Charcoal grilling elitists love lump charcoal. You might think that it’s more difficult to use than the more readily available briquette version, but guess what? It’s actually very easy to learn how to light lump charcoal! It lights quickly, produces less ash than briquette charcoal, burns hotter, and makes it easier to adjust the temperature of the coals.
You, too, can enjoy the pure, natural heat that lump charcoal brings to your favorite grilled meats and veggies by following our super easy guide to lighting lump charcoal! Don’t worry, by the way—we’ll show you not one but two different ways to get your fire started.
- Two Lump Charcoal Lighting Methods
- Charcoal Chimney Method
- Starter Square Method
Two Lump Charcoal Lighting Methods
These aren’t the only two ways to get your steaks sizzling. Other methods are equally effective, but might require more (or more expensive) equipment and tools, or aren’t as easy for a beginner grill master to get down pat.
We’ve selected these two methods in particular because they don’t require much upfront investment, and almost anyone can get them right on the first try.
A charcoal chimney starter is a metal contraption that slightly resembles the shape of a large mug. It has two compartments—a bottom compartment for crumpled newspaper and a top compartment for charcoal. The newspaper is lit from the bottom, and serves to light the charcoal and get it hot.
A charcoal starter square is a small, cube-like piece of fuel that lights quickly, burns hot, and stays burning for several minutes. It’s a great way to get your charcoal going efficiently without resorting to soaking it in unpredictable lighter fluid. There are a number of different types of starter squares, but they all work in a similar manner.
Lighting Your Lump Charcoal Grill with a Charcoal Chimney or Starter Square
Both of these methods are a surefire way to get your charcoal grill fired up and ready to go! With a few simple materials and these easy to follow directions, you’ll be grilling up a great meal for family and friends in no time. First, we’ll explain the charcoal chimney method in detail, and then we’ll go into the starter square method.
Charcoal Chimney Method
What You Need:
- 1Lump charcoal
- 2Charcoal chimney
- 4Matches or lighter
- 5Heat resistant mitt
- 6Ash rake or similar tool
- 7Hammer (to break large pieces of charcoal, if necessary)
Step1: Fill Newspaper into Bottom of the Chimney
Crumple several sheets of newspaper and insert the crumpled sheets into the bottom of the charcoal chimney. It may be easier to turn the chimney upside down for this, just wedge the newspaper in so it won’t fall out. The newspaper should fill the bottom compartment of the chimney. However, don’t pack it too tightly. There should be room for some air flow around the newspaper so that it burns well
Step 2: Fill the Top of the Chimney with Lump Charcoal
Fill the top compartment of the chimney with lump charcoal. You may need to break some large pieces in order to fit them in. To do so, place the charcoal on the ground, on a firm, dry surface that won’t be damaged by a hammer strike. Then, use the hammer to hit the charcoal until it breaks. Start with less force, and increase the force with each tap if necessary.
Step 3: Using a Match or a Lighter to Light the Newspaper
Set the filled chimney on your grill or in another fireproof, ventilated location. Using a match or a lighter, light the newspaper by reaching through the ventilation holes. Light it in several different places to ensure it burns thoroughly and evenly.
Allow the newspaper to burn. As it burns, it will light the charcoal.. Wait fifteen to twenty minutes to ensure that the charcoal is burning steadily. You may hear some popping or crackling. Wait until any visible flames have gone out and the charcoal has burned down.
Step 4: Pour the Charcoal under Your Grill Grate
Once your charcoal is burning without flames or popping, you can put on the heat resistant mitt and pour the charcoal under your grill grate. Use your ash rake or a similar fireproof tool to spread the charcoal evenly.
Starter Square Method
What You Need:
- Lump charcoal
- Starter squares or sticks
- Matches or lighter
- Ash rake or similar tool
Loosely pile your lump charcoal beneath your grill grate, with a slight bowl-like depression in the middle. You want the charcoal to be piled in a way that allows it all to catch, however, you also want there to be airflow between the pieces to feed the initial flames.
Place your starter square or stick in the depression you created. It should be evenly surrounded on all sides by charcoal. If you are lighting a large amount of charcoal, you can make multiple depressions and place a starter square in each one.
Use the matches or a lighter to light the starter square. You may need to hold the flame source to the starter square for several seconds, especially if the square is damp.
Allow the starter square to burn, lighting the charcoal. Wait fifteen to twenty minutes until the charcoal has burned down, if necessary. Watch for the first few minutes to make sure that the charcoal is catching.
Use the ash rake or a similar fireproof tool to spread the charcoal beneath the grate in an even layer.
Read more: Best gas grills under $300
Was this tutorial everything you were hoping for? These are our two favorite ways to get lump charcoal started. Both are very convenient, don’t require expensive supplies, and are easy to learn even by a beginner. If this tutorial helped you, let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share it out to help others learn how to light lump charcoal! You can also feel free to add any constructive criticism or questions you have.
Looking for more methods or other grilling tutorials? Let us know that, too! We value your input immensely, and always try to put it into practice!