How to light a barbecue

How to light a barbecue

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

9 guides

Want to have a barbecue but don't want to wait hours for it to fire up? Whether you're using charcoal or wood, we've got a range of tips to help you light your barbecue with ease. From traditional methods and chimney starters to more alternative solutions, read on to find the best way to light your barbecue!

Important features

  • Firelighters
  • Classic lighting method
  • The bottle method
  • Using a chimney starter
  • Lighting a wood-fired barbecue
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How to light a barbecue: the basics


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Hoping to light a charcoal barbecue? Of course you can always go down the classic route with paper, kindling and charcoal. But if you want to speed things up a bit you can choose from a range of other solutions. For a more unique approach you can try out the bottle method which involves using an old bottle to fashion a paper tower – of course you will have to remember to remove the bottle before you set the paper on fire! Alternatively, a chimney starter can guarantee results in just a few minutes.

When it comes to wood-fired barbecues, the process is a little trickier and involves a bit of waiting around for your logs to start glowing. But no matter which method you choose, you can make the process quicker and easier by using firelighters which come in several forms:

  • cubes;
  • wax-covered sticks
  • liquid or gel lighter fluid.

Lighting a charcoal bbq the old-fashioned way

There are plenty of ways to get a charcoal barbecue going. The most classic method requires the least amount of equipment but you'll need to wait around thirty minutes for the embers to heat up enough to start cooking.

  1. Place some crumpled up newspaper into the base of the barbecue.
  2. Arrange some kindling (from old crates, branches, etc.) into a teepee shape.
  3. Set the newspaper on fire.
  4. Once the kindling has started to burn, add a small amount of charcoal making sure not to suffocate the flames.
  5. Blow gently to encourage the charcoal to burn and add more as required.

Required equipment

  • Newspaper
  • Kindling
  • Matches or lighter
  • Charcoal

The bottle method

This method consists in creating a tower shape to encourage the air to flow around the charcoal which will help to accelerate things. That said, you'll still need to wait around twenty minutes before you start cooking.

  1. Roll several strips of newspaper around the base of a bottle; it doesn't matter whether you use a plastic or glass bottle.
  2. Place the bottle in the middle of the barbecue.
  3. Pile up charcoal all around the bottle.
  4. Carefully lift the bottle out but make sure that the paper holds its shape in the barbecue.
  5. Light the base of the paper structure and place a rolled up ball of newspaper or a firelighter in the centre of the tower.

Required tools

  • Newspaper
  • Bottle
  • Matches or lighter
  • Charcoal

Using a chimney starter

Using a chimney starter to light your barbecue much faster and easier than other methods. You'll only need to wait around fifteen minutes for your charcoal to reach cooking temperature.

  1. Place one or two firelighters onto the barbecue grate. Light the firelighters.
  2. Fill your chimney starter with charcoal and position it over the firelighters.
  3. After fifteen minutes, your coals will be hot enough to cook on. All that's left to do is to pour them into the barbecue. Give your grate a quick scrub with a heatproof utensil and start cooking!

Required tools

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How to light a wood-fired bbq


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While wood is the most natural option and will impart the most flavour to your food, it's also the trickiest material to work with. You'll need to wait around thirty minutes before you can start cooking.

  1. Place balled up newspaper into the base of the barbecue.
  2. Pile up your kindling into a teepee shape.
  3. Light the newspaper.
  4. Once the kindling has started to burn, carefully add on a few logs.
  5. Blow gently to encourage burning. As soon as the flames disappear, you can start cooking.

Required tools

  • Newspaper
  • Kindling
  • Matches or lighter
  • Logs

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Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford, 9 guides

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

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