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How to Light a Charcoal or Gas Grill

Updated on June 19, 2013

Grilling is quintessential American. Most American's own a grill, and during the summer, you can smell barbecues coming from just about any direction. Just about any kind of food can be cooked on a grill (such as pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers, steaks, fish, poultry, seafood, pumpkin pies, and more!). In fact, grilling is one of the most popular cooking methods in the world. No matter what type of grill you like to use, the make, or the model, all grills do the same thing - cook food. While there are differences between grills, be it make, model, type, accessories, or even the fuel type, all grills basically run off the same principle. So how do you properly (and safely) start a grill? How do you start a charcoal grill? How do you start a gas grill? Read on to learn more!

Lighting a Gas Grill

  1. First, you will need to check the gas grill parts for damage. Remove the lava rocks and heat shields if equipped. Inspect the entire gas line, from the gas tank, all the way to the burners. If broken, loose, missing, cracked, or damaged parts are found, immediately replace the parts with quality gas grill parts.
  2. Once the grill has been inspected, turn on the gas at the tank. This can be done by turning the valve on the tank until open, then turn back about a half a turn. This will help keep the valve in the tank from sticking, and having the tank fully open is generally not needed, as the grill will regulate the flow of gas.
  3. Inspect the grill again, this time using your nose. Since the burners are not open yet, there should be no smell of gas. If there is, you could have a gas leak, and you need to locate it. If no problems are found, replace the heat shields and lava rocks.
  4. If there is no smell, turn on the burners.
  5. Hit the ignite button. If you grill is not equipped with an electric starter (or if the starter is not working, or if the battery in the starter is dead), your grill can be started by using either a long handle match, or one of those long handle propane lighters.
  6. Turn the burners all the way up, and put in the cooking grates. Allow the grill to run for about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat down, and clean the cooking grates with a grill brush. Turn the heat back up to the desired cooking temperature, and you are ready to go!

Lighting a Charcoal Grill

  1. First, you will need to clean out the old charcoal out of the grill (if not already clean). You can do this by using a small brush and dustpan, when the coals are cold. You don't need a spotless surface, but try to get the vast majority out. The reason is air goes under the coals, and helps the coals breath from beneath Ash and used coals at the bottom of the grill do not allow as much air to go under the coals, and can suffocate the fire.
  2. Now that the grill is clean, arrange your charcoal (or wood) into a pyramid style in the middle of the grill (or to one side, if indirect cooking is desired).
  3. Apply some lighting fluid, if desired or needed. Do not use gasoline, as gasoline will burn too quickly. Charcoal lighting fluid is specially made to soak into the coal, and burn off slowly, allowing the charcoal or wood to catch fire. Gasoline burns off quickly, and the charcoal or wood wont have a chance to catch.
  4. Once lit, leave the lid off the grill, and allow to burn for about 10-15 minutes. The coals will get a nice white/greyish color ash all over. Once you have this, the coals are ready for cooking.
  5. Spread the coals evenly across the bottom of the grill. Replace the cooking racks, and the lid. Allow to sit for an additional 5 minutes or so, to allow the grates to get hot. If these have not been cleaned yet, take a grill brush, and brush off the remaining food particles. These will burn off in the fire. Once clean, you are ready for grilling.


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  • silvershark profile image

    Kenneth Moody 5 years ago from Destin, Florida

    Good point. When using charcoal, I allow the lighter fluid to soak in for a minute then light it. Thanks for the great tip, that I forgot to put in!

  • Randy M. profile image

    Randy McLaughlin 5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

    I apply the lighting fluid generously to the stack of briquettes, and then wait for 5 minutes before I light them. This gives the fluid time to soak in and subsequent applications of lighter fluid isn't needed.