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Charcoal chimney lighting procedures and timing

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    Charcoal chimney lighting procedures and timing

    I thought I'd start a thread about using a charcoal chimney for those unfamiliar with them. Here I cover the basics, how to start one, how long it takes to light, etc.

    I use a standard Weber chimney, not because I'm a Weber fanboy but because they are arguably the most user friendly ones on the market, and very affordable. Any chimney will do, I also have a cheaper Kmart one. It is not as user friendly, but it does work just fine.

    Here I'm using a full load, which last time I counted was about 82 briquets when just dumping them in from the bag. Figure 80-90 average, using Kingsford blue bag (original). Don't use match light. Ever.

    To start you can use a lighter cube if you want, or you can use paper. Any paper. Many people use newspaper, I've used old buyer's guide papers, junk mail, etc.

    Lately I've switched to using old Kingsford bags, since I have plenty. They are 3 layers of paper. I rip off a decent sized chunk as shown here.
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    Then I'll separate the 3 layers and form loose balls.
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    Next, just shove it up under the bottom part of the chimney. Do this before you add the charcoal.
    DO NOT pack it tight. It lights better if it's a loose ball.

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    You can use anything you want to light the paper. I suspect most people will use a long lighter, which is what I also use. Here' I'm using a propane torch I keep nearby my smoker. Just light through the bottom holes, light a couple different spots around the perimeter for faster takeoff.

    Make sure you set the chimney on a flame-proof surface. here I'm using an old cabinet smoker I keep nearby my big smoker. You can use your grill. You can use your driveway. Just be safe whatever you do!

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    After a couple minutes when the paper is lighting, it's a grey smoke mess.
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    This is after 5 minutes, the paper is well lit and beginning to light the charcoal. The smoke becomes blue as the charcoal is lighting.
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    Here is 10 minutes after lighting. Still blue smoke. The coals are lit up to about the bottom third or half, as you can see from the holes. Wait until the blue smoke stops before using. This will be your signal!
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    Here is 15 min after lighting. Blue smoke gone. You can see heat waves coming off the top (but not in this picture). There will also be some flames poking up. Once the blue smoke stops your coals are ready!
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    Don't wait until the coals are completely "ashed over" or all grey when looking into the chimney, this wastes time and BTUs up into the air that are better spent warming up your grill or smoker. Use this rule for when you have a pile in your grill, but not for chimneys.

    Watch for the end of the blue smoke. As you can see in this pic, half of the coals ashed over (from the bottom of the chimney), but the top half aren't quite. It's ok, they're ready!

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    Caution: most regular sized grills do not need a full chimney. Usually only larger smokers need this much. A standard Weber grill is best setup in the Minion or snake/fuse method for long cooks. Or for a shorter bruger or steak cook, use maybe 15-20 coals. This is discussed at length in other threads.



    I hope this helps!

    #2
    I light a can of sterno and place the chimney over the sterno. Wait 5 minutes and pull the chimney off and close the lid on the sterno. No ashes, no mess. Have use the can of sterno (2 hour type) for 7-8 lights at least
    Got this technique from Harry Soo

    Comment


    • Beefchop
      Beefchop commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, I do this too and it's a lot cleaner than newspaper. The Weber paraffin cubes work well, but I've found that I have to set them on a ball of foil so they reach the coals.

    #3
    I've read of a few people using them. Seems quite efficient!

    Comment


      #4
      I like sterno tip. I have used newspaper, kingsford bags, and the weber starting blocks. I like the blocks best, but the sterno seemsto be a alternative. The thing I do not like about paper is the remaining ash

      Comment


        #5
        Nice write up man. Thank you.

        Comment


        • Huskee
          Huskee commented
          Editing a comment
          You're welcome, thank you!

        #6
        Originally posted by jmeier64 View Post
        I like sterno tip. I have used newspaper, kingsford bags, and the weber starting blocks. I like the blocks best, but the sterno seemsto be a alternative. The thing I do not like about paper is the remaining ash
        Yeah the ash from paper lighting is definitely a downside. Much worse if you live in a dry grassy windy area. I'm lucky enough to live in a slightly woodsy area and we're not too drought-ridden so I don't have much worry in that regard. The sterno can or the cubes (very cheap) would definitely be a great substitution for a lot of people.

