The Almighty Charcoal Chimney
If I had to pick one grillin’ tool to stand above all others, the charcoal chimney would reign king, yet I’m still surprised by how many people are a stranger to this simple invention. Perhaps it’s the popularity and ease of gas grills that’s started to detach modern grillers from the tricks of cooking over coal. Well, not this guy. I’ll take coal over propane any day. The flavor is arguable. The fun is not.
In short, a chimney is the easiest, most efficient way to get your charcoal lit quickly and evenly. The cylindrical, vented design allows for a uniform flow of air to rapidly reach all the briquets. Once lit, you’ll have a perfect batch of hot coals in 10-12 minutes which beats building charcoal pyramids or using the inferior and all too often seen electric charcoal starter wands. A true grill wizard uses a chimney.
How to use a charcoal chimney:
- Load up the chimney with your favorite type of charcoal. I use either original Kingsford briquets or a hardwood lump charcoal.
- Place the chimney on a surface safe for lighting. This could be some bricks capable of handling high heat or directly on your grill grate. I prefer resting the chimney directly on the lower grate. This keeps the cooking grate easy to handle when dumping your coals and protects the newspaper from potential windy situations. Do not place your chimney on regular concrete. The temperature can get extremely high and may cause certain types of concrete to explode.
- Light the chimney. My favorite starting method is either newspaper or paraffin cubes. I’m prone to paraffin more often because it’s reliable and I seldom get my news via good old fashioned ink and trees, so there’s nary a chance I’ve got newspaper around. Place the newspaper or paraffin under the charcoal-filled chimney and light with a long match or long handled butane lighter. Make sure the chimney is resting firmly in place and wait for your coals to heat up!
- After about 10 minutes you should see a deep orange glow coming from within the chimney. Once you see the top charcoals just start to ash over, you’re ready to go. Put on a good grillin’ mitt and grab the handle of the chimney. Be careful, it’s going to be extremely hot. Gently pour out the coals on the lower grate. Be sure to leave a portion of the lower grate free of coals so you have a safety area with indirect heat.
- Replace the top grate and wait a couple minutes for it to preheat before you start cooking. After that, you’re good to go! A perfectly lit bed of coals in no time.
That’s it! Chimney starters are simply the best way to get your charcoal fire going. If you don’t have one, get one, and just watch how quickly your neighbor comes over and asks what the heck it is.