How to Light a BBQ

Here is our article on ‘How to Light a BBQ,’ giving you two options. We highly recommend you use a chimney starter and high quality charcoal.

How to Light a BBQ for BBQ Smoker Recipes
How to Light a BBQ – Flaming Grills

How to Light a BBQ – Safety First

So sorry to be sensible and we certainly don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm, but a few words about safety first.

  • Make sure you aren’t anywhere near anything flammable – such as greenery, a fence or wood in general. 
  • Make sure whatever BBQ you are using is set somewhere that is stable and level so that you are never in danger of your BBQ falling and burning something.
  • Be sure that your barbecue is well away from any young children or pets
  • Ensure you are using tongs and the proper equipment to avoid being burned 

Option 1 How to Light a BBQ – Use a Chimney Starter

Have you ever found that your barbecue is difficult to light? Or perhaps more often that it is really difficult to keep at the right heat for long enough to cook your food? 

Sometimes you can feel like your barbecue is only just getting hot enough by the time you cook your last burger.

You are tempted to throw some more lighter fluid on there, but you know it can compromise the taste of the food. 

There are even some veteran barbecuers that use petrol to make sure the flames are suitably hot.

Imagine what petrol fumes can do to your food.

The key to starting and maintaining the right heat in your barbecue is to make sure the charcoal is white hot right from the start. The only one way to do this in our experience is to use a chimney starter.

A chimney starter will heat your charcoal up in a contained small space like a small frying pan or covered pot because it holds the heat in and transfers it straight into your coals. 

That means it’s perfect for white hot coals which will keep their heat.

All you need to do it put firelighters, good quality charcoal and a little lighter fluid (if you like) in your chimney stacker. Strike a match, use a lighter or if you enjoy a little overkill you could use a blowtorch.   

The heat inside your chimney stacker will really deliver. Once your charcoal is white hot, all you have to do is tip your coals into your barbecue or smoker and put the grills over the top.

You don’t have to worry about big flames that burn your food too quickly or lighter fluid that makes your food taste of fumes instead of pure smoke and flame.

While this is our best tip for how to light a BBQ, it isn’t the only way so we are happy to suggest a few different options. 

How to Light a BBQ - Use a Chimney Starter
How to Light a BBQ – Use a Chimney Starter

Option 2 How to Light a BBQ – Set Up Your Charcoal Properly

The best way to stack your charcoal is in a rough triangle or a mound shape. This also allows you to control the heat while cooking because you will have all your heat in the middle with the cooler parts around the sides. 

Make sure that you leave some spaces between your charcoal pieces, because we need as much airflow and oxygen as possible. 

It’s useful to have a pyramid or mound shape because this helps the coals get in contact with each other and generate heat.

How to Light a BBQ – Considerations About BBQ Materials

Now is a good time to talk charcoal, firelighters, wood chips and perhaps even lighter fluid.

The main reason your barbecue doesn’t retain heat is the quality of your charcoal. Firelighters and lighter fluid are great for an initial surge of heat, but if you can’t get heat transferred into your charcoal your beautiful barbecue dreams will fall flat quickly into a tear-soaked smoking ruin. 

You might not even be able to get away with the excuse that the tears in your eyes are due to smoke not epic barbecue failure.

Cheap barbecue briquettes are easy on the pocket but false economy in the longterm because you might have to throw everything (including the garden shed) onto your barbecue to keep it going. 

Here are some options for good quality restaurant grade charcoal that we have tried and tested. They retain heat really well and stay white hot for a slow burn. 

Using these natural materials is not only good for the environment but really helps with the flavour of your food, making sure what you cook doesn’t taste of fumes just flames and natural smoke. 

The final consideration about how to light a bbq is the use of wood chips/herbs to flavour your smoke. There are some excellent options for flavouring your smoke and consequently the food you barbecue.

Have you considered using lovely fresh herbs to bring flavour to your food? Bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or even sage can bring great scents and overtones to your smoke. You can add as much or as little as you like to your coals.

Obviously this works best if you put the lid down on your barbecue or smoker so that the smoke is able to infuse your meat or vegetables with herby smokey loveliness. 

Wood chips are an absolute knockout way to infuse extra woody, fruity flavour into your smoke and food. Hickory wood chips bring about an amazing intense smoke flavour (think smokey bacon) which goes particularly well with pork and ribs.

It is also well worth trying apple wood chips which bring a fantastic woody fruitiness which you simply need to experience for yourself. If you have ever experienced the beautiful flavour of applewood cheese you will know exactly what we mean.

These are the best quality apple wood chips we have tried so far.

For the sake of contrast it’s also worth considering the splendour of cherry wood chips which are similar to the apple wood chips, but just a little more subtle. 

We’ve also tried a cherry wood wrap which really locks the flavour into your meat or veg. See if it appeals to you here:

If you enjoyed this article you could try our article ‘How to Make BBQ Sauce Easy Guide.’

For another great article on lighting your BBQ – try this one.

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