A charcoal grill can open many doors into the wide and wonderful world of grilled and smoked food. A charcoal grill is one of the most versatile cooking options you can have at home and when used judiciously, it can yield excellent results every time.
However, first of all, you need to find the right way to get your charcoal ignited for the grill.
|Best Overall||Weber RapidFire Chimney Starter|
|Runner Up||Kingsford Quickstart Chimney Starter|
|Best Electric Charcoal Starter||HomeRight Electro-Torch|
|Easiest to Use||Grill Trade Fire Starter Sticks|
As far as our experience indicates, using a charcoal starter is the recommended way to go when it comes to getting your coals hot and ready for the grill grate. There are, however, many different varieties of charcoal starters in the market, each with its own strengths. In order to arrive at the best charcoal starter for your needs, you need to understand how these different kinds of starters work, their pros and cons, and the criteria you need to keep in mind while choosing your own.
This is exactly what we will discuss here, along with a detailed look at some of the best charcoal starters that we recommend. Let us take a closer look at charcoal starters.
A Detailed Look at Charcoal Starters
What are Charcoal Starters?
Charcoal starters are a class of products that allow for quick, easy, and convenient igniting of your charcoal before your put it to work on your charcoal grill. These come in many shapes and sizes and work in different ways. However, the main goal is always to raise the temperature of the charcoal quickly and get it ready for the grill. All these charcoal starters work with lump or briquette charcoal.
Why Lighter Fluids are Bad?
Many people use lighter fluids (also known as starter fluids) to get the charcoal going. While the process is relatively simple and the fluid gets the job done fast, there are quite a few problems with using this product.
Starter fluids are extremely flammable and volatile. This makes using and storing them a fire hazard. Even if you are extremely careful, accidents can happen. Moreover, the chemical components of starter fluids can affect the taste of your food, leaving a burnt, chemical flavor behind. This can certainly spoil all your effort.
The most important reason why we do not recommend the use of starter fluids is the possible health impact. While using starter fluids, you might be inhaling harmful chemicals and ingesting them as well when you finally eat the food that you made with all your effort. Inhaling volatile chemical compounds and ingesting chemical residues can both be bad for health. Fortunately, all of these problems can be avoided by using charcoal starters.
Advantages of Using Charcoal Starters
There are a few things that you are ideally trying to accomplish while getting your charcoal ignited for the grill. You want a method that gets the charcoal uniformly hot in very little time and with minimal effort. Using charcoal starters allows you to accomplish all this while not having to spend much time, effort, or money.
Charcoal starters are generally inexpensive products. With just one simple addition to your cooking Arsenal, you would be able to get your coals hot in very little time so that you can preserve all of your energy and concentration for the cooking itself.
This saves your energy for the fun part and takes out any unnecessary labor from the initial part of the process.
Another major advantage of using charcoal starters is the fact that it is inherently safe in every way. Charcoal starters usually do not pose fire hazards, can be incredibly simple to store and use, and typically do not leave behind any unpleasant residue on the food. Since these do not involve the use of chemical components usually, you can be sure that you are not exposing yourself to undo health risks.
Using charcoal starters is also a great way to ensure that the process you use to ignite your charcoals does not have any unpleasant effect on your food. Charcoal starters do not leave behind chemical residues that can alter the taste and aroma of your food.
This means that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor just the way you intended.
Attributes to Look for in Charcoal Starters
With charcoal starters, you are looking for a quick, no nonsense, and convenient way to get your charcoal hot quickly so that you can commence with the fun cooking process. Consequently, these are the attributes that you need to check out while choosing the right charcoal starter for your needs:
- Quick and uniform heating of the coals
- Simple operation with minimal effort
- Convenience of use and storage
- Inexpensive in terms of starting costs and running costs
If your charcoal starter ticks all these boxes, you can be reasonably sure that you have made the right call and selected a solution that can make the cooking process much more fun without adding any extra effort.
