A chimney starter is a useful accessory if you have a charcoal grill but hate struggling to get the coals burning evenly, and dislike the taste of lighter fluid. I would always get frustrated trying to start our charcoal grill, and usually ended up dowsing all the charcoal in lighter fluid and creating a massive fireball. Of course, then all the food gets that acrid lighter fluid taste. With our new panini press chimney starter, it’s quick and easy to start the charcoal grill, and no lighter fluid is required.

Assembly of Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter Equipment

The first step in using a charcoal grill chimney starter is to assemble all the necessary equipment. Obviously, you need the chimney starter as well as the charcoal grill. You also need charcoal (duh) and a lighter. Tongs or a poker are useful for manipulating the coals once they’re hot. Lastly, you need two or three sheets of newspaper. Notice, no lighter fluid required. This is a good thing.

Preparation of Panini Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter

Next you must prepare your chimney starter, charcoal grill, and other equipment.

Take the top and the grilling screen off the charcoal grill and set them aside, as you would normally to load the charcoal.

Crumple and twist the newspapers into rings, so they’re shaped liked donuts about the size of the chimney starter.

Slide the newspapers into the bottom of the chimney starter. The bottom is the section of the chimney starter with holes. The goal with the newspaper is to slide them in as doughnuts, so that a central space remains open. This will help promote the “chimney” action for which the chimney starter is named. As the newspapers start to burn, air will continue to move up the center of them, pushing the flames up through this corridor. You can try just crumpling the newspaper and shoving them into the bottom of the chimney starter, but I find it’s more efficient to use the ring-shaped sheets. Also, don’t use too much newspaper. It’s important that air be able to move through the sheets, so loosely crumpling a few pages is better than stuffing in an entire Sunday Times.

Place the chimney starter, newspapers now loaded, onto your charcoal grill. The section with holes and filled with newspapers should rest on the bottom screen of your charcoal grill, where you usually load the charcoal.

Dump the desired amount of charcoal into the top section of the chimney starter. I have a very small grill and usually only cook a few items at a time, so filling my chimney starter half-full is sufficient. For larger charcoal grills or more barbecuing, you might need to fill your chimney starter higher.

Firing Up the Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter

Now you’re ready to get started.

Light the newspapers through the holes around the bottom of the chimney starter. I usually try to get all the holes going at once to decrease the chances of it going out, but if you’re confident the flames will catch you can do it with just one match or light.

Stand back and wait. The chimney starter will begin to smoke ferociously. If you’ve loaded the newspapers correctly, the flames will be pulled up through the chimney starter and begin igniting the charcoal.

Once the newspaper has burned off (usually two or three minutes) the smoke will begin to peter out. Beware of burning pieces of paper at this point. If everything is going according to plan, some of the charcoal at the bottom of the starter should be glowing red and beginning to ash over (turn white).

Wait another ten or fifteen minutes (longer if you have more coals). Once the charcoal at the top of the chimney starter has begun to ash over, and most of the charcoal is almost completely white, the coals are ready.

Be very careful as you turn the chimney starter over and drop the burning coals into the charcoal grill. The sides of the chimney starter and the coals themselves are extremely hot. There also might be pieces of burning paper caught up in the base of the chimney starter. Be aware of what you’re doing. After you dump out the coals, the chimney starter should cool very quickly but at first it’ll be extremely hot, so put it somewhere people won’t accidentally bump it.

Once the coals are in the charcoal grill, spread them evenly using tongs or a poker and replace the grilling screen.

Now you are ready to grill, without using lighter fluid. This whole process usually takes about fifteen minutes for me, though your time will vary depending on the amount of charcoal and the size of your chimney starter. This is the best way to do it, honestly if you went with a restaurant sandwich press you’ll probably spend less time but a charcoal grill is a awesome selling point.