How to Light A Grill: Step-by-Step Guides for Lighting Gas & Charcoal Grills

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE SALES LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY FULL DISCLAIMER POLICY FOR DETAILS.
Overcoming the fear & uncertainty of how to light a grill is one of the most intimidating parts of grilling for new grillers. Want to learn how to start a propane grill but worried about handling the propane tank? Completely understandable. Want to master how to light a charcoal grill, but can't ever seem to get it to stay lit? Been there! We're sharing all of the best tips & tricks for mastering how to start a grill (both gas & charcoal!) for easy grilling all season long. It’s easier than it seems – promise!
Weber Kettle Grill with lit Charcoal Chimney inside of it, showing how to light a charcoal grill.
A plain white graphic with purple text "PWWB Grilling Series: Helping Beginners Master Grilling Basics, One Delicious Grilled Meal at a Time!".

In case you missed it!: How to Light A Grill is part of Grilling 101 in the Plays Well With Butter Annual Grilling Series, a free content series dedicated to helping you find the confidence to really own your spot behind the grill this summer. Learn more about our 3rd Annual Grilling series or sign up below to get our best grilling tips straight to your inbox!

Years back, when I asked the PWWB Instagram community what kind of help you needed with when it comes to grilling, the most popular answer by far(!!!) was, “Um…I don’t even know how to light a grill!” Seriously, I’ve so been there, too!

If I’m being honest, the main reason it took me so long to get behind the grill is that I was afraid of lighting it. The thoughts that would run through my head literally went something like this:

  • Am I going to burn my face off?!
  • What if I break it?!
  • What if it blows up?!
  • Will our insurance cover a grill fire?!
  • OMG…

I totally let the fear & overwhelm get the best of me. I used to wait to make dinner until Chris got home, just so he could light the grill! (& while relying on your husband/spouse/partner/whoever to grill during the summer may seem like a great idea, it’s a totally different story when it’s 8:30 pm & you get a text message that they’re just leaving the golf course to come home. #HANGRY!!)

But once I learned how easy it is to light the grill – gas AND charcoal – I couldn’t believe I was ever so nervous about it. I’m excited to help you overcome the fear too! 🙌🏼

First things first: What kind of grill do you have?

How to light your grill depends on what type of grill you have: gas (propane) or charcoal. Lighting either type of grill is a pretty straightforward process once you get the hang of it, but the steps you’ll take for each are very different.

Read on to learn how to start a propane grill & how to light a charcoal grill (click to jump to a specific section!).

Not quite sure what type of grill to get? Check the PWWB Grill Guide, which walks through all of our favorite gas & charcoal grills!

How to Start a Propane Grill:

Weber Genesis II gas grill shown on deck. In the background, a blossoming tree and a house with beige siding.

I LOVE grilling on a gas (propane) grill. They heat up quickly, which is great for weeknight grilling.

A major bonus? – It’s really easy to learn how to start a propane grill. You simply need to allow the propane (gas) to flow to the burners & light it up. Once it’s hot, & you’re ready to grill!

Here’s exactly what you need to do…

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Weber Genesis II gas grill shown on deck. In the background, a blossoming tree and a house with beige siding.

How to Start a Propane (Gas) Grill With and Without a Lighter


Description

To start a gas grill, you simply need to allow the propane (gas) to flow to the burners & light it up. Once it’s hot, & you’re ready to grill! 


Instructions

Before You Get Started: 

  • Be sure to reference your grill’s user manual when you light it for the first time. The below steps serve as a great general guide, though your grill model & manufacturer may have other steps or precautions to keep in mind as you start your gas grill.
  • Make sure the propane tank is securely hooked up to your grill’s gas line. The hose is usually a simple screw-on valve.
  • Locate the electric starter, usually found on the front of the grill. Open the lid of the grill. If you push the electric starter, it should make a hollow “pung” noise or sound like the gas burners on your range clicking on. (Note: if your grill’s starter button is broken, it’s no problem at all. Simply use a long-handled lighter to start your grill instead – easy!)

How to Start a Propane Grill:

  1. Open the propane tank: Ensuring all of the burner knobs of the front of the grill are closed (or turned “off”), open the valve on the propane tank by turning it all the way counter-clockwise (remember – lefty-loosey!).How to Start a Propane Grill, Step 1: A woman's hand reaches to a propane tank attached to a gas grill, turning it to open the valve.
  2. Open a burner valve: Turn either the leftmost or rightmost burner knob on the front of the grill to high. Your grill may have a “light” or “ignite” setting – that works too. You may hear gas begin to flow out of the burner – that’s totally fine! (Note – if you are using a long-handled lighter instead of the grill’s electric start, you will want to turn on the burner nearest to the side of the grill with a small hole in the side of the bucket.)How to Start a Propane Grill, Step 2: A woman's hand reaches to open a burner valve of a Weber Genesis II propane grill.
  3. Press the electric start: A few seconds after you open up a burner, press the igniter/electric start button. The burner should flare on with a “whoosh” sound. If it doesn’t let the gas run for a few more seconds & try again. If you continue to have trouble starting your grill, DO NOT let the gas continue to run if you continue to have trouble lighting. Simply turn the burner off, close the propane tank, & try again. If you are using a lighter instead of your electric start: insert the flame end through the hole in the side of the grill, placing it next to the burner you turned on. You just lit your grill, congrats!!!How to Start a Propane Grill, Step 3: A woman's hand presses the electric start button of a Weber Genesis II propane grill.
  4. Light the remaining burners: with one burner successfully lit, light the remaining burners, repeating steps 2-3 on the remaining burners. You can light the remaining burners all at once.How to Start a Propane Grill, Step 4: A woman's shown opening the remaining burners of the Weber Genesis II to light the grill.
  5. Let the grill run on high for 10-15 minutes, charring up any residual food from the grates for easy removal. (Learn how to clean your grill in this post.) Once your grill is clean, dial the temperature back to your desired cooking temperature & grill your heart out! A woman's hand shown above an open Weber Genesis II, prepared for 2-zone grilling with one side of burners all the way open and the other side only part way open.
  6. How to shut off a gas grill: Shutting down a gas grill is as easy as turning the burner knobs off, then closing the valve on the propane tank by turning it clockwise until it is tight (remember – righty-tighty!).

