A charcoal chimney is easy enough. You put coals in, light something underneath it, then dump it in the grill, and you’re off cooking! Right??? Yeah actually…
For the weird folks among us that strive for consistency with our charcoal because we try to dial in the temperature, a charcoal chimney is the right way to get it.
Ways to start your charcoal pit
With the numerous ways to start your charcoal pit, why the charcoal chimney? Well, it allows you maximum control. Lets look at some of the options:
Lighter Fluid or Fire Cubes – Put a pile of charcoal in your grill, spray it with fluid or place a cube inside the pile, and light it. Full disclosure, I’m not a proponent of using chemicals, I think they impart a bad taste into the food.
A pile of charcoal has outliers from the pile, so if you spray the lighter fluid, only the coals at the center will be hot and ready. This will require pushing the coals around until they are all ready… and by then most of the original coals are small and not putting out the right heat.
Electric Coal Starter – The old school electric coal starter is a device you put in the grill, cover with charcoal, and then flip the switch. It will get hot enough, eventually, to get the charcoal blazing hot.
The original problem with the pile of charcoal exists here, not all coals are getting the heat so it requires a lot of management. But at least you aren’t introducing chemicals!
Charcoal Chimney – The chimney is a metal tube that you pour charcoal into. Underneath is an area to put a couple peices of balled up newspaper. Light the newspaper and go grab a beer. No chemicals, no electricity.
The chimney wastes very little of the charcoal starting heat. Heat rises up the chimney, so as the lower ones get hotter, the ones above get hotter, and so forth. Once they are lit you can just pour them into the grill and you’re good to go.
How to use the Charcoal Chimney
Step 0: Safety Check: Ensure your Charcoal Chimney is ON the grill or similar. Do not be stupid and try to light a charcoal fire on your patio or yard.
Step 1: Ball up a few pieces of newspaper or similar and stuff under the chimney.
Step 2: Fill the chimney with charcoal. At least 50% minimum for proper ignition.
Step 3: Ignite the paper and walk away. It’s about to get smokey!
Step 4: Wait until the coals are RED HOT and covered in WHITE ash. This takes approximately 10 minutes from the time you lit the fire. If you pour too early, it won’t be a consistent heat.
Step 5: Pour the charcoal into your grill and make sure to place your really hot chimney on the ground safely. Make delicious food!
You will notice the biggest thing here is to simply wait until it’s ready to pour. Pouring prematurely will cause initial temperature swings when you are trying to dial it in for temperature.
It is also very important to have full efficient burning of the charcoal, as this creates the most efficient burning of any chunks of wood you may place on the coals for smoking purposes… this gives you the thin blue smoke!