You have already bought yourself a smoker or charcoal grill, prepared your food but the only thing that is remaining is to fire up the coals.
That should for sure be pretty straight forward! You will need a charcoal chimney starter.
There are several individuals who get tripped up here before they even manage to get out of the gate. In order for one to get coals lit up faster, you will always come across the miss informed pit master who douses their coals in light fluid. It is not that surprising to come across such guides all over the internet.
No one would like to get the smokey petroleum taste in their food.
Thanks, one does not have to resort to using lighter fluids or chemical fire starters thanks to the ingenious and easy to use charcoal chimney starter. Being so tiny, we had to have it listed on our essential smoker accessories list.
Easy and safe to use, the chimney lighter is considered to be among the easiest solution for lighting charcoal. You will never use anything else after seeing how easy it is to use.
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What is a Chimney Starter?
Chimney starter refers to a metal cylinder which comprises of a grate situated near the bottom and air vents on the chimney.
Charcoal chimney starter functions by drawing air up from the bottom and letting lump charcoal or briquettes that rests on grate top to ignite. You should be in a position to look within the first 15 minutes.
We also have a heat shield located on the same side as the handle that helps in protecting you. However, you need to put on gloves when moving the chimney or pouring coals. They are available in different sizes and shapes.
One can purchase them from either general or outdoor stores. For example, with us, we do use the Weber model which we purchased from Amazon.
Lighting up Your Charcoal
The best way you can use your charcoal chimney starter will be determined by the type of cooking you will be doing. Ensure you have the following before you get started:
- Close toed shoes and heat resistant gloves. Although this have never happened to me before, the people at virtual weber bullet do warn there is possibility of hot charcoal pieces falling out of the chimney bottom onto the patio where you can step on them or on top of your flip flopped or bare foot.
- Several of quality lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. It is recommended that one uses quality charcoal like Kingsford blue.
- A pair of long tongs of barbecue to help arrange your coals when done.
Using Chimney Starter when cooking low and slow
In case you will be cooking low and slow using minion method, or other methods such as the Fuse or Donut, you will have to flip the chimney so that the air vents are at the top. This will leave a great amount of space that will get your smoker going.
There is no need of having a full chimney to cook with since these methods do require a small amount of lit coals to be placed at the top of larger piles of unlit coals.
You can have the entire thing placed at the top of a non petroleum based fire starter. For example, we prefer using the wooden ones or scrunched up papers. In order to get most out of the charcoal purchase, it is possible for you to rip of the bag and scrunch it into a ball.
This is the type of approach we use when cooking on Weber Smokey Mountain.
Using Chimney Starter for Smoking hot or Grilling
Most likely, the clip you might have seen on YouTube is the right method on how you place the chimney right way up. Thereafter, you full it near the top using coal before you place both the chimney starter and the fire source on the grate of your normal charcoal grill.
This will allow air movement to produce heat to the charcoal using the flame from the shredded newspaper or starter cubes that will be drawn up through the ‘chimney’ of the chimney starter which will work its way through the coals.
After you have identified the way you will be cooking, both methods will be the same:
- Have the chimney placed on a safe source that is able to withstand heat.
- Put in the amount of charcoal you will need. In case you do not plan on carrying out a long cook, you will just fill it halfway. Ensure you carry out an experiment to ensure you do not end up wasting your charcoal.
- Have your preferred fire started placed, it can be old paper, newspaper, gas burner or non petroleum based fire starter next to the chimney.
- Light it up and move the chimney to ensure it is sitting over the heat.
- This will take approximately 10-15 minutes depending on how the weather is on that day. The colas need to be hot enough when the ones at the starter top have started turning grey or ashen due to the heat being emitted below.
- After the top coals have been nicely ashed over, pour the coals into the smoker or grill and arrange for your preferred heat source for grilling. It does not matter if it is direct or indirect.
- It is advisable that you put on gloves here since this process can easily produce lots of sparks.
It is highly recommended that you check out T-ROY COOKS who manages an excellent barbecue YouTube channel to see this action.