        Comment


          #7
          I forgot to add to the main post above that I've also used a lighter fluid method. I pour roughly a single layer or slightly more of coals in the chimney, maybe 15-20 coals I don't know. Douse 'em with fluid, light. Let those burn until good & hot, ashed over. Then fill the chimney the rest of the way with fresh coals. Give it about 15 from then and you'er good to go.

          This method takes much longer since you in effect have to wait twice, but it eliminates ash from paper, and eliminates the dreaded lighter fluid fumes that so many are worrisome of. Best of both worlds at the cost of time.

          Comment


            #8
            did you say lighter fluid!!!!!!!?????? LOL If you were not the Moderator I'd kick you off the site j/k Actually I have also put a little veggie oil on the bags when lighting them just in case it is windy. I have noticed that the flame doesn't go out. I will have to try the sterno thought, that sounds cheaper than fireplace starters and stuff. Nice post.

            Comment


            • Huskee
              Huskee commented
              Editing a comment
              Ha! I just noticed your comment. I'll see if Pit Boss will let me stay on here, lol.

            #9
            Let us old retired farts have our 2 cents worth. I use paraffin and lint from the dryer stuffed into the paper type egg cartons. $2.16 worth of paraffin makes 24 cubes that burn 15-20 minutes. I use to light chimney or to light a 3 stick fire on my offset stick burner.

            Comment


            • 7pigfeathers7
              7pigfeathers7 commented
              Editing a comment
              As an ORF myself, I buy a 5-pack of candles at the $store to make 24 cubes. Saves a whopping $1.16. A bonus is they never blow out as newspaper can and no ash.

            #10
            I use lighter fluid a lot. Just not a lot of lighter fluid.

            Last edited by Jon Solberg; September 26, 2014, 06:01 AM.

            Comment


              #11
              I'm going to ask a stupid question. I would like to try those paraffin Weber Lighting Cubes with my chimney. I'm interested because I don't like the mess that the newspaper ash makes, since I'm now lighting that chimney on my PBC grate which is on a screened-in area of the deck. I saw a You Tube video where a guy lines the chimney with newspaper before pouring the charcoal in, puts the little Weber cube on the concrete, lights the Weber cube, puts the chimney over it and goes from there.

              Is that newspaper liner necessary?

              Kathryn
              Last edited by fzxdoc; September 26, 2014, 07:03 AM.

              Comment


              • cdd315
                cdd315 commented
                Editing a comment
                The newspaper isn't necessary if you have one of those lighter cubes. They also say to use two of them to light your chimney but really, only one is needed. Two would get you going faster but it seems a waste to me. I don't like the ash produced from newspaper either and have moved to using the cubes. Nice thing is that they don't blow out with wind .. providing you can get it started

              • prochu
                prochu commented
                Editing a comment
                I've been using the weber cubes recently and I use no newspaper at all. I don't get any delivered anymore so I don't have any on hand.
                I'm still cookin' though!

              • fzxdoc
                fzxdoc commented
                Editing a comment
                So I just put the cube on the grate, light it, put my chimney full of charcoal over it, and in 10 to 15 minutes I'll have some nice hot coals in the chimney? Is that the procedure?

                Thanks,

                Kathryn

              #12
              Kathryn, correct. Very simple. depending on how full your chimney is it could take a few minutes longer. using 2 shortens it just a bit, but using a blower of some sort will shorten even more.

              Comment


                #13
                Thanks, jmeier. I've used a gas grill for years and am pretty new to charcoal smoking/grilling. It's great to get the help here when I need it.

                Kathryn

                Comment


                • fzxdoc
                  fzxdoc commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Wow, I hadn't even thought about that, Craigar. Thanks for the great tip!

                  Kathryn

                • bbantel
                  bbantel commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I've been tempted to try the side burner on my Chargrill IR. Will I risk gunking up the burner for other uses?

                • PenskeFile
                  PenskeFile commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I'll second (or third...) the side burner approach. I picked up the idea a little while back from a YouTube video and have been doing it since. Even though my Weber Performer has the propane lighting system, I never have one of those little green bottles when I need it. The side burner lights that thing in no time flat.

                  No issues (yet) with gunking up the burner.

                #14
                I might try some cubes too just for kicks, they're dirt cheap on Amazon. But alas, what will I do with all those K-ford bags that build up?? If I do I'll document how they perform....

                Comment


                  #15
                  I had a COS with an infrared burner, those are the best starters ever. I really need a gas torch like that, my paper goes out before finishing probably 20% of the time.

                  Comment

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