How to Light a Charcoal Grill. | Get your grill started in seconds with this easy tip.

Many moons and episodes of Jersey Shore ago, my ex-boyfriend bought me a smoker.

It’s the sort of thing not every gal would want for her birthday, but I did, so he got a special treat that night.  Wink, wink.  Nudge, Nudge.  Yup.  Jello.

He got jello with whipped cream the year he bought me a snowblower.

This particular smoker he bought used, off of a champion BBQ guy.    It was a fluke really.  My fella was looking in various stores and on Kijiji and Craiglist for a smoker and came across Mike Callaghan’s listing for a Bayou Classic Smoker.  Of course he didn’t list the smoker as “The Smoker of a Champion BBQ guy …” .  He just listed it as “a smoker”.  We found out the “Champion” part upon picking it up.

Turns out Mike “Big Dog” Callaghan is serious about his smoking. He’s the 3 time undefeated National Chili Champion and his team The Black Pig BBQ team have won countless awards in your BBQ staple categories like ribs and brisket and chicken.  Did you read that last one as children?  I did during my proof read of this post.   Anyhow … in the months since I got the smoker Mike’s been incredibly helpful and patient with me and my questions.  Plus he’s offered up some info without my even asking for it.

I think he’s a BBQ psychic, which of course is the very best kind of psychic to be.  Would you rather be able to predict natural disasters and death, or where in the neighbourhood the best pulled pork was being cooked?

One of the greatest tips he’s ever given me was something he probably doesn’t even realize I’ve come to cherish.  Yes.  Cherish.  Like your childhood blankie, or my very first set of tools.

It’s how to quickly light a charcoal BBQ.

Observe …  (even if you don’t have sound, ’cause you’re reading my website and watching my videos at work when you’re supposed to be … well, working … you’ll get the gist of the technique)

LIghting BBQ


How to quickly light a charcoal BBQ without using a can or chimney.

Please note I’m using “lump charcoal”. It’s 100% wood, as opposed to the briquettes you often see which are part wood and part filler which are then compressed into lumps. Lump charcoal does light more easily than briquettes, but it also burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes. You have to fiddle a bit more in terms of temperature because lump charcoal burns less evenly than briquettes. It’s slightly more expensive than briquettes but if you’re serious about BBQing, lump is the way to go.

Tune in later next week to find out how to remove vegetable oil from your patio.  Seriously.



  1. Johnny Don't! says:

    You know, while I really appreciate how calmly you handled the oil top popping off (I only heard a few bleeps, which is FAR less than I would have needed), I think you’d get a lot more views if you went all “Angry Grandpa” when shit goes wrong. Just sayin’!

  2. S Lloyd says:

    Lol, that was funny. Love charcoal, way better than gaz since it calls for instinct, grilling skills and understanding.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks S Lloyd – It *absolutely* calls for instinct. If you can cook on a smoker, (a real smoker) you can cook on anything! ~ karen

  3. Shauna says:

    I’m finally at home able to watch your videos and was looking for this one specifically. naturally, I went directly to your videos link. While searching for this post in your videos link, I’ve wast-no, enjoyed the past hour of watching your other videos. I then smartly gave up and just searched for BBQ. Just so you know, this post needs to be added to your videos link:)

  4. Amy in StL says:

    I’ve switched over to the paper towels that are “adjustable size”. Which just means they have twice as many perfs; but they never seem to tear crooked. I’ll have to try this method at home, I’ve been wanting some flame cooked burgers lately.

    • Karen says:

      Amy – LOL. Those ARE the paper towels that are adjustable size. I think how well they tear just depends on the brand. I tend to buy whichever ones are half price! ~ karen

  5. Donna says:

    sh*t… have a great backyard, an awesome coop, an egg smoker (love it) and a guy that buys you things like snowblowers?? Buy a lotto ticket Karen……did I mention how much you make me laugh? Cause you are the winner. And if you are EVER looking for a road trip for a project have I got a doozy for you in my backyard. Just saying…..

