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Trouble with Chimney Starter

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Post Mon Jul 14, 2003 12:07 pm

Posts: 2
I started using a chimney starter about a month and a half ago. I bought the starter at Wal-Mart. The first couple of times I used the starter I used Wal-Mart brand instant-lite charcoal, since I already had it around and I didn't want it to go to waste. It wasn't until after my second use of this type of charcoal that I noticed that the chimney starter instructions say not to use lighter fluid, or charcaol with lighter fluid in it, with the starter. Maybe it was because of the lighter fluid in the charcoal, but the stater really lit up beautifully, and the coals got nice & hot.
However, I haven't had the same success with regular (without the lighter fluid in it) charcoal bricquettes (Wal-Mart brand) in the chimney starter. The coals don't get red or ashy at all after 40 minutes and multiple sheets of newspaper. I don't see any flame coming up in the uppper chamber. I don't think the newspaper is flaming up sufficiently.
What could be the problem? Could it be humidity in the newspaper? Should I only use "fresh" newspaper? The bag the charcoal came is resealable, and I did seal it; there are also no visible tears in the bag. I keep the bag of charcoal indoors & sheltered, away from humidity.
I've got guests coming next weekend and I want to get this resolved by them so I can impress them with my grilling!

Post Mon Jul 14, 2003 12:20 pm


I do not use briquet as it tends to ash over and gets cool fast and also more difficult to start.

1. Charcoal Lumps (natural wood, not briquet). Same price as briquet.I buy mine at Menards Hardware.

2. Use Weber Starter Cubes. (or equivalent). They look like ice cubes. This is a clean start.
Within 15 min. you sould have fresh coal to cook.

Good Luck.


Post Mon Jul 14, 2003 2:35 pm
Luke medium-rare

Posts: 89
Location: Texas

1. I agree about parrafin starters. I just recently stared using them and I love them.
2. You should only need two pieces of newspaper.
3. Spritz the newspaper with oil, it will act like a wick and burn longer. - Another AB trick.

Post Mon Jul 14, 2003 5:12 pm
Reuel raw

Posts: 3
Location: Los Gatos, CA
- make sure all vents on the grill are wide open to allow maximum air flow while using the chimney.

- make sure the chimney is sitting on an open area of the grill, not clogged up with ash from old fires.

- try natural lump charcoal when you next have a chance, MUCH better, I am getting mine from a local hardware store.

Post Tue Jul 15, 2003 8:49 am

I have been using a Weber Chimney for years and have never had a problem with it. I only have used Kingsford charcoal, and two sheets of newspaper in the chimney. Like the above post said - place the chimney on your charcoal grate to increase the airflow.

Post Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:58 am
chagan well done
well done

Posts: 1350
Location: Central NJ by way of NY
I prefer to use a couple of sheets of paper towel. They flame up really nice and they don't produce any air-born embers to worry about as newspaper does. I haven't used Walmart brand, only Kingsford or natural lump, why don't you try a small bag of that and see if that resolves the problem before we look at anything more sinister.


Post Tue Jul 15, 2003 10:07 pm
gregory c

I have had trouble using my chimney starter and decided it could be from trying to light too much charcol at one time. I have decreased the amount of Kingsford charcol I use and have not had any more trouble.

Post Wed Jul 16, 2003 7:16 am

The best chimney starter that I've found is my turkey cooker. Fill it with lump or Kingsford. Fire up the turkey cooker burner and set it chimney on it. Let it "cook" for a few minutes, then turn off the burner.

When using paper, I get better results by setting the chimney on a concrete block to start it. Better air flow than sitting on the grill grate. The block is also a good place to put the hot and empty chimney. Using the block also keeps the paper ash out of the grill.

Sometimes I've had poor starts with newspaper. Hate it when the first try doesn't work! Don't like the paper residue either. So, in addition to the turkey cooker mentioned above, I've recently bought some canned heat (Steno). Plan to give that a try, when it's too much trouble to drag out the turkey cooker. Haven't seen the starter cubes, yet. When I run across them, plan to try those, too.


Post Wed Jul 16, 2003 9:12 am

Posts: 2
Judging from your replies, I think my problem with the chimney starter could very well be that there's not sufficient airflow. I've got a cheap-o 22-inch square Uni-Flame grill. The grill grate is not really a grate, but a solid metal tray (no holes in the bottom) that rests on the bottom of the grill. My assumption is that the solid charcoal tray, combined with over-filling the chimney starter could be dampening the airflow that the flame in the bottom chamber of the starter needs. Again, I had no problem when I used the instant-lite variety of charcoal, but, then, that's because it was instant-lite.
I'll try to figure out some way of improving airflow. I may see if I can buy another charcoal grate to replace or rest on the try that came with my grill (the edges of the tray are raised, so a grate could rest on it and still be elevated, allowing airflow into the bottom of the starter). Or, I could try using a cement block, as someone suggested. Also, I purchased a second starter ($5 at Lowes), so I'll try using both of them, and not filling them up with charcoal too much.
As for the other suggestions that I use lump coal instead of briquettes, and that I try paraffin staters. Those sound like great ideas, but I live in a very small town, and I haven't found any of these items yet. I guess I can always order by mail or internet, but I think that would be too much of a hassle and expenses (shippping & handling). I would like to try other suggestions, like spritzing the newspaper with oil, and/or using papertowels instead of newspaper.

Post Mon Jul 21, 2003 9:59 am

I use an electric starter. You place it in the stack of charcoal - plug it in and 8 minutes later you have a fire! Works every time - even when my wife bought bobo brand charcoal. The starter gets up to 1000 degrees.

Post Mon Jul 21, 2003 10:57 pm

Posts: 2
I use the chimney starter too. I make my own starters too. I do alot of woodworking and I just happen to have some old wax from my wifes candle making days. Sooo I take some sawdust and fill up an egg carton and then top off with wax. Then when they cool I cut them in half. They make great starters, as I have a heck of a time with newspaper. Its windy here and it takes almost 8 sheets of newspaper to get regular Kingsford coals lit. 8)
It aint broke, it only lacks duct tape.

Post Fri Jul 25, 2003 3:00 pm
Leisa M rare

Posts: 18
Location: Cedar Park, TX
We set the chimmney on a cinder block (upside down flower stone flower pot). DH also (even though you're not supplesd to uses lighter fluid. He gets a nice hot fire that way and a really good flame-up.
Missy's Mom

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