A charcoal chimney is a simple device that only has a few basic parts. First is the outer metal tube (some are square and the high tech version is an inverted V shape), this tube is solid at the top and has holes on the bottom. The holes allow your starting material (typically newspaper) to be lit and sucks in the air when the charcoal begins to burn. The solid top end traps and channels the heat upward, allowing the heat from the starting material to light the lower coals. The heat from the lit lower coals light the coals above them.
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Inside the tube is a metal plate with holes in it. This plate separates the coals from the newspaper and keeps the charcoal from falling out the bottom. Finally is the handle. Used for carrying and pouring out the hot coals.
To use a charcoal chimney: Simply fill the top of the chimney with your charcoal, stuff a couple of sheets of loosely crumpled up newspaper in the bottom, light the newspaper and in 20 to 30 minutes you will have perfectly lit coals ready to pour into you barbecue. The coals are ready to go when the smoke goes from white to clear. White smoke means all of the coals are not hot yet. If pouring hot coals onto more charcoal the white smoke will reappear until those coals heat up as well.
Most standard chimneys have a 5 pound capacity and I have seen them as large as 10 pounds. This will give you a hotter grill and the coals will last a bit longer at cooking temperature.
Capacity for charcoal chimneys is measured with a standard (Kingsford type) briquette. If your curious there are typically about 18 charcoal briquettes per pound but this will vary by brand and type of charcoal. While newspaper is typically the fuel of choice for lighting it is far from the only thing you can use. Other things you can use include: the side burner of a gas grill, paraffin lighter cubes, and Doritos