How to Use a Chimney Starter

What You'll Need
Charcoal chimney
Old newspapers (optional)
Petroleum jelly (optional)
Vegetable oil (optional)
Cotton balls
Charcoal (lumps or briquettes)
Matches or lighter
Heat-resistant gloves

chimney starter or a charcoal chimney is a metallic, cylindrical device used for lighting lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. The lighted charcoal then can be used for various purposes. A chimney starter can light up to 6 pounds of charcoal at a time.

Since a charcoal chimney also has a handle, it can easily be carried around for heating purposes. A charcoal chimney is started by placing lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes into the cylinder and then lighting up the whole stack by placing fire at the bottom. But at times, due to various reasons, the charcoal refuses to burn. If this is your first attempt at starting a charcoal chimney, try the following methods.

A number of companies manufacture chimney starters and sell them at a premium. However, it is not at all necessary to buy branded ones as the working principle remains the same. All you need is a good quality chimney starter and dry charcoal lumps or briquettes.

Method 1 – Use of old newspaper to light the charcoal

Step 1: Fill the cylindrical part of the chimney with some charcoal of your choice and leave the portion below the grate empty. 

Step 2: Put 2 to 3 loosely crumpled old newspapers underneath the grate.

Step 3: Light the newspapers underneath below the grate by using a match stick or a lighter. As soon as the paper starts burning, the charcoal above it will become warm and catch fire, which will travel upwards and light up the entire stack of charcoals.

Method 2 – Using paper cups filled with cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly

Step 1: Take a small paper cup, 5 cotton balls, and petroleum jelly

Step 2: Soak the cotton balls in petroleum jelly and put them into the paper cup. Add a little jelly above the cotton balls after placing them in the cup.

Step 3: Now whenever the charcoal chimney needs to be fired-up, you just need to place the paper cup underneath the grate and light it with match sticks or a lighter. It will take no time for charcoal to catch fire.

Step 4: A paper cup containing cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly can burn for about 10 minutes

Step 5: Several such cups containing petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls can be made before hand and can be used whenever you need to use a chimney starter.

Method 3 – Using Vegetable Oil with Newspapers

Step 1: Fill the bottom of the chimney with a loose roll of newspapers.

Step 2: Spray some vegetable oil on the newspapers with the help of a spray bottle.

Step 3: The newspapers will continue to burn until the vegetable oil sprayed on them evaporates. This is more effective than burning only newspapers.

Tips for Handling a Chimney Starter

  • Always wear heat resistant gloves before handling a hot chimney starter
  • Keep in mind that a charcoal chimney will remain hot for a while although the charcoal has been poured out
  • Avoid placing or starting your chimney on surfaces made of dry grass, wood, or near cooking gas cylinders
  • Ideal places for placing chimney starters are
    • On a metal frame stand
    • Open spaces
    • On fire safe bricks