  6. kelliblue says:

    Jello, huh? Interesting figure of speech. ;)

    And ‘jello’ with whipped cream?

    Oh, it makes the mind spin… LOL

  7. Susan says:

    OMG EVERYTHING you do is funny! (Well, to us anyway.) Maybe a little tip here (as a mother, I can’t refrain) pour the oil on the towel OVER the charcoal. I’ll be glad to learn how to get it off the cement….
    I LOVE YOU!!

    • Karen says:

      Susan – LOL, yeah this thing where the spout falls out of the bottle just started occurring. My bf warned me about it, but I’d forgotten. ~ karen

  8. Jules says:

    so no video of you giving your fella the jello and whipped cream huh? Very dissapointing..hehehe. Thanks for this..awesome! Yes I am working, on a conf call now, reading your the hell else would I make it through the work day???


  9. Beth says:

    My husband lights our grill with a propane torch. No, I’m not kidding. He puts the charcoal in, lights the torch, sticks it through a vent in the bottom of the grill under the charcoal, and walks away. It actually works really well, but goodness. Nothing says ‘redneck’ like attending one of our cookouts.

  10. Marie says:

    Wonderful tip and I highly recommend that folks turn on the sound, even at work. This lighting method isn’t as smokey as the newspaper in the chimney method that I’ve been using. I like the way you march right over to the smoker, no stopping to pick up a hairball that the cat left or straighten a pillow or anything at all! (Your fixing the screen door post is my favorite because I can relate to it so well.)

    • Karen says:

      Marie – LOL. I was in a fit to get the video done quickly because I knew I needed to get the smoker going for the ribs and tomatoes (for soup) to be done for dinner! :) ~ karen

  11. Claudine says:

    That was fun and educational! Thanks Karen.

  12. lori says:

    Thanks for the great new way to light charcoal!!!!!
    now I have a question for you… what kind of charcoal are you using??? I have not seen charcoal that is not in a square shape. thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lori – It’s lump charcoal. Which I must admit lights much mor easily than the briquettes. Lump charcoal is 100% natural wood, while briquettes are part wood charcoal and part filler which is then compressed. You can use lump charcoal in place of briquettes in any smoker or kettle type BBQ. Lump burns faster and hotter, plus it lights easier. Plus, as I said there are no fillers so you aren’t burning anything but natural wood into your food. It is a bit more expensive though. ~ karen

  13. marti says:

    That beats the heck out of the times I’ve nearly blown my eyebrows off with lighter fluid.

    (Seriously, when you spilled the oil, I figured you were going to light your toenails and do a new version of the “flame dance,” so I’m glad it worked out.)

  14. Allison says:

    ever tried a charcoal chimney?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Allison – Yes, when I had a Weber BBQ I used a charcoal chimney for years. Actually, I didn’t buy a chimney I just used a large coffee can. I’ve used both methods and the paper towel and vegetable oil is 100X easier. :) ~ karen

  15. marilyn says:

    lmao karen glad i’m not the only one these things happen to.

  16. Farquist says:

    I couldn’t hear you because of all those crazy Ontario bugs making noise… and all the beeping.

  17. I can’t believe that I actually needed the lesson, but I learnt a new way, which I will try the next time I do a barbecue. Very funny Karen, was it planned to go wrong?

    • Karen says:

      Perfecting Pru – No. It was not planned to go wrong. I do not “set anything up”. I’ve semi retired from television because I refuse to do things that are “set up”. And trust me … television pays a lot more than blogging. ;) ~ karen

  18. Julie shinnick says:

    awww wished you left the swearing in!! lol

  19. Evelyn says:

    That was awesome! Normally I just stand there swearing with cold charcoals, so actually getting them lit would be a huge upgrade. By the way, I love your blog and your writing style.

  20. Centi says:

    I actually did read “children”. I wonder if there’s a deeper meaning in that.

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