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How To: Light Hookah Charcoal

How To: Light Hookah Charcoal

This blog was last updated 07/10/2023

One of the first things to learn when you begin your journey into the world of hookah is how to light your charcoal. Whether you're a natural hookah charcoal smoker or using quicklight hookah charcoal there is a technique for each.

Natural hookah charcoals are made from compressed coconut shell husks while quicklight hookah charcoals are made from a composite of materials ranging from wood, sawdust, rice husks, coconut shell pieces or coconut husks. Since natural hookah charcoal is...well...all natural they do take a little more time to light but the benefits outweigh their longer prep-time. They burn longer, burn hotter, and have no smell or taste effect on your shisha.

Quicklighting hookah charcoals are infused with an accelerant to help them light up fast and by using a simple open flame. Quicklighting hookah charcoals are generally what most hookah smokers use when they're first starting out, but they are also very useful when electricity is unavailable for a hookah burner; I.E. when you're camping, loading a bowl of shisha on the beach, or bringing your hookah setup to a friend's. 

Here are the ways to properly light hookah charcoal, no matter what style you choose to go with. 

How To Light Natural Hookah Charcoal

Close up of pieces of natural hookah charcoal

Natural hookah coals are the cleanest way to smoke shisha and will let the flavor of your shisha really shine. The easiest way to light these coals is on an electric coil stove with an exposed heating coil or a single coil heater; but you can also heat these coals using a gas stove with a little ingenuity. Never light natural coals on an flat top electric stove as they will crack your glass stove top.

Pieces of natural hookah charcoal on burners and by themselves

Set your natural coals directly on the heating element and turn the burner on, flipping the coals after 3 to 4 minutes. You will know the coals are ready once all of the black surface of the coals has turned red / orange and they are completely covered in a layer of gray ash. This process usually takes between 5 to 10 minutes depending on the heat setting you use on the coal heater.

How To Light Quick-Lighting Hookah Charcoals

Close up of quick-lighting hookah charcoal pieces

Quick-light hookah coals are easier (and quicker, hence the name) to light than natural coal. This is due to a chemical accelerant mixed in with the charcoal to speed up the lighting time. Simply hold a tablet of coal in a pair of tongs above a source of open flame, such as a lighter or struck match. Be careful, as the tongs may become hot!

Pieces of quick-lighting hookah charcoal and illustration of a lighter

The coal will begin sparking and smoking when the accelerant ignites. Watch to make sure that the sparking spreads across the entire surfaces of the coal. After the sparking ceases, place the coal on your hookah's tray or in a hookah charcoal holder, until there is a layer of ash covering it. Charcoal that still shows large sections of black (un-ashed coal) is not quite ready to smoke, as it is still giving off the combustion fumes that all coal gives off when heating up.   

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