Kamado cooking can be intimidating for some if they don’t know how to start and manage a charcoal fire. The truth is, there are lots of ways to light a kamado grill, and some will have you ready for cooking in no time!

grilling pork tenderloin over a kamado joe fire

The difference between success and failure with a kamado grill is all about managing three things:

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1. How much charcoal is in the fire box?

The amount of charcoal in the cooking chamber determines how hot the fire can get and how long it will last.

2. How much of the charcoal is lit?

Are you lighting all of the charcoal at once, or only a portion at a time? That will determine overall heat and longevity.

3. How much air can get into the grill to supply oxygen to the fire?

Open the top and bottom vents all the way for maximum airflow when first lighting your kamado, but know when to start closing vents to limit airflow to maintain your desired grill temperature.

open the top and bottom vents when you light your kamado joe

What is the best fuel for kamado grills?

lump charcoal next to charcoal briquette

There are two types of charcoal: charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is the preferred fuel in Kamado grills due to its ability to ignite, be starved of oxygen, and then still maintain its same shape and consistency to be used again in a future cook (so long as it hasn’t completely combusted into ash).

What is the best way to light a kamado grill?

The best way to light a kamado is whatever way gets the job done safely for you within your budget. However, some methods are faster and more “efficient” than others. For the most part, the least expensive methods typically take longer, while the more expensive options work considerably faster. Is the time savings worth the extra financial investment? That’s for you to decide! We’re just here to give you more options that you might not be aware of.

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Charcoal chimney in the kamado joe Big Joe

6. Charcoal chimney with firestarters

Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and then place 1-2 fire starters (like tumbleweeds or wax cubes) underneath the chimney, directly on the grill grates. Light the fire starters and they will begin to light the charcoal directly above.

This method takes between 20-30 minutes to get the coals good and hot and ready to dump into the fire ring below the grill grates.

Pro: Inexpensive

Con: Takes a long time

tumbleweed fire starters in a bed of coals inside the kamado joe Big Joe

5. Firestarters directly in the coal bed

Another way to light a kamado is to place one or two fire starters (tumbleweed or wax cubes) directly into the coal bed. Nestle them down into the coals and place a piece of lump charcoal or two directly above the fire starters right after you light them.

This method may take 30 or more minutes but it allows you more control as you use your vents to control how much air is accessible by the fire.

Pro: Least expensive

Con: Takes the longest amount of time

Electric fire starter in the port of the Vision Maxis kamado

4. Electric starter

Some kamado models (Vision, Lifesmart, Pit Boss, and others) come with an electric starter. They’re pretty inexpensive if your kamado didn’t come home with that feature and you’d like to pick one up to try.

Simply plug the starter in and then nestle the heat coil down into the lump charcoal. The hot coil will quickly begin to light the coals it’s touching and you’ll have charcoal ready for cooking in about 15-20 minutes.

Pro: The fastest of the inexpensive options to light a kamado

Con: requires electricity close by; no great options for where to put it while it cools down

Lighting charcoal in the kamado joe grill with the BBQ Dragon and chimney of insanity

3. BBQ Dragon and Chimney of Insanity

This next solution is great for someone who would like to take their charcoal chimney game to the next level. The BBQ Dragon is a battery-powered fan that blows hot air directly into an air intake port at the bottom of the accompanying chimney of insanity.

Fill the chimney with lump charcoal and set a tumbleweed fire starter inside the port. Light the tumbleweed and then turn on the fan and direct it into the port. As it blows super-heated air through the chimney, the charcoal will be lit and ready to go in 2-3 minutes.

Pro: a lot faster than other methods so far, BBQ dragon fan can also be used for indoor fireplace

Con: the capacity of the chimney is smaller than most traditional chimneys.

Check Price on BBQ Dragon

Check Price on Chimney of Insanity

Lighting charcoal in the kamado joe grill with the Looftlighter X

2. Looft Lighter X

Ok, now if you put high value in ease, speed, and keeping things clean and are willing to spend a little, the Looft Lighter X is something worth considering. This is the battery powered “little” brother to the original Looft Lighter (also a solid charcoal starter option).

Imagine a hair dryer and a curling iron had a baby and you’re getting close to the idea of how the Looft Lighter operates.

Press the tip of the Looft Lighter X against a piece of lump charcoal in your kamado and power on the device. After about 10 seconds you’ll start to see some sparks, and as soon as you start to see a small flame, pull the lighter back a few inches and allow the super hot air to spread the fire.

We can fully light a kamado in 2-3 minutes using the Looft Lighter X and it’s a completely clean, cordless, and rechargeable option for starting fires. Even better, its portability means it’s good to go wherever you need to start a fire, both outside and inside.

Pro: lights fires fast, portable, wireless, clean

Con: expensive

Check Price

Lighting the kamado joe grill with the grillgun

1. GrillGun by GrillBlazer

Last, but not least, we bring you what is probably our favorite way to light a kamado: The GrillGun. This propane torch can light my lump charcoal in under 2 minutes. It also can light my fire pit and my pizza oven that quickly.

In addition to it lighting fires quickly, it’s just plain fun and impressive to watch. Guests are always impressed by it and ask to give it a try.

Pro: lights fires fast, fun, impressive

Con: expensive, have to replace propane frequently

Check Price

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Whatever you do, do NOT use lighter fluid.

Whether you’re trying to light a Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, Primo, or other brand of kamado, don’t ever use lighter fluid. Remember that the ceramic of your kamado is porous and will soak up that chemical smell and flavor and will come back to bite you many cooks into the future. We’re pretty anti-lighter-fluid across the board here, but if you really must, save it for your kettle grill and don’t ruin your kamado.