A charcoal grill will forever have a considerable fan base, even with all the fancy digital gas-powered models or the hassle-free electrical models that keep popping up like snails after the rain. There is nothing like that charcoal smoke to infuse a particularly tasty flavor in your meat and, while plenty of people love it, some prefer not to use a charcoal grill because it’s messy (creating loads of ash that needs to be cleaned up) or because it isn’t as easy to get the fire going as it is with other types of grills.
What these people don’t know is that with the multitude of charcoal fire starters available in the market, it is ridiculously easy to light up that coal, and we’re here to teach you more about it.
Top 3 Picks
MIGI WOLF Electric Charcoal Fire Starter: For those of you that like an open-flame solution to fire up the grill the old-fashioned way, the propane-powered torch by JJGeorge inspires durability and ease of use.
Looftlighter Charcoal Electric Lighter & Firestarter: With a casing that’s cool to the touch seconds after use, impressive temperature reach, and a quick ignition system, the Looftlighter electric firestarter is one of the best products in its category.
Customer’s choice: Weber 7416 RapidFire Aluminized Steel Charcoal Chimney
“This is nice and large, I don’t need to load more during my grilling. Very happy with this and the heat resistance is huge.” (Customer review)
What Is a Charcoal Lighter?
A charcoal lighter, which is also known as a “chimney starter” or a “charcoal chimney”, is a device you can use to light up briquettes or charcoal lumps. It’s important to note that charcoal lighters are designed in many different ways, but the original product was the charcoal chimney. It was designed by the British back in 1910 and was described as a cylindrical metal portable stove that could double as a fire lighter.
In 1950, the charcoal chimney was improved for home use, when it was called a kindle can. People who couldn’t afford it used cans coming from fruit or coffee. They used can openers to punch ventilation holes and the designs didn’t have a grate or handles (so they were mostly manipulating using tons, since they got really hot and you couldn’t touch them).
Today, charcoal lighters aren’t just the chimneys you probably already know about. They are also electrical or gas-powered, being capable of lighting some other stuff except for coal.
It’s important to note that, unlike with other types of charcoal fire starters, you can use a charcoal chimney to cook food if you put a grate on top of it. There are, of course, limitations as to how much you can cook on it, but it is a wonderful companion whenever you’re going camping and maybe want to heat up a can of beans.
How to Light a Charcoal Grill
When you want to light a charcoal grill, a charcoal chimney is a good product to buy. It uses paper instead of lighter fluid, which means that you don’t need to use a petroleum-based product to get the job done. When you want to start a fire with a charcoal fire starter, you can add crumpled newspaper or some other sheets of paper under charcoal and light them up.
Electric charcoal fire starters are another good option worth taking into consideration. You place these on the top of the grill together with the charcoal and the heat they give out should be enough to get the charcoal going. Experts suggest avoiding self-lighting charcoal because it comes with additives that make it similar to lighter fluid in terms of leaving unwanted scent and residue on your food.
If you do decide to go with lighter fluid, here are the steps for the basic lighting method:
- Place charcoal inside the grill until you’ve layered it to your desire. Place the charcoal in a pyramid or cone shape to make it easier to light.
- Grab your lighter fluid and pour it on the stack of charcoal, with more liquid poured in the center rather than on the edges.
- After leaving the charcoal to soak in lighter fluid for about 30 seconds, light up the pile of charcoal from two sides by using a long match.
- Leave the coals burning until they have a whit surface.
- Using a fire poker, a stick of wood, or some other suitable tool, spread the coal evenly across the grate.
- Close the lid on your charcoal grill and leave it for five minutes.
- Open the lid and the charcoal grill should now be hot enough for you to place your food on the grates.
What to Look for In a Charcoal Fire Starter
When you’re ready to spend money on a charcoal lighter, it’s important for you to identify what could make some products better than others. Before spending money on a charcoal fire starter, here are some of the things to look out for:
- It’s really important to find a product that’s easy to use because you don’t want to get frustrated with grilling before you even get the chance to fire it up. You want a charcoal lighter that starts without any effort. Some models are as simple to use as pushing a button, while others might require coal placement and a little patience to start a fire. Electric models are often sought-out because they are simple to use, but people with experience in firing up a grill might choose other options. Keep in mind that some lighters are better for certain situations. For instance, if you want to fire up a grill in difficult weather conditions, you want a waterproof option.
- Price is an important consideration for plenty of buyers, so let’s see what you can expect in terms of charcoal fire starter costs. Electric models are usually more expensive, but they are also pretty easy to use. There are added costs when it comes to charcoal lighters, especially when you think about the fuel source that needs to be refilled. Other models run on batteries, which could be convenient if you always buy batteries in bulk and have spares around the house at all times. Fire starters can be used in conjunction with other products, like newspapers or cubes.
- If you choose kindling-based fire options, you have to consider the ash they leave behind and how willing you are to clean it after. Fire starters don’t always require using crumbled paper if you opt for cubes or tumbleweeds. That makes it easier to clean up after, since there is no burned paper residue to deal with.
Best Charcoal Fire Starter
The Looftlighter is one way to get the fire going, promising to get your fire in 60 seconds time thanks to its battery power. Not only is it suitable for lighting coal, but it can work with wood as well. It is a lighter that doesn’t require gas, nor does it produce a flame, making it good for both indoor and outdoor use. The kit comes with a battery charging pack and it takes about two hours for a full charge. On a full charge, the Looftlighter can light up to 10 times.