Ensure you accurately follow all the required safety precautions to ensure that you do no bring your house done with fire. With most of the heat being contained safely in the chimney, there is possibility that it can let off a huge smoke and flames can get outside. Hence, it is important that you ensure the surrounding space is clear.
For sure, you have to ensure the surface is stable and cannot be easily knocked over. No one would like to send an inferno of hot coals pouring onto the patio.
After pouring the coals from the chimney starter and have arranged them to your liking, you need to ensure that you deposit the starter in a safer place out of the way. It should get cool faster immediately it is removed from the heat source although it can still pose a great threat to any unaware person or visitors or family member who might accidently bump into it when not properly stowed away.
Important Tips for a Chimney Starter
- There is no lighter fluid that is necessary for first ever charcoal chimney starter In fact, it is advisable that no fluid be used since the design of the chimney starter will amplify the heat of the flame faster and this could lead to some serious damage caused by fire.
- When you are using a shredded newspaper or a type of kindling to help you light your chimney starter, If for instance after the first 15 minutes the top coals will not have started to turn grey, it is advisable for one to check and ensure fire found below the starter has not died out. If needs be, you can try lighting the second fire and repeat the process till such a time when the top coals will be grey.
- This has happened to me a number of times whenever am using the low and slow method since there is not enough amount of heat that is produced to get up to the chimney.
- Ensure that you use a long match or tongs whenever you are handling the coals, when you are raking them across the grill or when you are lighting the kindling or starter cubes that are placed below the chimney starter.
- Immediately the top coals starts burning, you will notice small flames around the chimney starter top. No need to worry about this as this is very normal. It is an indication that your coals are ready to be used.
- The charcoal chimney starter is not the only method you can use to light up your charcoal. There is a guide that will help you on the best charcoal lighting tools.
- After using your charcoal chimney starter to help you get your grill or smoker started, you will never have to return to the other method.
Are Charcoal Chimney’s Created Equal?
In most people’s mind, there are one or two types of chimneys they can purchase despite having a variety in the market.
Most people are known to prefer the original Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter shying off from others. This is because most chimney starters apart from the Weber 7416 Rapidfire are not in a position to handle a candle to this product.
Weber Rapidfire chimney is capable of holding a lot of charcoal; it comprises of a heat deflector constructed into the handle and has a second handle which makes it safer and easier to dump hot coals into the cooker.
You need to avoid temptation of using the lighter fluid whenever you are lighting. For sure, you do not need it and you will not be pleased with the taste that will come from using it.
Ensure that you are using heavy gloves whenever you are dumping out charcoal since it will be very hot. It is also important that you ensure you have closed toe shoes on instead of the flip flops or sandals since you will always get a hot coal falling though after lighting.
How to Cook Afterburner Steaks on the Chimney
You can always use your chimney for purposes other than just lighting charcoal. One very common way you can use is giving the steak a killer sear which is at times referred to as afterburner method.
In case you will be cooking thick steaks, you will definitely want to use the reverse sear. This refers to where you will slowly be bringing the internal temp of your steak up to approximately 120-125° internal. You will have to remove your steaks to rest immediately you get to this temperature.
As the steaks continue to rest, have the chimney filled half way using charcoal and get a fire going. When the coals are ashed over and you have flames coming out at the top, place a cooking grate at the top of your chimney and let it cook the steaks for 30 seconds to one minute on every side.
Since the flame/heat source is closer to the steaks, you will be in a position to take full advantage of the maillard reaction and will make your steaks have an excellent outside crust with its inside being perfect medium.
Remember to keep an eye on the steaks as they burn over the intense heat.
Which method do you use to light your fire? Do you use charcoal chimney or have you been using the lighter fluid? Definitely, if you have been using lighter fluid, this guide will make you stop using the fluid and start using the chimney.
Charcoal chimney starter is one of the best grilling tools since it makes grilling quick, easy and consistent.
Do you have any other tips for using charcoal chimney starter? Let us know in the comments below.