Have you taken the plunge and bought a grill? Have you been grilling for a long time, but always used lighter fluid to get those coals glowing red? We love a good BBQ, but we don’t love the taste of the chemicals in lighter fluid and the lingering taste left in our food.
There are a variety of ways to get a fire going on your grill, but today we are going to discuss how to make a homemade charcoal chimney starter so that your delicious food doesn’t end up tasting like petroleum by-products. What is a charcoal chimney starter and why do I need one? Continue reading for the answer!
What is a charcoal chimney starter?
A charcoal chimney starter is a contraption that allows you to get your coals blazing without the use of lighter fluid and other chemicals. When used properly, you will also be able to burn the harmful chemicals out of the coals themselves.
In its most basic form, a charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder that you place in your grill. It is the safest and most economical option for burning coals effectively and safely. The charcoal chimney starter will create an updraft of heat; starting at the bottom of the chimney starter, the heat then heads upwards towards the tightly packed coals. They have no choice but to light up as well!
Supplies needed for making a homemade charcoal chimney starter:
- A large metal can, like a coffee can. A number 10 size can would be ideal.
- Basic metal wire hanger without any chemicals or coating (you will be straightening this out and cutting it).
- An old broom with a wooden handle that you don’t mind cutting. You could also use a thick piece of wood with the bark scraped off.
- A church key tool.
- 2 - 4 inch long bolts with 3 nuts and a washer each.
- Power drill
- Drill bits
- Turn style can opener
- Needle nose pliers
Step by Step Instructions for building your charcoal chimney.
1. Remove the label.
Remove the label on the can, open one end of the can and clean it out. Be sure to leave one end of the can sealed to provide a sturdy work surface for the following steps.
2. Prepare the wire hanger.
Get your metal coat hanger. Straighten it out. Then cut it into 6 segments that are about 8 inches each. You want the pieces to lay across the top of your can, and you want each piece to extend out a little ways on both sides of the can. You will be bending down these pieces later on.
3. Mark the holes for the wire pieces.
Mark a line around the can about a 1/3 of the way up. You will be drilling 12 holes around this line to slide your coat hanger pieces through to form a sort of star shape that will be the makeshift grate to hold your coals later on. Leave the bottom of the can on during this drilling phase to allow for a sturdier work surface.
4. Drill the holes for the wire pieces.
Drill 12 holes with an 1/8 inch bit around the circle. Nice and easy during the drilling so you don’t crush your can! When drilling the holes, drill one side, then drill the next one at the exact opposite side from the first hole. This way the wire hanger piece can slide perfectly through to the other side.
5. Punch holes with the church key.
Next, grab your church key tool and puncture a hole just above the bottom of the can every 2 inches or so in a circle. This will allow for airflow and an updraft of heat while lighting the coals. This also provides the holes needed for sticking your match through to your kindling, as well as a way to hold your kindling in place inside the chimney.
6. Create the charcoal chimney handle.
Time for the charcoal chimney handle. It needs a handle because the metal cylinder will be scorching hot. Even with the handle, always wear some form of heat-proof gloves. An old broom handle would be perfect. Line it up next to the can and mark it at the same height as the can. Use a saw to cut the handle to the proper length.
7. Fit the handle.
Next, you will fit the handle to the can. You’ll need your drill bits (the same size as the 4 inch long bolts) and bolts. Mark where you want the bolts to go into the handle (make sure you have enough space in between them to fit your hand). Lay the handle on a solid surface and drill the 2 holes. Slide the 2 bolts into the handle and line it up with the can, and mark where the holes need to be. Drill 2 holes in the can where the handle will go. You may need to drill a smaller pilot hole before using the bigger bit.
8. Remove the bottom of the can.
Once all of the holes are drilled or punched, you can use the can opener to take off the bottom piece of the can (the holes punched by the church key will be extremely sharp. Proceed with caution.).
9. Bend and insert the wire pieces.
Next, bend the ends of the wire hanger in about ¾ of an inch on one side. Slide each piece of wire through its respective hole. Once all of the wire pieces are in, use your pliers to bend down the other ends of the wire so they will stay in place in the can.
10. Attaching the handle.
Next, put the bolts through the handle and then secure the first set of nuts onto the bolts. Tighten them with a wrench. Then add on the next set of nuts to the end of the bolts. Slide them up a little ways to act as a spacer. Slide the bolts into the holes in the can. Add a washer on the inside, and then the last nut. Tighten with a wrench.
Here is a great video tutorial on how to create this charcoal chimney starter. To test out your new gadget, just roll up some newspaper and stuff into the bottom of the can; it will be held in place by the sharp ridges punched out by the church key. Light the paper through each of the holes. Sit back and enjoy your work!
This was a perfect solution for our grilling needs. We wanted to have a charcoal fire that was efficient, effective, and safe. This is the easiest way to create a charcoal fire without the use of chemicals like lighter fluid that will inevitably end up on the food we are making, and finally ending up in our stomachs.
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