How to Light a Charcoal BBQ

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Stack your briquettes in a pyramid shape to get your barbecue started.
Stack your briquettes in a pyramid shape to get your barbecue started. (Image: bbq image by Alison Bowden from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Whether you're lighting a charcoal barbecue for the first time or have had poor results in the past, using a few simple lighting techniques will ensure a successful bed of coals for cooking. One of the most common mistakes when lighting charcoal briquettes is not stacking them properly so they are evenly lit. The key is shaping the charcoal in a way that properly ventilates the briquettes so they catch fire and burn evenly.

Things You'll Need

  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Lighter fluid
  • Measuring cup
  • Long matches or long-nosed butane lighter
  • Stainless-steel fire tongs

Remove the cooking grill from your barbecue. Count 30 charcoal briquettes for every pound of meat you plan to cook. The 30 briquettes weigh about a pound.

Place the briquettes in the bottom of your barbecue or on the lower grill if your barbecue has one for holding charcoal. Stack the briquettes roughly in the shape of a pyramid.

Pour lighter fluid slowly over the briquettes, coating them evenly. Use ¼ cup of lighter fluid for every pound of briquettes. Let the briquettes soak for about a minute.

Light the charcoal at the bottom of the pyramid using a long match or a long-nosed butane lighter. After about 30 minutes, the briquettes will be covered in gray ash and will give off a dull-orange glow.

Spread the briquettes in an even layer on the bottom of the barbecue, using stainless-steel fire tongs. Place the cooking grill back on the barbecue.

Tips & Warnings

  • To add a smoky wood flavor to your meat, use hickory or mesquite briquettes.
  • Never stand directly over the briquettes when lighting them.

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