How-To: Light a Grill the Right Way
How to Light a Grill
Grilling is one of the quintessential ways to cook food in the summer. Grilling outdoors can let you achieve high heat and impart a smoky flavor that is difficult to replicate while cooking indoors. Whether you use a charcoal grill or a gas grill, you will need to know how to get your grill ready for cooking.
Preparing and Working Safely
Practice fire safety.Whenever working with open flames, it’s important to take precautions. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby when you’re grilling. If you’re using a propane grill, check for any leaks and ensure that any tubes and fittings are secure.
Gather your tools.Whatever kind of grill you have, there are a few essential tools you’ll need to get your grill started.
- Tongs. You’ll need these to spread the coal around.
- Long matches or a grill lighter. If you don’t have long matches, you can light a piece of paper with a small match and use it to light the coals.
- Oven mitts.
Clean the grill.Remove all ash and grease from your grill, scrubbing with a grill brush to remove any burnt-on fats. Wipe down the cleaned grate with cooking oil.
- If you’re working with a gas grill, heat it up before cleaning. Then use a grill brush to scrape off the loosened food and debris.
- Cooking with a dirty grill can impart unpleasant flavors to your food.
- If you don’t have a grill brush, any metal-bristled brush will work.
Open the vents if you’re using a charcoal grill.Charcoal grills have vents on the bottom of the grill. These vents allow air to enter the grill and stoke the fire. Opening the vents will make it easier to light the charcoal.
- The vent will usually be a circular disk on the bottom of the grill that you can twist to open the air holes.
Lighting a Charcoal Grill Without a Chimney Starter
Pour the charcoal into the grill.The amount of charcoal will vary based on the size of your grill, but a good rule of thumb to follow is to add enough to form two layers on the bottom of the grill. Once you've added enough, stack the charcoal into a cone or pyramid shape in the center of the grill.
Soak the coals with lighter fluid if necessary.Check your bag of coals to see if they require lighter fluid or if they are pre-treated. If they require lighter fluid, carefully pour it onto the cone of coals, focusing on the center. The amount of lighter fluid you should use will vary, but a good approximation is adding 1/4 cup (60 ml) of fluid per 1 lb. (450 g) of charcoal.
- If your coals are pre-treated with lighter fluid, you don’t need to add additional lighter fluid.
- Allow the lighter fluid to soak into the coals for approximately thirty minutes before lighting.
Light the coals.Use long fireplace matches to light the cone. Light several areas of the coals to ensure that the fire takes to the whole pile.
- You can discard the matches directly into the grill if desired. Allow the coals to burn until they are all grayish-white on the surface.
Spread the coals evenly across the bottom of the grill.Use a long-handled instrument, such as a pair of tongs. Put the grate into place and close the grill’s lid. Let the coals burn until the edges turn grey. This should take about five-to-ten minutes.
Lighting a Charcoal Grill With a Chimney Starter
Pack charcoal into a chimney starter.Place the chimney starter on the open grill. Most chimney starters will hold approximately one-hundred coals. How much charcoal you need will depend on how hot your want your grill. For high heat, fill the chimney. For medium heat, fill it halfway. For low heat, fill it one-quarter full.
Add newspaper to the chimney starter.Your chimney starter has a spot on the bottom to add paper. Fill the space with one or two pieces of paper. Any kind of paper works. For example, if you have old newspapers lying around you can use them to start your chimney.
- You don’t need to add lighter fluid to the charcoal when you use a chimney starter.
Light the paper.Use a long match or lighter to set the paper alight. Light it on several spots to ensure the fire spreads. As the paper burns, it will ignite the charcoal in your chimney.
- Watch the coals to make sure they begin to turn grey. If not, light another piece of paper under your chimney.
Pour out the coals.When most of the coals are grey and you start to see flames on top of your chimney, pour the coals out into your grill. Spread the coals evenly across the bottom of the grill with a long-handled instrument, such as a pair of tongs.
Lighting a Gas Grill
Ensure that the propane tank is filled and connected properly.The fitting for the hoses should be tight and you shouldn’t smell gas leaking out. Most propane tanks have a gauge that tells you when they need to be refilled. Refer to your grill’s user manual to make sure that your fuel tank is connected securely and has enough propane in it to cook with.
Open the valve on your gas tank.Slowly turn the valve until it is fully open to release the gas. Leave it open for approximately one minute to allow the gas to travel through the fuel line.
Open the first burner.Using the knob on the front of the grill, turn the first burner to the “High/Start” setting. This will allow the propane to begin flowing through this burner.
Ignite the burner.After allowing the propane to flow through the burner, press the igniter button on the front of your grill to ignite the gas from that burner.
- If the igniter button does not work, light the burner manually by holding a lit match against it with the gas on. Turn on the gas and hold a match near the ignition burner. Turn the knob to “High/Start.” The burner should ignite.
- If the burner does not ignite with the button or a match within ten seconds, turn off the gas and wait a few minutes before trying again. Leaving the gas on can lead to propane accumulating dangerously in the air.
Open and ignite the remaining burners.Turn the knob for each burner to the “High/Start” position. It’s likely that the new burners will ignite on their own from the fire of the first burner. If not, press the igniter button again or light the burners with a long match.
Leave the burners on the “High” setting and close the grill’s lid.Allow the grill to heat up for at least five minutes before cooking anything.
QuestionDo I need to make sure the propane tank underneath the grill is completely turned all the way on in order to light the propane grill?Top AnswererIt's always a good idea to open the propane tank fully and let the grill regulate the flame.Thanks!
To light a charcoal grill, start by removing grease and burnt-on fats by scrubbing the grill with a metal-bristle brush. Next, open the vents at the bottom to make lighting easier. If your grill doesn’t have a chimney starter, pour charcoal into the grill, and stack it in a cone shape in the middle before adding a bit of lighter fluid to the bricks. If you have a chimney starter, add charcoal to the starter, place rolled-up newspaper in the holes near the bottom and light them on fire with a match or lighter.
Video: How to light Charcoal - Charcoal 101 #1 (using lighter fluid) -
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