How to Light Charcoal for Your Barbie Like a Pro

Grilling with charcoal is the most rewarding when it comes to flavours and output. But if you’re new to BBQ, the first step – lighting the charcoal – will often be the most challenging part. Despite having everything set up, seeing those crackling flames struggling to stay lit can be discouraging.

Here’s a secret from the pitmasters: With the right fuel and starter, you can light charcoal for your barbie like a true pro. In this guide, we’ll break down the basics for you so you can get grilling in no time.

Choose your preferred fuel.

Lump charcoal and briquette charcoal each have unique characteristics that make them ideal for cooking. You can use either on your grill or even combine them, but watch out for briquettes that use many fillers and chemicals, as this can significantly affect your cook.

Firebrand Premium Briquette Charcoal is sustainably produced from 100% natural hardwood. It does not contain any chemical additives or binders, and the unique hex design allows a high performance burn of up to 5 hours.

If you prefer lump charcoal for the incredible taste it imparts to your protein, look for high quality lumps like the Firebrand Professional Hardwood Lump Charcoal. It’s produced from super dense, single origin citrus hardwood that gives a clean, consistent burn every time. With temperatures reaching up to 400 °C, this is the ideal fuel for quick cooking, grilling and smoking.

Whether you’re using either, here are some useful tips to help you start that fire!

Prepare your grill.

Before you light charcoal, ensure your grill is clean and ready to use. Remove any ash or debris from previous cooking sessions and keep vents open and unobstructed.

Use a chimney starter.

Based on our experience, lighting charcoal with a chimney starter like the Firebrand Stainless Steel Fire IT Up Charcoal Starter is the easiest and most efficient way. Its unique design allows charcoal to light quickly and the large capacity allows up to 3kg of briquettes or lump charcoal at a time.

You have 2 options to light charcoal on your chimney:

  • With a firelighter. Using Firebrand Firelighters, you can quickly start a fire in your chimney starter. These safe and handy cubes are must haves in your BBQ arsenal as they provide instant lighting and pack a punch! Start by putting the firelighters underneath the chimney to get the fire going. Once the charcoal catches fire, all the pieces will alight in no time!
  • With a gas burner. Some prefer stacking the chimney with charcoal, and then placing the chimney over a gas burner from their gas BBQ to accelerate lighting the charcoal.

Avoid firestarters.

Natural firestarters include newspapers, paraffin cubes or tumbleweed. However, we do not recommend this method as it is much more difficult to light and maintain enough heat to keep the charcoal burning in an open environment. If you don’t stack the charcoal with enough airflow, it won’t stay alight, and it can take a few attempts to get it right. Using a chimney starter is quicker and easier, especially for BBQ beginners and new enthusiasts.

Similarly, avoid using lighter fluid. It will impart a nasty, chemical flavour to anything you place on the grill and ruin your charcoal. 

Stack your chimney like a pro.

To effectively light the charcoal, arrange your pieces this way: put down a layer of lump charcoal in the base of the chimney, then stack the hex briquettes upright on top. The lump charcoal, which is less dense and lights quicker than briquettes, acts like an accelerant to help burn the briquettes quicker. Meanwhile, the unique design of the hex briquettes with the hole down the middle allows for neat, upright stacking in the chimney with airflow that aids in fast lighting.

Place the stacked chimney on top of 3-4 firelighters and light them to get the charcoal burning. You can place the chimney on a heatproof surface or place it on the base of the BBQ grill you will be using for the cook.

Wait until all the charcoal is white hot or ashed over before tipping into the grill. Spread out carefully with long tongs as they will be at their hottest at this point. Then, wait for 10 minutes for the heat to settle before grilling.

Pro tip: Need more lump charcoal? You can add pieces throughout the cook without waiting for it to be white hot.

Though it might seem intimidating, lighting charcoal is easy after a little bit of practice. With the right tools and techniques, you’ll be a pro in no time! Just remember that details are everything: Choose high quality fuel, prep your grill, make your chimney starter your best friend and spread out the lit charcoal evenly. Afterwards, you can get cooking and let your family and friends enjoy the unbeatable smoky flavour grilling on charcoal creates! 

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