Charcoal Starter Safety
A few basic safety rules need to be followed while using charcoal starters. Doing this can ensure that you get the best results from your starter solution without exposing yourself to any risk of injury or fire exposure. Remember, you care about your safety unlike Fire Marshal Bill.
If you are using a chimney starter, it’s crucial to remember that the handle can get warm as the coals start heating up. Once the coals are hot and you use the handles to dump them into the grill grate, it is a good idea to use some gloves so that your hands are protected.
When using electric starters, remember that the heating element can get hot very fast. Avoid any physical contact with the element and maintain careful distance.
You can use tongs to handle the coals safely. These also involve another layer of careful use as they use electricity to operate. Be on the lookout for loose wires and exposed connections just like you would for other electrical appliances.
Here is our recent post on the best ways to light a charcoal grill. Great info to have if you’re in the market for a new charcoal starter.
Let us now take a look at our top product recommendations. With these chimney starters, you can have a seamless, convenient experience that works every time.
Chimney Starter Shootout
Best Overall – Weber RapidFire Chimney Starter
The Weber name carries weight and respect in the BBQ world. Apart from its much-vaunted and extremely popular range of grills, Weber also has several excellent grilling accessories on the market and one of the best is the RapidFire chimney starter. As far as chimney starters go, this ticks all the right boxes and is our favorite way to ignite charcoals for the grill grate quickly and conveniently.
The RapidFire sports sturdy, robust construction using quality materials. Since a chimney starter is meant to withstand large amounts of heat on a regular basis, the quality and durability emerge as important factors. The Weber product inspires confidence in this regard, with dimensions of 13 x 7.5 x 12 inches, the product feels comfortable to use without being unduly heavy.
In spite of the small design, the Weber RapidFire allows a lot of charcoal to be packed into its charcoal chamber. This means that you can start off with an adequate quantity of charcoal and do not have to repeat the process multiple times, even for larger cooking batches. The initial batch of hot charcoal can be used to ignite any additional charcoal, if needed.
The large cylindrical charcoal chamber sports a conical shape inside. This is significant as the charcoal at the bottom can heat up quickly and transfer heat and hot air to the top, providing even, consistent heating that gets all your charcoal ready at one go. Uniform heating is essential when it comes to starting charcoal for the grill and the Weber does not disappoint in this regard.
The large fuel chamber in the bottom makes it perfectly simple to fill the chamber with your preferred starter. We use newspaper or any other dry paper product. After you ignite your preferred starter, you only need to wait for a small amount of time before all of your charcoal is ignited. Apart from paper, you can also use Weber Lighter Cubes if you are looking for a quicker way to get your coals going.
Apart from excellent charcoal capacity and ease of use, there are quite a few design features that makes the Weber the best charcoal chimney starter in our opinion.
Safety of use is one of the prime concerns when it comes to charcoal starters and the Weber is loaded in this regard. You can handle this product safely and easily once the charcoal is hot enough and it comes time to dump it into the grill.
The handle needs to remain cool for safe handling and the Weber does this remarkably well. The handle is made from a specialized material that stays cool even when the charcoal is hot. Apart from the special material, added safety is provided by a large heat shield that the handle is attached to.
Apart from the main handle, there is also an extra supporting handle for easy two-handed operation. This means that you can maintain excellent precision and safety while carrying your coals to your grill and maneuver the starter with minimal effort.
Overall, if you are looking for a simple, fast, and convenient way to get your charcoal ignited that is inexpensive to use, perfectly safe, and has zero negative impact on the flavor of your food, the Weber RapidFire chimney starter is the best lump charcoal starter that we can recommend.
- Excellent quality of construction
- Large, conical charcoal chamber for ample capacity, and quick, even heating
- Stay-cool main handle and large heat shield for safe operation
- Helper handle provides good control during operation
- Large bottom fuel chamber that handles multiple starters well
- Helper handle can get warm
- Some users report quality issues
Runner-Up – Kingsford Quick Start Charcoal Chimney Starter
An excellent inexpensive alternative to the Weber is this chimney starter from Kingsford. The construction, using tough zinc steel, is especially resistant to rusting and will last you a long time. The large charcoal chamber allows you to get a sufficient amount of charcoal hot to start cooking and the bottom chamber is easy to access, allowing for quick igniting of your preferred starter.
