How to Start a Charcoal Grill Without a Chimney

Summer is almost upon us and soon you will start seeing people grilling outdoors. It’s a long-standing tradition of dads to take out their trusty BBQ grill, clean it religiously, and then show their sons how it’s lighted. It’s a joyous occasion that can’t be dampened by anything, well… except for lighting the coals.

In a Hurry? Here are Some Chimney Alternatives

There are multiple methods for lighting the coals, some that are safe yet difficult and others that are easy but not exactly family and environment-friendly. You probably know about the trusty chimney method that’s self-lighting and proves to be quite harmless. You can even make your own chimney at home. Then, there are the special briquettes that come covered in some special kind of chemical, which too makes them self-lightning. The first method is a bit time-consuming and the second one leaves a bad taste in the grilled food. So, the question is ― How to start a charcoal grill without a chimney?

There’s always lighter fluid, which offers you a swift way to light your coals. This method has the shortest wait time, which is between 30 seconds to a minute. When the fluid is soaked by the coals, a single match then suffices for lighting them. Too many people complain about this method being hazardous. Moreover, lighter fluid also gives your food a weird taste with a hint of chemicals. This leaves us with a few safe methods, like paper kindling, fire lighter with paraffin wax, and using an electronic charcoal starter or Looftlighter.

Let’s look at each method in detail:

How to Start a Charcoal Grill Without a Chimney

Paper Kindling

A newspaper catches fire quite quickly, which is why it is used in most charcoal grill lighting methods. For this one, you will need a couple of newspapers and small, dry twigs. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Clean out the bottom of the grill to make sure there are no old ashes that might compromise the airflow
  • Wad up a couple of newspapers into balls and place them in the grill
  • Cover the newspaper with dry twigs and spread them evenly
  • Finally, place the coals on top
  • Use a lighter to ignite the newspaper and allow the flames to catch the twigs
  • Once the bottom is ignited, the fire will reach the coals and slowly light them up too

*This method can take a lot of time. It’s possible that the newspapers might burn fast without lighting the coals. If this happens, coat the newspaper in olive oil to slow down their progress to ashes.

Fire Lighter

This is one of the most cost-effective and safe methods for lighting a charcoal grill. It uses paraffin wax, wood shavings coated in wax, or compressed cardboard to ignite coals. Since there’s no newspaper involved, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the ashes. Moreover, paraffin wax doesn’t leave any residue or odor.

All you need to do is place the paraffin wax underneath or on top of the coals and light them up. Make sure to buy “natural” paraffin wax, one without any chemicals and scents. With this method, you can light even stubborn and wet coals in just 8 minutes.

If paraffin wax is not available, you can use paper egg cartons and shortening to create your own fire starter and place it on the coals.

Electric Charcoal Starter

An electric charcoal starter is similar to a stove burner. The only difference is that this one is bent in a different shape. Here’s how you can light the coals with this method:

  • Place the electric charcoal starter’s burner in the grill with its handle sticking out
  • Arrange the coals on top
  • Plug in the electric charcoal starter
  • When you see the coals glowing, unplug the device, and remove the burner from the grill

Compared to other charcoal grill lighting methods, this one never fails. It’s fast and has no chemicals, making it a favorite of every BBQ enthusiast.


The combination of blower and heater is what makes up the Looftlighter. It directs heated air onto the coals and ignites them in seconds. Using it is pretty easy, and you don’t need to add anything else on top of or underneath the coal. Here’s how you can light the coals with this method:

  • Plug your Looftlighter into a socket.
  • Touch the lighter’s tip to the coals and turn on the device.
  • Hold back the lighter once you see a spark in the coals, still directing it at the coals.
  • After 60 seconds, you will see the coals start to burn. Turn off the lighter and start grilling.

One of the best things about a Looftlighter is that the person, who designed it, attached a bottle-opener to it on the other end. How neat is that! A juicy steak and a cold beer go hand in hand… that’s all we can say.

A Looftlighter ignites your coals in a couple of seconds and without the addition of any chemicals. The only problem is that it’s a bit expensive. Its price is about the same as 12 to 13 lighter fluid bottles.

Our Final Thoughts

This BBQ season, you will be the smartest and coolest griller on the block with these lighting methods. On Sunday dinners, you can show off your skills and slap meat patty burgers on your guests’ plates in just 10 minutes.

Half the struggle of using a charcoal grill is how to light it. If you don’t like the chimney method because of all that smoke, you can use any one of the methods mentioned above. The two most popular tricks that people prefer are the electric lighter and the lighter fluid. The problem with the former is that you will have to bring out an extension cord and that can be a tripping hazard. As for the latter, you already know why we are against it. The chemicals that waft up from the fluid often destroy the food’s taste. Now that you have a clear idea of how to start a charcoal grill without a chimney, you won’t the process difficult anymore.

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