How To Use A Chimney Starter

How To Use A Chimney Starter

Before I began working at Weber there was only one way I knew of to light charcoal. Make a big pile in the center of the grill, soak it in lighter fluid, and light it up.  I think that’s how most charcoal grillers start out, but not only is lighter fluid pretty dangerous stuff; it can also leave a nasty flavor on food.
Once I started at Weber, I learned about the Rapidfire® Chimney Starter, bought one, and have never used lighter fluid again.

Chimney Starter with Charcoal

So how do they work, and why are they so great?

First of all, the RapidFire Chimney Starter has a very simple design. It’s basically a hollow metal cylinder with holes on both ends, a small wire grate inside, and a set of handles to hold the starter and to pour the charcoal.

Using one couldn’t be easier. You can use either newspaper or lighter cubes to get the coals going. Newspaper works great, but nothing beats a lighter cube. They even work in the rain! I prefer to use two at a time to get the coals burning even faster.

You’ll need to take out the cooking grate from your grill.  Then, fill your Chimney Starter all the way to the top with charcoal (you can use less if you aren’t cooking as much food). Set the lighter cubes on the charcoal grate and light them.

Lighter Cubes on Grates

Then you’ll need to set the Chimney Starter directly on top of the lighter cubes, on the charcoal grate.
Chimney Starter on Original Kettle Grill

The fire from the cubes will begin burning the charcoal and the flames will grow upwards from there.

Chimney Starter on Original Kettle Grill

Depending on weather conditions, in about 10 to 15 minutes the coals should be sufficiently lit to pour into the grill. You’ll know the coals are ready when the ones on top have started to turn a bit gray with ash.

Now it’s time to pour the coals onto the charcoal grate, and arrange them based on whether you are going to cook over direct or indirect heat.

Pouring Charcoal Out of the Chimney Starter

Once the burning coals have been arranged to your liking, set the cooking grate back into place, put the lid on, and once the grill has heated up sufficiently you’ll be all set to cook. It should take about 10 to 15 minutes to reach 500 to 550F, at which point the grill is considered pre-heated.  Now, adjust your lid and bowl dampers to achieve the cooking temperature you desire.

 Also, remember to put that Chimney Starter somewhere safe once you’ve poured the coals into the grill, you don’t want pets or guests bumping into it while it’s still hot.

For those of you with a Weber Performer (with gas assisted electronic ignition) the Chimney Starter can be used in conjunction with the Touch and Go™ electronic ignition system to get the coals going even faster. To do so, all the previously mentioned instructions apply, just make sure the Chimney Starter is placed directly above the burner tube, and follow the Touch and Go electronic ignition instructions.

Charcoal in Char Baskets

Not too long ago, Weber came out with a compact version of the Chimney Starter that works great with our smaller charcoal grills, like the Smokey Joe. It makes a perfect addition to anyone’s list of tailgating supplies.

Simply put, nothing gets coals burning faster and more evenly than a Rapidfire Chimney Starter. I’ve gotten a real kick out of watching my friend’s faces when they’ve seen me use it in front of them for the first time, and they always tell me that they are going to get one before the next time they grill. As for myself, there hasn’t been a single day when I’ve missed using lighter fluid.

What are your thoughts? (4)


lynne s

My starter came with a long metal hook. What is this used for?


John Burns

Hi Lynne! That long metal hook is a match stick holder for manually lighting your grill in case there’s a problem with your igniter. Check out my other blog on that topic here.
Thanks! John


Kathy M

Can you start real wood blocks with the chimney? Not charcoal , or charcoal wood blocks.



John Burns

Hi Kat! We don’t recommend using wood in our Chimney Starters. Adding wood to coals once they have been placed onto the charcoal grate of the smoker or kettle is perfectly fine. Thanks! John


t k

I have been using a similar device for over 50 years. I too do not like to flavor my meat with diesel. It seems Plain newsprint is becomeing a little harder to obtain and I do not use any colored printed paper such as adverts etc found in many newspapers due to their toxic content (Wall Street Journal used to be the best).


John Burns

Hi Terry, Nothing ruins a barbecue faster than biting down into a juicy steak or burger and finding out it tastes like fuel! I too have found that newspaper is harder to come by these days. You make a great point about avoiding using paper with lots of colored advertisements. While I’m not an expert on what affect it could have on anyone’s health or food, those green flames it makes when it burns sure are not natural, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Sticking with simple newspaper is a good idea. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried our Fire Starter cubes, but they work great, are non-toxic, inexpensive and even work in the rain! Plus they don’t leave your hands covered in newspaper ink!
Thanks, John Burns


travis n

Definitely the best way light the coals. These are the best accessory. Actually it should just be sold with all kettles, that way people stop using lighter fluid.


John Burns

I agree, it’s the best way to light the grill! Life’s better without any lighter fluid!


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