How to light a BBQ, chimenea or fire pit
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Whether you’re lighting a BBQ for al fresco dining or starting a fire in your chimenea to keep you warm on a summer evening, it’s a lot easier to get those flames roaring than you might think. It doesn’t matter what you’re using – just follow these easy steps to start the perfect fire.
This task is fairly straightforward.
Don’t forget, when using an open fire on a charcoal BBQ, chimenea or fire pits, make sure children and animals are supervised at all times.
Never light a BBQ or let it smolder or cool down in confined spaces, as this creates a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Before you get started on any of our 'how to' guides, please take a moment to read through our safety tips.
How to start a charcoal BBQ
Lighting a charcoal BBQ is easier than most people think. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll have white hot coals ready to cook over in no time. First, you have to choose the type of fuel you’ll be burning. There are 3 types to consider:
This is a natural charcoal with no additives. Lumpwood lights quickly, burns hot and clean, and produces less ash than other types of charcoal.
This form of charcoal is a combination of waste charcoal mixed with a binder, then compressed down into equal-sized chunks. Briquettes tend to burn hotter and longer than other forms of charcoal, making them perfect for smoking or roasting your food.
Possibly the easiest way to get your BBQ lit, this is a bag of charcoal mixed with a lighting agent - just light the bag and you're ready to go.
Light the charcoal
Step 1: Using firelighters
If you're lighting charcoal unassisted on the BBQ itself, put a few firelighters on the base of the BBQ (under the charcoal grill), light them, replace the charcoal grill and then heap the charcoal in a pyramid shape over the lit firelighters.
Step 2: Leave to heat up
Give the charcoal time to catch light and then let it burn for about 30 minutes. You're ready to start cooking once there’s a layer of grey/white ash on the charcoal and you can feel a decent amount of heat coming off it.
Using a starter chimney to light a BBQ
Using a chimney starter is by far the easiest way of getting your charcoal up to cooking temperature. If you’ve never used – or even heard of a chimney starter before – then you'll be truly amazed at just how easy this process can be.
Step 1: Fill the starter chimney
Fill your chimney starter to the brim with charcoal
Step 2: Light the chimney
Remove the cooking grill (higher grill) and place a few firelighters on the charcoal grill (lower grill) of your BBQ. Light the firelighters then place the chimney starter over them and leave it until any smoke has cleared and the charcoal is coated with a layer of grey/white ash.
Step 3: Add the charcoal to the BBQ
Carefully pour the charcoal from the chimney starter onto the charcoal grill (lower grill) and distribute it evenly. Replace the cooking grill (higher grill) and you’re now ready to start cooking. If your cooking grill requires a little cleaning before cooking, then simply allow it to heat up and scrub it with a wire brush.
How to start a gas BBQ
Using a gas BBQ is obviously a little different from using a charcoal powered one, as you don’t need to build the fire yourself. However, there are a few important steps you need to follow:
Step 1: Check your gas level
If you are using a Gaslight bottle from Homebase then you can visibly check the amount of gas that you have left so you do not run out part way through your BBQ.
Step 2: Check the connections
Before you light your barbecue, you’ll need to check that the hose and joints connecting the barbecue to the gas is safe, ensuring that you carry out this step in a well-ventilated area.
First, make sure all control knobs on the barbecue are in the off position. Then, turn on the gas or open the gas control valve on the bottle or regulator.
Check for leaks by brushing a solution of 50% water and 50% liquid detergent over all the gas system joints, including the connections for the gas bottle valve, hose and regulator. If any bubbles appear over any of the joints there is a leak. Turn the gas off at the gas bottle, retighten all the joints, and repeat the the test. If the bubbles don’t reappear the connections are tight; wipe the water and liquid detergent solution from the joints and then move on to the next step.
However, if they do appear, there is a leak and the barbecue shouldn’t be used until you can get it repaired or are able to replace the leaking joint.
It’s important to remember that you should never check for gas leaks either using or close to an open flame.
Step 3: Connect the gas bottle
First, make sure the valve is clean and that the on/off switch is in the ‘off’ position. Then, put the regulator onto the cylinder valve and press down – you can check it’s properly connected by trying to pull the regulator upwards when the gas is off. All you need to do then is turn the on/off switch anti clockwise to the ‘on’ position and you’re ready to cook. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to turn the switch back to the ‘off’ position.
Try using a Gaslight bottle with your gas powered barbecue – they’re lightweight and a lot easier to carry than other types of gas cylinders, but are just as strong and won’t rust. They also feature a handy visible gas level indicator so you’ll know how much gas is left in them and when you need a refill.
Step 4: Light the BBQ
Turn on the gas at the bottle, then turn on one of the gas burners on the barbecue and light it using a barbecue lighter or the auto light function if your model has one. Pre-heat the grill by setting the temperature as high as possible for 10 minutes – you can then scrub the grill using a wire cleaning brush which will help to clean the grill before you start cooking. When any smoke has cleared, you can begin cooking.
How to light a chimenea or fire pit
Before you light a clay chimenea for the first time you’ll need to cure it. It’s a simple process – just follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you never light a fire directly on the base of the chimenea.
- Put around 5cm of sand or lava rocks in the bottom, then add a small amount of kindling and scrunched up newspaper on top.
- Light it, and allow a flame to build. Once it’s burning well, add a small log and allow it to burn out.
- Once the chimenea has cooled, you’ll need to repeat this process at least a couple more times.
Once you’ve cured your clay chimenea, lighting it is exactly the same process as it is for a metal one or a fire pit:
Step 1: Add kindling
Put lightly scrunched up newspaper on the sand inside a clay chimenea, or the log grate of a metal one or fire pit. Place kindling or finely split dry firewood on top of the newspaper.
Step 2: Light the fire
Use long safety matches or a long-nosed lighter to light the newspaper and kindling.
Step 3: Add more wood to keep the fire burning
Once the fire has caught sufficiently, add another log. Just 1 or 2 are enough to keep the fire going and generate a decent amount of heat.
Gas Safe Register offers the following barbecue safety tips:
- Never use a barbecue inside or within an enclosed environment such as a tent, caravan or cabin - your barbecue can still give off fumes even after cooking
- Always ensure you can see your lit barbecue and don’t leave it unattended
- Use your barbecue in accordance with the operating instructions
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning - headaches, nausea, breathlessness, dizziness, collapse and loss of consciousness
- For more information about gas safety visit GasSafeRegister.co.uk
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