How To Light a Grill

Southern Living Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin's definitive method of lighting a charcoal grill

Travis M. Andrews
Cooking on Charcoal Grill
Philippe Desnerck/Getty

Since man invented fire, we’ve been quarrelling about the best way to light a grill. We’ve decided to settle that argument once and for all by asking the Southern Living Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin for the definite method.  

What You’ll Need: Charcoal grill, newspaper, 100% hardwood lump charcoal, and a chimney starter. If you don’t have any of these items, run to the store and grab them. We’ll wait.

What You Don’t Need: Lighter fluid, briquettes, anything containing extra chemicals.

Once you’ve assembled the proper equipment, Melvin says it’s simple. Just follow these steps.

Burning Charcoal
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Step 1
Pour the appropriate amount—according to your grill’s directions—of charcoal into the pit. Create a well in the center by pushing charcoal to the side.

Step 2
Shove a few pieces of newspaper into the bottom of the chimney starter. Then, grab some charcoal from the pit and pour it on top of the newspaper until the chimney is completely full.

Step 3
Light the newspaper and wait until all the charcoal in the chimney is white with heat.

Step 4
When the charcoal is all white-hot, pour it into the well you’ve created in the pit. It will slowly spread out, ensuring that the charcoal burns evenly. Using this method, the charcoal will last even longer, and your food won’t have that strange chemical aftertaste often accompanying a lighter-fluid-started fire.

Step 5
Grill away! And be sure to properly put the coals out and dispose of them when you’re finished barbecuing.

Once you’ve got the grill lit, check out some of our best grill recipes