Friday, June 3, 2016

Char-Broil Half Time Charcoal Starter – A Must Have Grilling Accessory

When I first started on my journey to making exceptional BBQ, one of the first BBQ grilling accessories that I bought was a simple charcoal chimney starter.  I was using a drafty, cheap offset smoker and didn’t yet know a lot about BBQ but I knew enough that I wasn’t going to put lighter fluid into my smoker.

I have learned a ton about BBQ since then. I’ve learned new techniques, how to perfect my craft, and cook on much nicer equipment now.  But to this day, when I use charcoal grills like my Kettleman, Performance Charcoal Grill 780, or our competition trailer pit, I still use a chimney charcoal starter to get my coals fired up.  I like the chimney starters because they don’t impart any off flavors to my fuel, they are fast, and they give me a quick way to estimate quantity of fuel.

The only difference these days is that I use a better designed chimney that starts faster – The Char-Broil Half TimeCharcoal Chimney Starter .  The original chimneys were just big cans with holes cut in the bottom.  The Char-Broil Half Time Chimney Starter is designed to optimize air flow and get your coals started much faster than the original ones did. 

Here’s how I use mine:

What to use for starter fuel

The typical fuel that goes in the bottom section of the chimney starter is leftover newspaper.  But you can also use a paraffin wax starter cube under the chimney.  Lots of people just tear off pieces of the charcoal bag as starter fuel.  If using newspaper, you’ll need about 4 sheets of it – start with two sheets and then add two more about 2-3 minutes after the first batch.

11. News paper prepared and ready to ignite fire using Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
Don’t just crumple up the paper and jam it in there.  That will work but it has unpredictable airflow and can make it take longer.

Preparing newspaper used for lighting the Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
Instead, take 2 sheets and staring in one corner, roll towards the other corner to form a tube. 

Newspaper ready to light using Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
Then roll that up like a doughnut like this.  Doing it like this will provide better airflow and quicker starts.

What to use for cooking fuel

Most folks use charcoal briquettes but you can also use your Char-Broil Half Time Chimney Starter for lump coal, wood, or a mixture of lump and wood.  If using wood with briquettes, I prefer to get the coals started and in the grill before adding wood. 

Char-Broil Half-Time Chimney Starter on grill grate
A fully loaded Half Time Chimney Starter will have about 60-70 briquettes so you can use the chimney to estimate your quantities of cooking fuel.  This would be about 40 or so briquettes. 

Fire wood and wood chips ready to light using Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
When using lump coal or lump and wood mixed, I overfill it slightly because the lump will break down and reduce in volume while starting.

How to light the Char-Broil Half Time Chimney Starter

You can use just about anything to light the fuel – matches, wand style lighters, or even a torch.  One of the design features that I LOVE about the Half Time Chimney Starter is that it has 3 access ports at the bottom that accommodate most wand lighters and even my torch.  For the previous brand that I had you had to lift the chimney up to light it and sometimes that lets the newspaper spring out. 

Charcoal ignited using Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
It is small design features like the access ports and plentiful venting that make the Half Time Chimney Starter the easiest, fastest, and cleanest way to start your fire.

Fire burning on grill grate in Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
It should take about 8-12 minutes to get your coals hot and ready, depending on weather conditions, fuel used, and quantity of coal. 

Hot coals smoking in Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter
Your coals are ready when they are ashed over and glowing.  Wearing heat resistant gloves, carefully pour the hot coals into your grill’s charcoal tray and you’ll be ready to grill in minutes.

So up your grilling game this Summer with new grilling accessories  and make the switch to the Half Time Chimney Starter.

Charcoals flaming using Char-Broil Half -Time Chimney Starter

[Standard FTC Disclaimer]  I received compensation for this post as part of a sponsorship from Char-Broil. 


  1. How well we remember the first time you told us about using a chimney to start our grill. We went straight to Walmart and purchased one. Nothing but trouble getting the fire to start. It was after much complaining you told us to try Weber's product. We did and it does start every time with three sheets of newspaper. Now you are promoting the Half Time Chimney Starter. Father's Day is Sunday, June 19.

  2. Just when you think you know everything about bbq you learn something new. Thanks for the tip about coiling the newspaper. I am going to try that this afternoon. I also will keep my eye out for this starter and probably will pick one up.

  3. Fantastic! We all just chipped in for a grill at the office and we used my chimney starter on Friday. We were actually having a bit of a hard time with the newspaper. Can't wait to tell everyone about the coiling technique. Cool!