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The $20 Uber Charcoal Chimney

What's the deal with these wimpy charcoal chimneys you can buy at most hardware or grocery stores these days? Who are these people cooking for? It seems the amount of charcoal you can fit in them isn't enough to get through a couple of steaks let alone a grill stuffed from edge to edge with my family's famous BBQ chicken. I have one of these and the concept is great. Charcoal goes in the top and paper in the bottom. Light the paper and 10 minutes later you have perfect coals without any lighter fluid aftertaste.

Unfortunately, if I am cooking for more than just my own family, I would have to do this twice to get enough coals to cook with. Or, I would dump them out and pile fresh coals on top and wait for a while until they were all hot. I thought about buying another one and starting both at the same time, but instead I decided to look for a bigger one. When I couldn't find anything bigger I created "The Uber Charcoal Chimney".

The old chimney held just over 232 cubic inches of charcoal. The uber chimney holds a whopping 1100 cubic inches. That's almost 500% more! It will hold over 15 pounds of charcoal or 3/4 of a big bag of Kingsford. Interested in building one for yourself??? It's easy. Here is how you do it.

Get The Parts

Go to your local big box hardware store and head toward the "duct" aisle. It is usually close to the plumbing section. Look for a 10 inch in diameter section of round sheet metal duct. I found that a 10" 90 degree round works nicely. Next look for a piece to connect a 10" duct to a 8" duct (Home Depot SKU# 570427). Now look for a piece of expanded metal that is at least 10"x10". At Home Depot this was near the screw aisle. Here is a close up of what it looks like.

Expanded metal is cheap, workable and strong. It's good for a lot of projects that require some sort of grate. You will also need 8 .5" self tapping sheet metal screws. They should be easy to find. All together my parts cost about $20.

Assembly

Cut holes or squares in the angled part of the connector piece. This is so air can get to the paper and fuel the charcoal while it is burning. Don't cut too much away or your chimney won't be strong enough to hold all that charcoal. A dremel tool works great for this.

Now cut a circle out of your expanded metal that is slightly smaller than 10" in diameter. Again the dremel tool helps here.

Put the piece you just cut out into the big end of the connector piece. This will become the grate for the charcoal. Then slide the 10" round piece of duct into the connector piece and affix with four of the sheet metal screws. You may have to pre-drill holes so the screws will go in easier. Also, if you use the 90 degree angle piece make sure you can adjust it so it is straight up and down. Obviously, this wouldn't work very well otherwise. Now all that is left is to attach some sort of handle to your rig. I re-used the handle from my old chimney, but you could make one from a scrap piece of metal and/or some wood. Just make sure the handle is strong. Once you load it up with coals it will be heavy and no one enjoys red hot coals spilling on their feet. Now invite your friends over for a cookout and watch them stare in amazement when you pull out this monster. Certainly it commands some respect. You are now the god of the grill in their eyes. Enjoy!

CAUTION! This thing gets VERY hot VERY fast. You might think it would take longer to heat up the coals, but it doesn't. Since the size is bigger the intensity of the heat is bigger too. The first time I used this I took my eyes off it for a minute and when I came back the metal was red hot and flames were shooting out of the top. A full load could generate flames 6 - 8 feet high if unattended. Always use this outdoors and away from the house or anything flammable! Use at your own risk.

UPDATE: Some comments below suggest that galvanized metals can give off dangerous fumes when heated to high temperatures. Although I haven't been sick after using the Uber Charcoal Chimney, play it safe and go with stovepipe (or other non-galvanized metal) as one person suggested.

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