Get Fired Up: How to Start a Charcoal Grill

There’s nothing quite like the char-grilled taste of steaks, burgers and vegetables cooked over charcoal. But firing up a charcoal grill can be a little tedious—and frustrating. It doesn’t have to be! Follow these simple steps and you’ll be up and cooking in no time.

Clean your grill

Clean thoroughly, removing any ash or grease that has been left behind from previous meals and wipe down the grate with fresh cooking oil.

Open the vents

Open vents on the bottom of the grill. This lets in more air to fuel the flames.

Decide on charcoal

The type of charcoal impacts the taste and cook of your food. Use a quality charcoal — like Centrecut Lump Charcoal — that burns cleanly and is uniform in size. This will give you dependable results each time.

The size and shape of your grill will dictate how much charcoal is necessary. Check your grill’s owner’s manual to see how much is recommended.

Pack the charcoal

Pack charcoal in the Half-Time Charcoal Starter to allow for easy lighting. You don’t need lighter fluid, which can affect the taste of your food. Just find some old paper or use fire starters.

If you don’t own a chimney starter, pack the coals close together and add lighter fluid. Don’t go crazy — ¼ cup of fluid per pound of charcoal is plenty. Allow the lighter fluid to soak for 30 seconds.

Start the charcoal

Light the paper or fire starters underneath the charcoal chimney in several spots with a long match or lighter. Same if you’re using lighter fluid — light at least two sides of your packed charcoal.

The Half-Time Charcoal Starter will start your coals in about 15 minutes. Other methods may take longer.

Allow the coals to burn

Allow the coals to burn until they they are white on at least ⅔ of their surface and not smoking. This allows for more even cooking.

Pour the charcoal

Pour the charcoal onto the bottom grill grate and spread it out with a grill tool that has a long handle (spatula, tongs). Gloves will help protect your hands from the intense heat.

Arrange the charcoal

Arrange in the manner needed to cook your meal. If you’re cooking with indirect heat, for example, push the coals to one side of the grill.

Place your food

Place your food on the grill and cook according to recipe.

Interested in slow cooking your meal? Try a Charcoal Manager in place of a charcoal chimney. It will set your coals up properly to allow for three, five or seven hours of heat.