How to Start a Charcoal Grill (Without Lighter Fluid!)

How to Start a Charcoal Grill (Without Lighter Fluid!)

For ages, pitmasters have raved about charcoal grills. These pits are simple and impart a delicious, authentic smoke to meats, veggies, and more. The only downside is that many people need help starting them up!

This frustration leads backyard grillmasters to douse their charcoal in lighter fluid. Using lighter fluid is perfectly acceptable, but some believe it affects the flavor of their food. If you want to impress the neighborhood with your fire-starting skills, follow my simple tutorial. You’ll be lighting a charcoal grill like a pro in no time! 

How to Start a Charcoal Grill: Heath Riles BBQ

Charcoal grilling has many benefits, such as cooking with a two-zone fire. This is my preferred method for grilling steaks, chicken wings, and kabobs. It’s a common misconception that charcoal pits have a mind of their own. Once you learn how to start a charcoal grill and stoke it properly, you’ll be surprised at your level of control! 

The Supplies

  • Charcoal Grill. One of my favorite charcoal grills is the Weber Kettle Grill.  Beginners love this pit because there are only a few bells or whistles to mess with. Weber produces high-quality pits that last for ages. This model is easy to store, making it perfect for small spaces.
  • Another great charcoal pit is the PK 360 grill. This setup is made of cast iron, which is durable and holds heat in all types of weather. I love this smoker because it makes it easy to create a 2-zone fire, which is ideal for steaks. 
  • Chimney. A chimney keeps your charcoal in one place, heating it evenly. I love my custom-made chimney from Cotton Gin Smokers. This heavy-duty option lasts years! Another great pick is the Vortex Chimney, a favorite in the competing circuit. 
  • Charcoal. My charcoal of choice is always Royal Oak Charcoal. They produce a clean product with no fillers. Their charcoal gives your food a deep, authentic flavor that’s hard to find. Royal Oak’s authenticity is boosted even more by their reasonable pricing. One bag lasts a long time because this charcoal burns hot and fast!
  • Tumbleweeds. Royal Oak created these tumbleweeds so pitmasters could have an all-natural firestarter. They contain wood and wax, nothing else! I’ve used them numerous times with success. The reviews don’t lie: Most people prefer them to lighter fluid. 

How to Start a Charcoal Grill 

You can find a visual demonstration of how I start a charcoal grill in this video. For now, here’s a quick rundown of what I do. 

  • Clean the grill. The first thing I always do is brush off the grill grates. This gives me a clean surface to work with. 
  • Fill the chimney. Next, I set my chimney in the center of the grill and filled it with Royal Oak Charcoal. I’ve been using their new super-size briquets and have been so impressed with the quality! 
  • Add a fire starter. Since I’m not using lighter fluid, I lit one of Royal Oak Charcoal’s Tumbleweeds near the bottom of the chimney, quickly igniting the charcoal. 
  • Let it sit. The charcoal needs time to heat properly, so I let the chimney sit for about 10-15 minutes before distributing it evenly throughout the bottom of the Weber Kettle Grill. You’ll know the charcoal is ready to spread when it develops a layer of ash. The only thing left was to close the lid and let the grill continue heating up! 

Why Charcoal?
With all the newfangled products out there, why invest in a charcoal grill? Here’s why I recommend purchasing a charcoal pit. 

  • Budget-friendly. It’s no secret that many grills out there cost a pretty penny. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, go with charcoal. Not only is this grill cheaper, but charcoal can often be less expensive than pellets or propane. 
  • Simplistic. Charcoal grills don’t include the latest technology; they keep things simple. You can focus on grilling your food and nothing else. 
  • Longevity. Your charcoal grill will likely last years and require fewer repairs than those with electrical bells and whistles. Plus, you can easily transport it to cookouts, camping trips, or pool parties. 
  • Heat. Depending on the amount of charcoal you use, your pit can cook at extremely high temps. This is great for searing steaks or charring tortillas. You can also cook at lower temperatures by using less charcoal and spreading it sparsely. The sky’s the limit! 

Caring For Your Charcoal Grill

Caring for your charcoal grill is easy and requires less work than any other type of pit. Before you use your grill, clean the grill’s grates with a piece of foil or a heavy-duty grill brush. If your grill gets “sticky,” you can always grease the grates with a bit of olive oil or grease. 

Equipment and Tools

Weber Kettle Grill, Cotton Gin Smokers, Vortex Chimney, Royal Oak Charcoal, Royal Oak Tumbleweeds.

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