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How to Start a Barbecue Fire with Charcoal

In this article, you will learn the exact steps to set up the perfect barbecue fire and get it going to cook your briskets, ribs, sausages, and more.

How would you like to cook your delicious barbeque low and slow in your smoker for hours, until the meat and vegetables are perfectly tender and mouth-wateringly good? Starting a barbecue (BBQ) fire with charcoal is a great start to having your delicious dinner ready to eat on the plate.

But you don’t need a specific smoker to do it, although it will definitely provide that indirect and temperature-controlled heat you’re looking for with the best barbecue tenderness.

You can set up a barbecuing situation using a charcoal grill – it could be a portable grill or one that’s built in and made of bricks.

In this article, you will learn the exact steps to set up the perfect barbecue fire and get it going to cook your briskets, ribs, sausages, and steaks.

What You Will Need

Time to get your equipment together. The first thing you’ll need are firelighters. These are small, solid fuel tablets that speed up and simplify the process of fire lighting. You can also use small tealight or votive candles. They are usually used to start the fire. On that note, you will also need regular matches or a special grill lighter.

To protect your hands, purchase some fire proof grill gloves that extend up your arms. It’s also helpful to use disposable gloves when picking up and placing charcoal, to prevent it from getting all over your hands. You will need a small amount of pure alcohol as a liquid to start the fire. A regular electric hair dryer is also useful, since it provides plenty of oxygen to stoke the fire and get it going.

Last but not least, you’ll need a bag of charcoal. You don’t need special charcoal on a barbecue grill. Some of you more advanced ‘pit masters’ may want some mesquite wood chips to add that smoky flavor.

Starting the BBQ Fire With Charcoal

Now, you’ll prepare the grill by lifting off the cooking grate to set aside. In the area in the bottom of the grill where you’ll put the charcoal, first place several firelighters around the area. Put on your disposable glove to keep from coming into contact with the charcoal dust. Pick up a few charcoal briquettes and place about 3 or four around each firelighter.

Then switch to your fireproof gloves. Strike a match and light the firelighters. You might want to use special grilling matches, which are extra-long and allow you to reach the firelighters between the charcoal.

Once the firelighters are lit, you can raise the fire to a hotter temperature and higher level by carefully sprinkling some alcohol on it. Only add a little bit at a time. Using a hair dryer on a low setting can also add plenty of oxygen to the young fire and make sure it feeds on the charcoal. Hold the hair dryer well away from the flames and pointing away from you.

Keep an eye on the fire and let it burn for about 15-20 minutes. Then you can spread the heated charcoal around, which by now should be an ashy gray color. Put the cooking grate back on, and you’re ready to continue using the grill or smoker for your barbecue.

In an Offset Smoker Firebox

You can certainly follow the above instructions to start a fire in an offset firebox that’s attached to a barbecue smoker. Some fireboxes have a removable metal interior box you can take out to put the firelighters and charcoal in before you put it back into the firebox. Since it’s a smaller area than a typical grill, you wouldn’t need to use the hair dryer.

Just begin by placing the firelighters or crumpled newspaper inside the firebox. Cover with charcoal, and light the firelighters. It’s even more crucial that you wear heavy grill gloves when dealing with smokers, because they’re designed for radiant heat. They get very, very hot!

After you get the fire started with the charcoal, you might want to add the mesquite wood chips or another type of wood chip to add that distinctive barbeque smoky flavor. In a firebox, it doesn’t take very long for the heat to build up and enter the main smoker chamber. So, you’d put your meat on the grill rack, close the lid, and let it cook low and slow for many hours.

Charcoal Fires

Starting a charcoal fire is a fairly easy and straightforward process. The coals will burn down after about an hour, so that’s when it’s time to either replenish them or close the lid and ensure they cool down.

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