I'm terribly impatient but I love cooking on a charcoal grill. How can I get the charcoal ready faster? Currently I have a chimney starter, I use lump charcoal and light some kind of paper under the chimney. It takes about 25 minutes to get ready.


9 Answers 9


This bugged me for a long time, and I assumed that there were better ways. And there are! Mostly notably you want to introduce the coals to more of your friend, Mr. Oxygen!
Plight of firefighters everywhere and friend of blacksmiths, increased oxygen will start the coals much much faster. Three easy ways to accomplish this:

  1. Hairdryer! Just hook up your hairdryer and blow it on the coals. Beware the ash and cinders that get blown about! You'll still need the paper to light though. enter image description here
  2. Vacumm cleaner in reverse! My shopvac, for example, can be a blower and will put the hairdryer to shame in terms of volume. Beware the ash and cinders that get blown about! You'll still need the paper to light though.
  3. Specialized bbq tools like this one. They have that advantage of being heat proof and also starting the coals with super hot air, but the long term reliability and price have always kept me from purchasing.

Personally, the hairdryer is the easiest and shaves the time down to just a few minutes.

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    The hairdryer can be dual purpose too. There was an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown where after dumping the coals, he used a hairdryer to blow the ash off the coals, and then put flank steak directly on top of the coals. Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 16:14
  • A couple of years ago we bought an electric pump for pumping up the kids swimming pool. It turns out it is brilliant for getting a BBQ going. It's nice and portable and shifts a lot of air very quickly so very quickly gets the BBQ going. It is very aggressive though so I do find that the coals spit a lot whilst doing it so do stand back.
    – Ian Turner
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 10:55

This won't work for your rustic off-the-grid experience, but on a whim I bought an electric charcoal starter for about $10-15 at the hardware store. Place a little lump charcoal down, put this thing on top (but not where charcoal could contact the plastic handle), and put more charcoal over it. Plug it in and wait 6-8 minutes, then unplug and remove.

Basically it's the same kind of heating element you'd find in an electric range or oven.


There are many designed for using straight on the grill, and possibly some that work well with chimneys. Prior to this I typically used newspaper and gel cubes, but now I don't have to buy the gel cubes or get perfect air flow in my chimney starter.

I'm pretty happy with mine, because usually there's a pretty good flame going by the 6 minute mark and it's been in full conflagration by 8 minutes for me (the maximum time mine is rated for). Once it's there I spread the coals and add some more; I can be cooking in about 15-25 minutes total now.

Like you, with the chimney I usually got results within 20-25 minutes (if something didn't go wrong), but it usually took 40+ minutes to get the grill hot enough to cook.

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    Interesting, I wouldn't have expected the eletric started to be any faster than actually adding some kind of paper/actual fire underneath.
    – rfusca
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 19:51
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    It basically heats the charcoal to the ignition point, if I understand how it works correctly, so that's a pretty good way of getting them going. It's a pretty impressive fire within a short amount of time.
    – JasonTrue
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 21:02

Best thing I've found is a propane flamethrower that attaches to a standard 20-lb barbecue tank.

Something like this:


It's also a great for killing weeds.


Yes! hairdryer on cold setting and you'll need to dedicate to the BBQ since any hair dried with it will also smell like BBQ.

You won't need the chimney stack anymore and if you aim the hairdryer at the base of the coals (reverse firefighter) you can be up and running on white coals in 90s.

The fastest (somewhat safe) method I've tried is a leaf-blower at 10 feet. Any closer and you can blow the coals and BBQ away. It was more of a fun prank than reliable daily bbq starts. It needed serious fire-starter though.


I'm a pretty impatient person, too. But I have the perfect answer to this question. I tried everything, including the hairdryer, but nothing quite did it for me. I thought about it so much, I finally developed the right tool to solve this universal problem.

[Sorry for seeming like spam, but when I saw the question I had to offer my answer.]


