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How do I light natural hookah coals? How about quicklight coals?

This post was updated on 12/18/2018

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. Never light natural coals on an flat top (ceramic) electric stove as they will crack your glass stove top.

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 gray ash. This process usually takes between 5 to 10 minutes depending on the heat setting you use on the coal heater. If you do not have an electric stove, or you would like to know about an alternate method of lighting these coals, read this HookahLove post on how to smoke a hookah with proper hookah charcoal heat management


Quick-light Hookah Coals are easier (and quicker, hence the name) to light than natural coal. Simply hold a tablet of coal in the tongs above a source of flame, such as a lighter or struck match. Be careful, as the tongs may become hot! The coal will begin sparking and smoking when it ignites. Watch to make sure that the sparking spreads across the entire surface of the coals and after the sparking ceases, place the coal in the hookah's tray 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.    

Comments (16) -

  • Very nice description of how to handle coals here. It true that letting quick-light coals sit for a few minutes before using is the way to go, and you are in a clear and ventilated area, blowing gently on the coal can help it burn a little faster. For the novice or traveling hookah lover, I'd suggest going with quick-lights because of their heating consistency and ease of use.
  • Nice site, really a lot of infos and fun....thx...
  • Your bowl problem is probably due to the fact that your bowl grommet is either not on, worn, or to small for the bowl you are trying to use. As for the Big vs. Small hookah I personally own both and have had sessions where each of them just roll out rain clouds. But also the thickness of smoke depends on the quality of shisha. On this site they rate both flavor, thickness of smoke, and smoking time under each brand of shisha. Just do some experimenting my friend you will get that really thick bowl.
  • I have a new glass top stove. I really don't want to damage the cooktop. Can I light hookah coals on that?  If I put them directly on the stove will it damage the cooktop?  I read some hookah-ers were putting the coal on tin foil prior to heating.  Will that work?
    Lots of questions! Thanks!
  • i have a propane stove, that usually works for me but ive heard of people putting them in a pan and lighting the fire underneath, i tried and it didnt work for me, am i doing something different.
  • I use a Burnz-O-Matic propane torch to light the natural types...
    Perfect and quick...No stuff left on your stove either...
  • You can get a cheap one burner element at Wal-Mart or Target or whatever, usually for less than $10. This is what I use primarily, to avoid making a mess on my stove with ashes, and because I'm often doing hookah at parties where I'm outside, or not wanting to mess up the host's stove. After you're done you can just pick up the burner and shake the ash off - voila.

    Self-lighters are crap. They often don't work very well, and even if they do, they are chemically treated, so you're breathing in those chemicals when you use them. Not good. About the only way I could see using them is if I was somewhere without electricity, like camping - but even then, I'd rather just use a torch or a propane stove.

    The best coals I've found so far are the pressed coconut squares - Coco Nara. I've experimented with lots of different kinds of coals, from natural orangewood pieces (which smoke great, but can be hard to get into useable pieces) to formed charcoal, which is again hard to break up sometimes, and ashes lots. Both of them have problems with tons of sparking, too, and the formed stuff leaves a nasty ring in my hookah base and doesn't taste very good, either.

    Then I found Coco Nara and I won't use anything else if I can help it. Shaped into perfect little squares, so no having to break them up, no getting my hands covered in charcoal. They heat up quickly, don't ash a lot, and don't spark a lot, either. Yay! They're a bit more expensive than other types of coal, but not by much and it is SO WORTH IT.

    I sound like a commercial for Coco Nara but damn, I went through years of trying to find good coal!
  • DON'T use tinfoil on the glasstop.

    We tried that. The tinfoil melted to the glass surface. Frown

    Anybody else have any great suggestions for alternatives? We'd love to light our Coconara's on the stovetop, but it's been leaving a mark....
  • What me an my friend decided to use instead of a stove was a can of sterno with a metal mesh grill ontop of it. Takes a little longer than a stove but u dont have any mess.
  • I use a real small (5" diameter) cast iron skillet on the stove, then just put the coals in that and they light fine.
  • My friends and I have found a small butane blow torch, about one and a half size of bic lighter that gets the nara's lit faster compared to an electric stove. We get them lit under 40 seconds. Its been effective and cheap so far.
  • I use a small torch lighter to light them.  this is the best way if you dont want to use a stove. its cheap and effective! anyone else have other ideas?
  • for those that cannot use coals because of health issues i suggest trying a electric hookah coal they are small ceramic heaters that produce just as much heat as a coco coal and also can be.lowered to the goldilocks temp for more delicate herbal blends. Only con is that iy is corded but if you have a portable solar panel for your laptop you can go anywear.  

    Combine it with ateam stones and you have a very large e cig.
  • Where do you light the natural coal on if you have a torch? At hookah bars they have a sort of tray? Would that be the proper place to heat it up? Where would i get one?