garden with the waft of cooking food filling your nostrils is pretty calming, spending hours trying to light a fire...yeah, not so fun.

Luckily you can ensure a quick light-up that will have you tucking into fabulous food in a matter of minutes if you go about it correectly. And I’m going to share the secret to doing so with you now.

So, if you want to placate those rumbling bellies a lot quicker, and don’t want to spend an age praying that your grill will finally light, you’ll want to keep reading!


Lighting A Charcoal Grill Using Lighter Fluid

For this method, you’ll be using a petroleum or alcohol-based lighter fluid. It's perfect for grillers that lack that charcoal chimney. It works really well to get your grill lit up super quickly too!

However, it’s important to remember that lighter fluid can be a dangerous item if used incorrectly.

It is imperative to always keep it out of reach of small children and that you always follow the safety measures stated on the bottle and are aware of how much is needed.

Use too much and you could have a pretty serious problem on your hands. Plus, it’ll make your food taste bad too.


What You’ll Need

  1. Lump Charcoal
  2. Lighter Fluid
  3. Grill Lighter (Or Long Matches)
  4. Charcoal Rake (Or BBQ Tongs)
  5. Grill Gloves

Step-By-Step Guide

Arrange Your Charcoal

So, the first thing you need to do is neatly arrange your charcoal. You’re trying to create a pyramid-like shape.

For smaller grills, you’ll typically need around 30 briquettes whereas larger grills will require around 50-70.

The general rule of thumb is the more charcoal you use, the hotter your fire will be, so keep this in mind.

You’ll want to take the weather into consideration too as you’ll need more briquettes on colder, windier, and rainier days.

Make sure that all the charcoal in your neat pyramid arrangement touches as this will help the fire spread quicker.

Add Lighter Fluid

People tend to use a lot more lighter fluid than is actually needed. To light your grill you should never need more than around a ¼ cup of fluid for each pound of charcoal.

Always follow the instructions on the bottle when using lighter fluid.

You’ll want to cover the sides and the top of your charcoal with the liquid, focusing on the center of the charcoal pile where the heat will be more intense.

Whatever you do DO NOT add lighter fluid to hot or flaming coals.

Light The Coals

The fluid only needs around half a second to soak in, and then you can introduce the flame to the grill.

This needs to be done pretty quickly as it doesn’t take long for the lighter fluid to evaporate.

If this happens you’ll really struggle to light the coals. So ensure you are prepared to set your coals alight almost immediately after pouring the fluid.

Light the coals in a few different places as this will help the fire to spread nice and quickly.

If it is taking its time, you must be patient. Never add lighter fluid to lit coals. This can start a fire that is very difficult to control.

Wait For The Lighter Fluid To Burn

You’ll then need to wait for the lighter fluid to burn away from the coals. You’ll notice when this starts to happen as the charcoal will become coated in white-grey ash.

A little tip, if the charcoal looks only white on the outside, the heat hasn’t quite penetrated into the middle of the coal so don’t start cooking just yet.

Once all the briquettes are ashy and they have stopped smoking, you’re good to go.

Expect to wait around 15 minutes for this process to be complete.

Spread Out Your Coals

Pop your gloves on, and with your charcoal rake, you can now spread the charcoal out more evenly.

You’ll then want to cover them with your grate, and lid if you have one, and let it preheat for around 5-10 minutes

Get Cooking

I hope you’ve got your special seasonings and secret ingredients at the ready because just like that you’re all ready to get cooking! Graby your

Weber or Char-Broil grill, because those succulent sausages and beautiful burgers are just minutes away!


Final Thoughts

Grilling is just the best, right? That signature smoky flavor just isn’t possible any other way. And there’s something so satisfying about being the grill king or queen for the day.

You get to make all that scrumptious food and get a pat on the back and that well-deserved praise for being the best chef in town.

But, of course, before you can get cooking, you have to get that charcoal grill lit. Something that isn’t always the easiest.

Although, if you follow these simple and easy steps, you’ll have your guests marveling at just how quickly you can get that fire going.

Plus, now you can fret over choosing the best lump charcoal instead of lighting the charcoal.

And the quicker you start that fire, the quicker you get to chow down on all that amazing food.

So whether you’re a veggie fiend or a mega-meat lover, ensure that you’ve memorized these steps so that you can be on your way in just a matter of minutes.

Once more, I would just like to reiterate that it is so important to ensure that you follow the instructions for the lighter fluid and never add it to a flame.

Enjoy grilling and stay safe!

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