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

6 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 classic methods to chimney starters and alternative solutions, read on to find the best way to start your barbecue.

Important features

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


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When lighting a charcoal barbecue, you can of course go down the classic route with paper, kindling and charcoal.

But if you prefer to speed things up, you have a range of options. For example, you can use the bottle method to fashion a paper tower. Alternatively, why not purchase a chimney starter to guarantee results in just a few minutes?

When it comes to wood-fired barbecues, the process becomes a little more difficult as you have to wait for your logs to start glowing.

No matter which method you choose, you can simplify things by using firelighters, which come in one of several forms:

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

Lighting a charcoal barbecue the traditional way

There are plenty of ways to light a charcoal barbecue quickly and easily. The most classic method will require the least amount of equipment. 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 kind of teepee shape.
  3. Set the newspaper on fire.
  4. Once the kindling has started to burn, add on 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 tools

  • Newspaper
  • Kindling
  • Matches or lighter
  • Charcoal

The bottle method

This method consists in creating a tower shape in order to encourage air inflow around the charcoal and encourage it to start burning. You'll need to wait around twenty minutes before you start cooking.

  1. Roll several strips of newspaper around 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 making sure that the paper keeps its shape in the barbecue.
  5. Light the base of the paper structure and place a rolled up ball of newspaper or firelighter in the centre of the tower.

Required tools


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  • Newspaper
  • Bottle
  • Matches or lighter
  • Charcoal

Using a chimney starter

Using a chimney starter to light your barbecue is a much faster and easier method. 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 clean and start cooking!

Required tools


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Barbecue lighters

How to light a wood-fired bbq

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.


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  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

Shop our barbecue lighters

Guide written by:

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford, 6 guides

Jenny, construction and gardening writer, Oxford

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