FiAir is the first and only truly portable battery powered blower for wood and charcoal fires.

Charcoal = first light to cooking temperature in half the time you're used to - typically 8-12 minutes.

Wood = first light to full blaze in about 2 minutes

We've been shipping almost 2 years and people seem to love it for their charcoal grills, smokers, fireplaces, fire pits, wood stoves and campfires.

$24.99 with a 12 month warranty

FiAir is Made in America for Keepers of the Flame worldwide

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    What makes it better than another kind of fan/blower?
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 1:46
  • 3
    Re spam flags: I'm not going to delete this because it directly answers the question, and the author disclosed their affiliation.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 2:28

Let me start by saying I know this post is a couple of years old and I'm late to the game. Maybe this will be helpful to some of y'all. I have had used both lump and briquettes. I had the same problem and before I had a BGE I used a chimney. Well, I noticed over the years that sometimes the charcoal would take a long time to light. I've used the hair dryer, leaf blower and manually fanned the charcoal. All of these options help, but I once had a theory that the charcoal was holding moisture. This was after I was gifted a BGE and I reused old charcoal. That made me start to think about humidity and the effect it was having on the coals. Now I always keep my charcoal in a climate controlled area and when I have a lot of left over coal that's been out in the humitity we get in the SE I push those coals to the edges, and light the good stuff in the middle. Once the dry coals start to burn with a little flame I close the top of my egg and I can feel the moisture steaming out the top of the chimney(this further confirmed my theory). I normally use a small chunch of fire starter(the wax cover sawdust) as opposed to newspaper, even when I had a chimney I was using that option and it worked great as long as the coals were dry. Maybe this is a bunch of cockamami BS but I'm a pretty big believer in keeping the humidity out of my charcoal and I have much faster light to cooking times! Good luck!


I've been charcoal-only for 50 years. I always use an electric starter because it is fast, clean, doesn't leave smells, and the coals can be used before they are completely ashed-over. A chimney is great, but I need to restack the electric-lit coals into the chimney to speed them up. Therefore I don't bother with the chimney, unless I am away from electricity. To speed things up, I use:

  1. Hair dryer, on hot, not held too close. I've never damaged or smoked up the hair dryer.
  2. Heat gun. Hotter than a hair dryer, can be held closer to the coals, but it isn't always at hand.
  3. Vacuum in reverse. Shop vacs in particular are easy to plug the hose into the "out" side.
  4. Leaf blower? I use mine for lots of off-label purposes, but never the bbq. I do use it for leaf burning in the fall, if the damp fire is a bit sluggish, and I want the foil-wrapped potatoes done for dinner.

I added a little vegetable oil on the paper, and that helps a little.

If you are crazy, put out 50 pound of charcoal. Place a lit cigarette on the pile. Pour 3 gallons of liquid oxygen on the cigarette. Note, LOX saturated charcoal may be EXPLOSIVE. But, hey, ready to grill in seconds.

  • youtube.com/watch?v=UjPxDOEdsX8 Lox on charcoal. Foom? Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 13:43
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    Yeah, foom, not FOOF, that would leave toxic residues (di fluorine di oxide, the scariest oxidizer any one has tried to use). Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 6:06
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    I see what you did there. Also, that does sound horrible. I only know about the dangers of F from my chemistry professor who loved F and I'm pretty sure did his doctorate on it. He drilled into our heads that even though hydrofluoric acid is much less acidic than hydrochloric acid it is also much much more dangerous. At least hydrochloric acid will wash off of your skin with plain ol' water. HF will slowly eat through your skin, but it loves fat even more than skin, so it will begin eating through your fat. But it loves bone even more than fat so it will then just eat your bones. Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 12:37
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    For more scary chemistry and good fun pipeline.corante.com/archives/things_i_wont_work_with Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 14:37

Pack some paper on the bottom tight. Take to an open area. Dribble one cup of gasoline. Throw a match at it. 5 minutes good to go.

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