Grilling Tips – Firing Up the Charcoal Grill

Lighter Fluid – Used for Charcoal Grills

Made with liquid butane, lighter fluid ignites easily and speeds the combustion of charcoal. Some charcoal is impregnated with a form of lighter fluid so that you don’t have to squirt it on. We prefer not to use lighter fluid or impregnated charcoal because petroleum products can lend an off flavor to foods. But the truth is that if you use lighter fluid carefully, squirting it only onto your fuel source, the petroleum will burn off by the time the coals are ready. We resort to lighter fluid only for large mounds of coals in big grills. If you use it, be careful not to squirt any on the sides of your grill because petroleum fumes will burn off more slowly there and may give your food a distasteful aroma.

Long Stem Lighter

Another form of contained butane, long stem butane lighters make it easy to light wood fires and chimney starters full of coals. Keep at least one on hand for easy fire-starting.

Chimney Starter

Resembling a big, perforated coffee can, a chimney starter makes charcoal grilling incredibly easy without the need to resort to lighter fluid. The starter allows the coals to ignite quickly (15 to 20 minutes) due to the upward draft of oxygen.

Paraffin Lighter Cubes

Resembling white ice cubes or big white dice with no dots, these fire starters can be used instead of paper to light a wood fire, pyramid of coals, or chimney starter full of coals. They leave no aftertaste.

Sawdust Starter

Like paraffin cubes, compressed blocks of sawdust make convenient fire starters for wood and charcoal fires. They look somewhat like small blocks of particle board.

Electric Coal Starter

Plug this fire starter into an outlet (with an extension cord if necessary), and then plunge it into the center of a mound of coals. The electric heating coil will ignite the coals in about the same time it takes to use a chimney starter.

Heat Diffuser

These don’t ignite a fire, but they do spread out the heat and reduce hot and cold spots so that food cooks more evenly. Heat diffusers are used mostly in gas grills above the burner tubes, and they typically come in the form of lava stones, ceramic briquettes, or metal bars. Ceramic briquettes are available with small bits of wood infused into the ceramic to impart a wood smoke flavor to foods cooked on a gas grill.

Gas Grills – Important Information to know

All gas grills work a little differently, so follow the manufacturer’s
instructions for safe setup and use. If your grill catches fire, turn off the burner valves and the gas supply. If the fire is anywhere near the fuel source (propane or natural gas), evacuate the area and call the fire department. For other grill safety information, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

They have a grill safety fact sheet available online at