How to start a charcoal bbq or food smoker the easiest way- eco firelighters or bbq starter chimney?

Finally it’s bbq time, and more specifically it is charcoal bbq time (or food smoker if you are really pro) 😀 Welcome to my team. I absolutely love a charcoal bbq and getting a charcoal bbq started used to be quite a challenge but fortunately as I’ve been doing bbq with charcoal for so long I have developed several methods that work incredibly well ranging from the use of BBQ eco firelighters to tiring up charcoal in a bbq starter and even a few methods in between!

So the best place to start is my preferred method which is relatively low on smoke and involves eco firelighters in conjunction with a few bits of timber (which I favour considerably over the chemical type these days).

Starting a charcoal bbq with eco firelighters, cardboard, and a few scraps of timber.

Hear me out on this method. 🙂 I always place my charcoal directly ON TOP of the grill. Yes, you read that right. Not only does it serve to clean my grill (in conjunction with my grill brush from my bbq tool set) it gives the much need air for your fire to breathe and really go up fast.

flames really picking up and guaranteed to get a charcoal bbq started easily with this method

Place folded and crushed cardboard under the bbq in the grill. This needs to be plentiful. If you take a look at my picture you’ll see I use my old fosters can packing and just about anything I can find laying around the house. It also helps me clean up a bit too! Then I grab a couple of off cuts of timber (I do carpentry in the shed from time to time) so a few bits of wood are always laying around. If you don’t have this then throughly dried out or well split logs will make all the difference too!

With your charcoal placed on top of the grill place a few eco firelighters in amongst the charcoal. Then set your eco firelighters alight and the same goes for the cardboard and offcuts of wood below. What you’ll be shocked by is just how powerful a bbq on top of the grill can be! It’s probably one of the best ways to get a fire going with minimal investment. I probably only use in the region of 6 or 7 eco firelighters so a pack will last me a good couple of months and that’s when I have a bbq in the garden a couple of times a week minimum.


You could substitute the eco firelighters for more timber but I actually thing the two prong attack works the best and reduces the net resources I use to efficiently get a bbq going.

If you take a look at the picture below you can see just how intense the flames are and the result is charcoal that then burns consistently all the way through and this is how I charcoal grill my steaks to perfection every single time. The trick is having that consistent high temperature that allows you to understand you meat cooking times and process.

I mentioned briefly you could substitute out the firelighters for more wood so let’s look at that method next

Start a bbq with kindling wood and a few split logs + newspaper.

If you look at the picture below you’ll see I am actually just using this method to complete clean my grill. If you want to have a clean grill the most important thing you can do is have naked flames cook off anything first. This can then be easily removed with a grill brush. So the process is pretty simple actually in this method and must like lighting a traditional fire.

Lay in as much newspaper as you can possibly find. I use at least one newspaper to get this method going always. You then place on a good amount of kindling. I would say I use at least 20/30 little bits of kindling wood that I split down from logs. You can use an electric log splitter or petrol log splitter if you have one. I actually prefer a cheaper manual log splitter or a little axe as they weigh much less to move around the garden or to my log piles. This is how I use my fire pit too and easily the most natural method of all the ones I highlight in this guide.

Get your fire raging and really clean off the griddle

From here my preference is to split half logs and even smaller still. You can pick as you like but I don’t want to go too small as I like having a decent lump of wood that slowly burns down and gives me a reasonably steady temperature to cook on. Amazingly using this method I don’t even need charcoal but of course the trade off is you have burnt logs! I would still say that it is considerably cheaper than charcoal but doesn’t come with the need to keep multiple fuel sources. You can even make your own charcoal from logs which is an interesting process that’ll I’ll document at some point going into the summer no doubt!

Use plain old firelighters to get the bbq going – best method for camping or if you need compact

My least favoured method is using just firelighters. This is because I don’t like the chemical firelighters and eco firelighters alone (unless you use tons of them) don’t have enough oomph to stop a bbq from smoking. However, if you like just having a couple of bags under the grill or your using a portable charcoal bbq or portable fire pit then this method is almost certainly going to be favourable for you as it requires the least amount of equipment.

Simply place your charcoal ON the grill again. Yes on top is absolutely fine as we will clean down as mentioned in the first method. Then place a generous amount of firelighters as deeply as you can inside the pile and then light them up! This is get charcoal going pretty easily but it’ll smoke for a while. The more flame, the less smoke it really is that simple!

bbq starter chimney are easy too

The final way I would get a charcoal bbq going is to use a bbq starter chimney. They are a super little electrical gadget that will essentially heat up your charcoal and get a bbq going with no grief at all. Simply place your charcoal in the starter and keep going with it until it is alight. Please this charcoal in the bbq gently and then pile up some more charcoal on top. This method will take nice and steady but the biggest problem is you’ll still get a little smoke.

Bbq starters are very easy to use

That covers us with plenty of methods on how to start a charcoal bbq and I expect that you’ll be having a good bbq this afternoon!

About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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