How do you heat charcoal without a chimney?

I'm standing here next to my charcoal BBQ and wondering, how do you heat charcoal without a chimney?

One of the most annoying feelings is coming out to the garden ready to stick a steak on the grill and realizing you don’t have any way of lighting up the coals, so I did a little research. The best way to heat charcoal without a chimney is to gather some newspaper, kitchen roll or any other similar kindling and make a base, then pile some coals loosely on top. Light the kindling and wait for the coals to catch, once they are burning nicely you can put more charcoal on top. Let's look into this topic a bit more and see if there are any tips that can help.

charcoal bbq

Does heating charcoal without a chimney make the food taste different?

One of the common worries when heating charcoal without a chimney is whether it will make the food taste worse. In my experience I do not believe it does, when you break it down to the basics you are really lighting the charcoal in the exact same way. The only thing that is missing is the metal chimney around the charcoal, when using a charcoal chimney starter you’re still going to need to light some kindling as we do in this method. So the bad smoke you get from the kindling will still be present in either method, however, this doesn't matter because by the time you come to actually stick your food on the barbecue grates you will only be burning the charcoal coals.

Personally while using this method the only downside I saw was it takes a bit longer to get the barbecue going because you can’t light as much charcoal all at once. In this method you have to light only a few you coals at once and then put the rest on top which can cause the original coals to go out if you put too much on top, so be careful for this. 

While researching I came across other blogs that recommended using lighter fluid, I would strongly recommend you DON’T do this, this method is almost guaranteed to make your food taste worse. So if you're coals are struggling to light please refrain from throwing lighter fluid onto the grill. In a moment I will explain what to do if the charcoal barbecue doesn't light using this method. To conclude though, no, I do not believe using this method will change the taste of your food. 

What if my charcoal bbq doesn’t light using this method?

I know the frustration of trying to start a charcoal BBQ and the coals going out. however please do not put lighter fluid on your coals when you have the same frustration. If the barbecue doesn't light it's best to grab a new bunch of kindling and try using a bit of cooking oil to help it light. Using cooking oil will have the benefit of making your kindling more flammable while at the same time, not changing the taste of your food.

Another tip is to try to use a small amount of charcoal on top of the kindling to start off with. This is because you will be able to light the charcoal quicker if the kindling can focus its heat on a smaller amount of coals. When you do eventually get some coals to light properly, be careful how many extra coals you pile on top. Place a few at a time and build from there, this will hopefully result in an even burn.

charcoal bbq

Is it worth investing in a new charcoal chimney starter for the future?

The short answer is no, the long answer is it depends on how serious you are about barbecuing. Using this method will get your charcoal barbecue going no problem, however, it's a bit hit and miss and can be frustrating. But a high-quality chimney can make life much easier, the air holes on the side of the metal let oxygen flow into the coals more efficiently, more oxygen means a higher temperature burn, and your coals getting lit much quicker. Overall a charcoal chimney starter is quicker, cleaner, and more efficient. if you are enthusiastic about barbequing in any way I would recommend it. If you are wondering How long before cooking should you light a charcoal BBQ, then this article will help you out.


I hope this article has helped you out, hopefully you can now get grilling with or without a charcoal chimney starter. If you're interested in barbecuing, definitely check out the rest of the website where we have endless resources to help you with your BBQ passion. If you're in the market for a new BBQ or any accessories we also offer a huge range of the best brands and even give 1 to 1 advice on our live chat. Thanks for reading.

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