One of the main differences between gas and charcoal grills is how you light them. No matter what kind of grill you have, always position it in a well-ventilated area and at a safe distance from buildings and trees. Never light a grill in an indoor or enclosed area.
How to Light a Gas Grill
To light most gas grills, you have to make sure that the gas supply lines are open. On most propane grills, the valve for the gas line is located just above the gas tank. Either turn a dial or press a starter button to light the fire. Different gas grills can have somewhat different controls—read the manual that came with your grill before attempting to light it.
How to Light a Charcoal Grill
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There are a number of ways to start a fire in a charcoal grill, each of which requires you to start the fire manually. The three most popular methods are explained here.
Light Your Grill with a Chimney Starter
The fastest way to light charcoal is with a chimney starter that uses no artificial materials such as lighter fluid.
- Roll two full newspaper sheets into tubes, then bend the tubes to form rings.
Turn the chimney starter upside down. A grate splits the hollow interior of the tub into two compartments. Fit the tubs into the base of the starter so that they are pressed against the grate. Be careful to leave a hole in the middle (the hole allows for airflow once the newspaper is lit).
- Turn the chimney over so that it’s right side up. Place the chimney on a fire-safe surface.
- Load the chimney to the top with charcoal. Using a long match or butane lighter, light the newspaper in several places through the holes at the bottom of the chimney starter.
- Wait 10–20 minutes for all the coals to light. The coals are ready when they’re covered in whitish-gray ash.
- Wearing an oven mitt, lift the chimney starter by the handle and slowly dump the coals in a pile onto the coal grate in the middle of the grill.
- The empty chimney starter will stay hot for a while after the coals have been dumped out. Place it in a heat-resistant, out-of-the-way location.
Light Your Grill with the Pyramid Method
The pyramid method is simpler than using a chimney starter, but it takes more time. It also requires the use of lighter fluid, which can affect the taste of the food.
- Build a pile or pyramid of coals in the middle of your coal grate.
- Spray the pyramid liberally with lighter fluid.
- In several places, light the pile with a long match or butane lighter.
- After a few minutes, the flames may subside as the lighter fluid burns off. This does not mean that the coals have failed to light. In 20–30 minutes, the coals should gradually begin to burn and glow red. Don’t attempt to speed up this process by spraying more lighter fluid on the coals.
Light Your Grill with Newspaper and Kindling
Some people think lighter fluid affects the taste of food negatively and instead prefer to build a small fire in their grill with only newspaper and kindling.
- Arrange small pieces of kindling into a teepee shape over a core of newspaper.
- Light the newspaper with a match or butane lighter.
- Once the kindling is burning steadily, build up your fire by adding just a few pieces of charcoal at a time. This method can take time, as you must be careful not to smother your initial fire by adding charcoal too quickly.