Devotees of charcoal grilling sometimes find it cumbersome to ignite the mound of coals prior to their weekend barbecue. It can be surprisingly difficult to get all of the coals evenly glowing at the same time, especially if they have been left out in the rain. Fortunately, a charcoal chimney is a very inexpensive device that can make it several times easier.
A charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder that allows grill chefs to quickly and evenly light charcoal briquettes. It typically has ventilation holes, a handle, and a heat shield to protect the user’s hand from the extreme heat. A charcoal chimney gets the coals burning much faster by allowing airflow from underneath. This results in the flames quickly spreading upwards to the rest of the coals. It also allows grill chefs to replenish the supply of hot coals on the grill when cooking foods for several hours. Without a charcoal chimney, a cook would have to remove the meat, lift the grate, add the briquettes, wait for them to ignite, then put the meat back on the grill. Having a charcoal chimney means that the cook can simply lift the grate with the meat still on it, pour on the burning briquettes, and place the grate back on.
Most charcoal chimneys are very cheap; very few cost over $25. They can be found online or in the grill section of hardware stores and supermarkets. Look for a model with sturdy construction. The extreme heat of burning charcoal will warp the metal over the years; it is important to find a chimney that can stand up to these rigors. Look for a robust heat shield as well. Even with the handle several inches away from the chimney itself, the heat will radiate directly onto the user’s hand without a heat shield.
Lighting your charcoal chimney is a very simple task. Start by filling up your chimney with charcoal briquettes. Learn how many coals your grill typically requires; using too much coal is wasteful and results in burnt food. Next, place wadded up newspapers in the bottom portion and light them on fire. It may be necessary to use an extra-long match or a long grill lighter to reach the paper. While the paper is burning, ashes and embers will escape from the ventilation holes. Make sure they are not blowing towards flammable materials such as dead leaves. Alternatively, you can simply squirt lighter fluid on the coals and light them. When the coals are uniformly grey and ashy on the outside, dump them into the grill. Hold the chimney well away from your face to avoid the embers that will float into the air. Spread out the coals evenly with one of your grill tools, and you are now ready to start cooking!
After you are done using your charcoal chimney, don’t put it back on the shelf right away. It’s important to let it sit outside and cool down. A few smoldering bits of charcoal could be stuck to the inside of the chimney. This would be a major fire hazard if it were placed back in the garage or shed, especially if any flammable chemicals are stored nearby. Shake out any clinging bits of charcoal and let the chimney sit on a non-flammable surface such as pavement until it is cool to the touch.
A charcoal chimney is a great addition to every grill chef’s tool set. Aside from saving time, it will result in a more even flame. This facilitates greater control over the cooking process, leading to much better cookouts for years to come.