How to Set Up a Grill: A Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these steps to set up your grill correctly and safely.


Great grilling begins by putting your grill in a safe location.

Choose Your Charcoal
You have two options: charcoal briquettes or hardwood charcoal. Charcoal briquettes give off medium heat and last a long time, while hardwood charcoal burns hot and fast and adds flavor to foods. Or try a combination of the two — it will have the flavor of hardwood but will last longer.

Using a Chimney
The safest and most efficient way to light a charcoal grill is with a chimney. 
Tip: You can buy a chimney wherever grills are sold.

Getting It Lit
Fill the top of the chimney with charcoal and place it on the grill's lower grate. Carefully light the paper in the bottom of the chimney. The flame will travel upward to ignite the coals. When the coals glow with a live flame and are just starting to ash over, they're ready. 
Tip: Weather and the type of coals in the chimney affect how long it takes for them to heat up.

Direct and Indirect Heat
Protect yourself with grilling gloves, then pour the hot coals onto one side of the grill. This is the hot side with direct heat for searing foods. You can then move food to the cooler side to finish cooking. This setup is great for steaks and chicken on the bone.

Direct Heat
Spread the coals in a flat layer on the grill. The heat will be hot and even. This setup is best for vegetables and thinner cuts of meat.

Ring of Fire
Place a small aluminum tray in the center of the lower grill grate and then carefully pour the coals around the tray in a ring. The food sits on the top grill grate in the center and the heat circulates around it, like an oven. Cover for the best results. This method is great for whole chickens or large roasts.

Preheat the Grate
Place the grate over the coals to preheat. This keeps food from sticking to it.

Check the Vent
Make sure the vent at the bottom of the grill is slightly open, since fire needs oxygen to burn.

Check for Hot Spots
Carefully move your hand 6 inches above the grill grate. If you can only hold it in one place for 3 to 4 seconds, that's the hottest part of the grill. If you can hold it for 6 seconds, then that's a cooler spot. If food is cooking too fast, you can move it to a cooler spot for slower cooking.

Clean the Grill
An inexpensive wire brush works well. Or, for a makeshift grill brush, use tongs and aluminum foil.

Oil the Grill
Use tongs and an oiled paper towel to prepare the grate. When the oil is smoking, you're ready to start grilling.

Get Grilling
Now you're ready to start showing off your grilling know-how. Watch our how-to video for more.