I'm seasoning my new Weber Smoky Mountain smoker according to the excellent instructions, given for free, on Amazon, by a 20x BBQ grand champion. (What an amazing thing for this guy to do!)

Anyway, I'm using a Weber RapidFire chimney starter, and both times I've used it so far, it's completely filled the entire backyard with wood and paper smoke.

enter image description here

My upstairs neighbors sleep with their windows cracked when it's warmer (which is when I'll be BBQing), and so I'd really like to not smoke them out of their own bedrooms at 6 in the morning. Any advice for minimizing smoke when using a chimney starter?

There's some advice here about using only one sheet of newspaper doused with a bit of oil, but I don't know if that mitigates smoke.

  • I use one too, with Webers lighting cubes. I can't remember that that made it smoke. Where do you place the chimney starter? Is air flowing freely from below?
    – johnny
    Apr 24, 2012 at 13:31
  • Yes, I place it on the grate. Apr 24, 2012 at 14:34
  • At least with mine, the newspaper smoke runs out fairly quickly, but then there is plenty of charcoal smoke. Not sure how you'd avoid that.
    – derobert
    Apr 24, 2012 at 15:10

3 Answers 3


First off, I'd cease using paper as your tinder. While it is the cheapest way to get your charcoal started, it does create a lot of smoke and ash flying around. And avoid oil-soaked paper. This will create even more smoke (I speak from experience).

I started using firestarter cubes, as they burn hotter and longer, meaning my coals are ready for cooking faster. Also, another side effect has been that the only smoke I see is from the charcoal itself. I started using the Weber ones, but they are expensive and don't burn as long. So I switched to a different fire lighter. You'll have to forgive me, as the name escapes me -- once I get home I'll edit this answer with a picture of the bag. Anyway, they're cheap, at about US$ 5-6 for a bag of 72. And they burn long, hot, and smoke-free.

The only remaining problem you'll have is that when charcoal begins igniting from a low starting temperature, it puts out quite a bit of smoke. If you are still worried about smoking your neighbors out, you will probably want to experiment with different brands and types. Stubbs briquettes are a bit less smoky on ignition, as is most lump charcoal. If you use lump, though, you should make sure you pack the charcoal ring in your WSM nice and tight, or it will burn very hot and fast. Also, put a piece of expanded steel on the charcoal grate to keep the small pieces of charcoal from falling through.

  • to limit smoke, burn it to to bottom, see my solution Dec 4, 2016 at 22:01

I've had this problem for years, but i found the perfect solution:

  • Use a gas torche on the charcoal (i'm using a small gas torch dedicated to crème brulée, but any gas torch will do).
  • light the top of the chimney, not the bottom

Burning from the top, the black smoke is burnt by the flames and doesn't escape. The ignition of the full chimney doesn't take more time than the bottom up method.

  • Tried it, works well. No smoke if you light it from the top.
    – user36622
    Jul 5, 2015 at 18:19
  • This is hidden knowledge. Barely anyone talking about it. You’re a life saver. Amazing!! Aug 17, 2022 at 2:12

Use alcohol (ethanol, meths, methylated spirits, rubbing alcohol depending where you live)) to start the charcoal

Fill a cup from a bottle of alcohol, and close the bottle. Slowly pour the cup over the charcoal, give it a few seconds to soak in, and flick a match at it

It will flare up about .5 m (2') so stand back. The flames will die down quickly, and will light the charcoal without any smoke

Remember to always close the alcohol bottle before starting the fire. Never pour from bottle onto a potential fire, Never add more alcohol to a fire that has already been lit, even if it goes out

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.