The sturdy construction also makes the product safe for regular use. The stay-cool handle works well, helped along by the large heat shield that protects your hand from the heat. The product requires no assembly and works out of the box.
The diminutive proportions of this chimney starter means that it takes very little effort to use and can be easily stored away when not in use. Altogether, it is an excellent product that does the job well while being inexpensive. If you want a cheap option with no compromise, this chimney starter from Kingsford can fit right into your BBQ arsenal.
- Constructed using rust-free materials
- Stay-cool handle and large heat shelf for safe operation
- Large charcoal chamber
- Easy to access bottom chamber for easy ignition
- Very affordable
- Some users report quality issues with the handle
- No extra helper handle like the Weber Rapidfire Chimney
Best Electric Charcoal Starter – HomeRight Electro-Torch Fire Starter
If you are looking for an excellent electric starter, the HomeRight Electro-Torch can fit the bill quite well. This electrical fire starter uses a focused flow of hot air to heat the charcoal quickly. Safe, chemical-free, and easy to use, this electric starter can make the process of getting your charcoal ready for the grill incredibly easy.
The safe, stay-cool handle allows for simple operation with an easily accessible dual-ignition switch. On the first position, you can focus super-heated air out of the nose of the device to get your charcoal ignited. The second position increases the velocity of the air allowing you to fan the flames. In combination, this is an incredibly efficient way to get your charcoal hot in minutes.
In our experience, the Electro-Torch is one of the easiest and fastest ways to ignite charcoal, being able to heat up coals in a matter of minutes. Since this is an electric starter, there are no residues of any kind. The product also comes with a two-year warranty and is extremely reliable in regular use.
- Extremely simple to use
- Very quick ignition of charcoal
- Dual-ignition switch provides heating mode and high airflow to fan the flames
- Durable construction and two-year warranty
- Need electricity to operate
Easiest to Use – Grill Trade Fire Starter Sticks
If you are looking for a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to get your coals going, the Grill Trade Fire Starter product can definitely make your work a lot easier. These fire starter sticks are all-natural, allowing you to prevent any chemical fumes or residues and preserve the flavor and aroma of your food.
These fire starter sticks are made from high-quality natural pine wood shavings that are packed with natural, food-grade paraffin wax. With all natural, organic ingredients, the fire starter does not produce smoke or unnatural smells and are safe to use both indoors and outdoors.
These fire starters get very hot and burn for a long time. If you are looking to light wet or hard charcoal that is stubborn or camping out in wet conditions, this is one of the only ways to get your charcoal consistently hot reliably. The product is compact and takes very little space to store.
- Made using natural, organic, food-grade materials
- Long burn time
- Excellent in wet and windy conditions
- Can get virtually any charcoal started
- No chemical fumes, residues, or unnatural smells
- Might need multiple sticks for adequate results
- Some users report quick burnouts
The Right Product for You
Using the right fire starter can make the process of getting coals ready for the grill simple and convenient. Using the right product can ensure that your grilling and smoking experiments remain fun and productive. With the fire starter solutions discussed above, it is difficult to go wrong.
While all of these products are excellent options, our top recommendation is the Weber RapidFire chimney starter as our preferred method of getting your charcoal hot. It is an excellent addition to your list of grilling accessories that can stand the test of time and allow for easy ignition of your coals every time. It provides thorough, consistent heat and the charcoal can then be easily used to grill, smoke, or heat up more coals if you need.
Of course, you can also go for the ease and convenience of using an electric starter or fire starter sticks. All that matters is that you find a solution that works well within your cooking workflow and makes the process of grilling and smoking enjoyable, easy, and fun. We hope these products help you concentrate on the cooking and result in many delicious grilled and smoked meals.