Five Ways to Start Charcoal Briquets without Charcoal Lighter

Charcoal briquets are one of the most common ways to cook outdoors. They are widely available and produce a cooking environment that is exceptional for grilling. Here are five ways to help you easily start charcoal briquet without adding charcoal lighter.

  1. Use instant light charcoal.  These briquets have been presoaked with lighter fluid (yes, this method technically uses charcoal lighter, but you didn't add it!) that allows them to be easily lit and started. The disadvantage is that because of the lighter fluid, they often will give an odor to the food you are cooking. In addition, they typically do not last as long as normal briquets.
  2. Use a charcoal chimney. These may be purchased commercially, or made at home with a #10 tin can. They typically have two compartments. The bottom compartment is used to place a starter of some type and the top compartment is used to hold the briquets. While newspaper is commonly used in the bottom compartment, anything that burns easily may be used, including home made fire starters. Holes in the sides of the chimney allow easy lighting and an ample air supply to allow the briquets to start burning. 
  3. Use a method of greatly increasing air flow. Once the briquets have been lit and have started to burn, they take time to develop that white-hot outer covering, which indicates they are ready for grilling. Accelerating the air flow will greatly accelerate that process. Ways to accelerate the air flow include using a blow dryer, a fan, a large lid that is waved back and forth near the briquets (like the lid of a large plastic storage box). After the briquets have been lit, directly the air flow toward the pile of briquets. Start gently at first-you don't want to put the fire out. As the heat increases, increase the air flow. This is a great way to get the briquets going faster.
  4. Use an electric charcoal lighter.  This devices has an electric heating element that gets very hot when plugged in.  Cover the element with charcoal, plug it in, wait 8-10 minutes, are your charcoals will be going.  This disadvantage of this method is that you need electricity nearby, which you may have at home, or at a park pavilion, but may not have at a picnic area.
  5. Use a small propane torch. This method is for those of you who are like Tim "the Toolman" Taylor. These torches are used for doing plumbing work with copper pipes and solder. They are found in most hardware stores near the plumbing supplies. They are fairly inexpensive and portable and are a quick and fairly easy way to start your briquets. It is completely portable and doesn't require electricity like the electric charcoal lighter does.  Direct the torch flame toward the middle of your briquette pile to start and then move outwards from there. You'll have your briquets going in no time at all. Please make sure to be very careful when using a propane torch!

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