Keywords: how to light a grill, how to start a grill, how to start a propane grill

How to Light a Charcoal Grill

A 22-inch original weber grill lit using a charcoal chimney and preheating.

There are a couple of different methods for lighting a charcoal grill. We’ve provided instructions for how to light a charcoal grill with and without a chimney below. My preferred method is using a charcoal chimney because it makes lighting the charcoal much easier. (Find our other must-have grilling equipment in this post!)

Here’s exactly what you need to do…

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
the 22-inch original weber grill preheating to make the perfect grilled steak!

How to Light a Charcoal Grill


Description

There are a couple of different methods for lighting a charcoal grill. We’ve provided instructions for how to light a charcoal grill with and without a chimney below. 


Instructions

Method #1: How to Light a Charcoal Grill with a Charcoal Chimney

  1. Set up your grill: Remove the top grate of your grill. Open the bottom air vent on the grill all the way, which helps generate airflow to the charcoal briquettes.
  2. Fill the charcoal chimney: Place the charcoal chimney on top of the charcoal grate (the second grate, still in the grill). Add your charcoal briquettes of choice to the charcoal chimney, filling the chimney just below the top. When it comes to charcoal briquettes, I’m partial to Kingsford Matchlight since it catches quickly without using any lighter fluid.
  3. Light the charcoal: Place crumpled up paper or lighter cubes under the charcoal chimney. Using a long-handled lighter, light the paper or lighter cubes, which become the heat source that lights the charcoal briquettes. Let the charcoal burn in the chimney until it is gray & ashy, about 10-20 minutes depending on your charcoal. You just lit your grill, congrats!!! 🙌🏼
  4. Arrange the charcoal: Once the charcoal is hot (it will look gray & ashy), carefully pour the charcoal out of the chimney onto the grate. Use grill tongs to arrange the charcoal on the grate as desired. (Note: depending on your chimney, the handles may be very hot. Be sure to use heat-resistant gloves if you need to!)
  5. Heat the grill grate: Place the top grill grate back on the grill, & put the lid of your grill on to heat to your desired grilling temperature. Once hot, grill as desired, carefully using the bottom damper on the grill to adjust airflow as needed (more air = hotter grill, less air = colder grill).
  6. How to shut a charcoal grill off: When you’re done with your charcoal grill carefully close the top & bottom dampers (they may be hot!) & let the charcoal burn itself out.

Method #2: How to Light a Charcoal Grill without a Charcoal Chimney

  1. Set up your grill: Remove the top grate of your grill. Open the bottom air vent on the grill all the way – this will help generate airflow to the charcoal briquettes.
  2. Add the charcoal: Arrange the charcoal briquettes into a pyramid on the charcoal grate, using enough briquettes so that when spread out they make a consistent, even layer. If the weather is cold or damp, you’ll need to use more charcoal than if it’s dry & warm.
  3. Prepare the charcoal: Nestle lighter cubes into the bottom of your charcoal pyramid. If you do not have lighter cubes, soak the charcoal with lighter fluid for 3-5 minutes. Note: lighter fluid is highly flammable. If you get any on yourself or your clothing, be sure to wash it off or change clothing before lighting the grill – we don’t want to BBQ you, too!
  4. Light the charcoal: If you’re using lighter fluid, add a little more fluid to moisten the outside of the charcoal briquettes just before lighting. Use a long-handled lighter to carefully light a few sides at the base of the pyramid, or ignite the lighter cubes. Allow charcoal to burn until it is gray and ashy (10-20 minutes). You just lit your grill, congrats!!! 🙌🏼
  5. Arrange the charcoal: Once the charcoal is hot (it will look gray & ashy), carefully use a pair of grill tongs to arrange the charcoal as desired.
  6. Heat the grill grate: Place the top grill grate back on the grill, & put the lid of your grill on to heat to your desired grilling temperature. Once hot, grill as desired, carefully using the bottom damper on the grill to adjust airflow as needed (more air = hotter grill, less air = colder grill). 
  7. How to shut a charcoal grill off: When you’re done with your charcoal grill carefully close the top & bottom dampers (they may be hot!) & let the charcoal burn itself out.


Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

Want more grilling tips & recipes?

You’re in the right place! 🙌🏼 Subscribe to have PWWB Grilling Series updates sent straight to your inbox. We’re sharing exclusive grilling tips, tricks, & sneak peeks to our email friends. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about all of PWWB’s new grilling recipes all summer long. Subscribe below!

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

Topics

Sign up for our newsletter

Leave a Rating & Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments