How Do I Start My Wood or Charcoal Fire?

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fire starting teepee 200x300Fire is the cornerstone of any smoking experience. The burning wood pro­vides the heat that cooks the meat and the smoke that flavors it. Building your fire correctly is an important step in making excellent barbecue, and there are several methods you can use to start a fire.

1. Tee-pee Method with Kindling

The traditional method of fire building is known as the tee-pee method. This simple combination of kindling and wood is useful for pit smokers and campfires alike. The idea is simple; a vertical cone of wood surrounds a pile of kindling. The vertical shape of the tee-pee allows the fire to naturally grow upward. This method is effective because it allows for a high level of airflow to feed the flames.

To start a fire with the tee-pee method you begin with two balled-up sheets of newspaper. Next, you will take the smallest kindling available and build a tripod over the newspaper. From there you will build a tee-pee shape by carefully adding more kindling to the tripod. As you add more wood, slowly begin mixing in larger pieces of wood. Light the newspaper and allow the kindling to catch fire. Eventually, the kindling will form coals large enough to add logs and build a sustainable fire from the burning wood.

2. Propane Gas Burner

A propane gas burner provides a straightforward option If the traditional fire building methods aren’t for you. Simply direct the flame of the propane gas burner onto the logs until they are burning on their own. The most important thing to remember with propane gas burners is your own safety. Careless use of a propane burner can lead to damaging your smoker or starting an unintended fire. There are a wide variety of propane gas burners available from soldering torches to weed burning torches.

3. Electric Charcoal Lighter

A third method is using an electric charcoal lighter rod. Lighter rods will heat up enough to start a fire without involving an open flame like a propane gas burner. This method may not be as fast as a burner but has the added advantage of not using any gas that could alter the taste of your food. To use a charcoal lighter rod, you simply heat the lighter rod to full temperature and press the glowing hot rod onto the logs or charcoal. Next, you’ll blow air on the logs once they begin to smolder. Some charcoal lighter rods include a setting to blow air onto the smoldering logs.

4. Paraffin Fire Starter

A final option available for starting a fire is paraffin fire starters. These fire starters are available to buy and simple to make on your own. Wax fire starters are a good option because they light easily from a match and burn slowly. By burning slowly, the paraffin wax fire starters burn long enough to light much larger logs. These fire starters also don’t contain any harmful chemicals and won’t alter the taste of your food.

Also read Three Sure-fire Fire-Starting Methods on our Wisconsin Firewood blog.

Photo by Stephen Kruso from Flickr using Creative Commons license.