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Lighting a Chimney Starter: More Tinder Isn't Better

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2016

A chimney starter makes lighting briquettes quick and easy without the need for lighter fluid.

A chimney starter makes lighting briquettes quick and easy without the need for lighter fluid. Simply place wadded-up newspaper in the bottom chamber and briquettes in the top chamber, light the newspaper, and when the top coals are ignited, dump the coals into the grill. Though it might be tempting to pack newspaper tightly into the chamber to ensure there’s plenty of fire to light the coals, we found that more isn’t necessarily better; too much can actually smother fire. When we compared lighting a full chimney (6 quarts of briquettes) with two sheets and four sheets of newspaper, we found that the extra paper blocked airflow, taking 10 minutes longer to light the coals (40 minutes versus 30). Bottom line: Be careful not to pack the chimney too tightly with newspaper; two sheets should be enough for a standard ­7 1/2-inch-diameter chimney.