Another solution to get those coals nice and toasty and turn them to charcoal for your grill is to use a propane torch, like this one. This is a torch that takes fuel from 14.1 oz., 16.4 oz. and 16.92 oz. bottles, and offers you an ergonomic and easy-to-use way to get the fire started. It features an easy-grip handle so that you can hold it and maneuver it with ease. Its wind-resistant design makes it so that you can start a fire in any condition. The adjustable flame allows you to get more control over the temperature, while the anti-flare design makes it safer to use.
We’re back with yet another product from Looftlighter. This time, we’re talking about an electric fire starter, a product that can get the fire going in seconds. Because it doesn’t use any gas or any petroleum-based fuel, there is no need for concern that your food will taste weight. It features a patented hot air stream process which means it doesn’t cast an open flame. Instead, it blows out hot air at an impressive 1256 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s even more interesting is how the safety casing was constructed: the unit cools down and is safe to the touch within minutes of having turned the lighter off.
If you think that Weber only makes good grills, you’re dead wrong. In fact, unless you browsed their website closely, you probably have no idea they make charcoal chimneys too. Made from aluminized steel, the unit comes with a thermoplastic handle that makes it safe to hold the lighter even when it gets really hot. There is a large heat shield that protects the handle from high temperatures, so there’s no need to worry about burns. It has a large capacity and comes equipped with a cone-shaped grate so that you can place a quantity of briquettes suitable for a 22-and-a-half-inch kettle grill.
This 24-unit box of fire starters offers a chemical-free solution for lighting up the coal and firing up the grill. The cubes are smokeless and odorless, meaning they won’t tamper with the flavor of your food. They light up even if they’re wet, so you’re good to go even if there’s a little bit of moisture in your storage area. Each one of these cubes can burn to temperatures up to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately eight to 12 minutes.
If you can’t find the Kamado Joe fire started on stock or would simply like to try a similar product from another brand, these Primo fire starters are a good replacement. It is a pack that contains 24 cubes that light up pretty quick by using a match. Place these cubes in your pile of coal, just as you would if you were using wood or newspapers.
If you wanted to purchase an inexpensive and reliable electric charcoal starter, this product delivered by GrillPro is a candidate worthy of your money. This offers one of the simplest methods to get that coal lit, as all you have to do is place the heating element in that pile of coals and plug it in. it takes just a few minutes for the charcoal to be red hot, at which point you can just remove the fire starter and close the lid on your grill to get it all warmed up.
The MIGI WOLF electric charcoal fire starters works pretty much the same way as the Looftlighter starter does. Using the tip of the unit, touch the pile of coals and press the button to start it up. It is designed with a non-slip handle that doesn’t get hot when you use the fire starter, but also provides a good grip to prevent any accidental drops. It is suitable for starting up your grill fire, but also works if you want to start a fire in your indoor stove or fireplace.
There’s nothing like some tumbleweed to get the grill all fired up and ready to go. This 36-piece bag of tumbleweed provides you with an eco-friendly solution for those interested in purchasing products that are ethically sourced. Made with natural wood and wax, this is an alternative to chemical lighter fluids that a lot of people prefer not just for eco-friendly reasons, but also because it doesn’t alter the end flavor of the food. These pieces of tumbleweed are placed in the coal pile and, using matches or a lighter, can light up in seconds.
If you don’t mind using a fire starter with an open flame, the JJGeorge torch is bound to save you in your attempt to light up charcoal for your grill for many years to come. It has a 20-inch reach and an adjustable flame that can easily be controlled using the knob located on the top side. The adjustable heat output can reach temperatures of up to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. The ergonomic handle makes it easy to get a good grip even if your hands are wet. The fire starter requires a 14oz. Bernzomatic propane canister to work.
What is the best charcoal starter?
It really depends on what your personal needs are. A lot of people still prefer to use a chimney starter, but some might like a fancier option, just as an electrical model. Others really like the old-fashioned way of lighting charcoal: with some form of kindling placed underneath or in the middle of the coal stack.
Is charcoal a fire starter?
Charcoal can’t be used as a fire starter because it is not a flammable product that produces an open flame. In order for it to serve such a purpose, you are going to have to place something flammable underneath it (like newspapers, for instance).
Do I need a charcoal starter?
A charcoal starter is pretty much needed if you want to get the coals all heated up and ready to cook your food. There are multiple charcoal starters to choose from, from torches that use gas to create an open-flame to electric models that light up the charcoal with the push of a button.
How does a charcoal starter work?
This strongly depends on what type of charcoal starter we’re talking about. For example, the chimney starter has a chamber with a grate located in the bottom side. The chamber is Gilles with coal while the underside of the grate has some form of kindling. When you light up the kindling, the coals that are stuffed and compressed in that chamber will start igniting.
There are many ways that a charcoal fire starter goes by, and the names are influenced based on how the products work/are fueled. The most common types of charcoal fire starters are electrical, propane-powered, and chimney starters.
The latter have been around for almost a century, but the former two options are new, more modern, and have replaced chimney starters for a lot of people. Granted, chimney starters also lost a lot of clients because people have shifted from charcoal grills to other models that have easier and faster ignition methods, and are easier to clean as well but those that stuck around did so because they feel like a little bit of effort makes the grilling experience more satisfying at the end.