What’s the easiest way to light a BBQ?

Have you ever seen a chimney starter (aka, coal kettle)? You may have seen one hanging around your mates BBQ area, probably a bit rusty and looking well used. The chances are your mate has been banging on about how great it is, but you have ignored them because they are a BBQ bore and forgotten all about it.

If you haven’t come across one yet, it’s basically a steel tube with a mesh bottom on one end and a load of holes punched through the sides. The idea is that you fill it up with unlit coals or briquettes, place some paper underneath, light it and roughly 15min later, using a combination of cutting edge science and some Jedi mind trickery, you will have a kettle full of coals ready to cook with.

Gone are the days of pouring over a litre of lighter fluid, throwing a match in to the BBQ from a distance and trying not to burn your face off.

Or putting those little fire lighters in amongst the coals and hoping it caught. Gone are the days of lighting the BBQ and waiting an hour for it to be ready to cook on, the chimney starter will enable anyone to start BBQ’ing quickly.

A non-comprehensive guide to using a chimney starter follows this public service announcement.

The chimney starter is a steel tube of fire, it gets bloody hot. Be careful, use your common sense. Don’t try and move it from one place to another when it is hot whilst wearing flip flops… not that I know someone who may have done that.

• Find a nice stable, fireproof base to light your starter on. I use a fire pit or you can use the fire grate of your BBQ.

• Turn your starter upside down, so the end with the mesh is closest to you. Twist up some newspaper and loosely stuff the mesh end of the starter.

• Turn the starter the right way up again and fill with good quality charcoal or briquettes.

• Light the paper on several sides of the starter.

• Stand back, grab a beer and watch the smoke (or go and do something more useful, but watching the smoke is half the fun).

• When all the coals are white they are ready to use, poor them in to your BBQ and get cooking.

You can even cook on or under this thing. Just place a grill on top of the hot coals and sear a steak straight on top, or place your steak on the BBQ grill and put a kettle on top of it and do a reverse sear on each side.

I love this thing, its design is so simple, but it’s such a useful tool.

NB: if you have a gas BBQ then this will have been of no use to you.