The Best Charcoal Grill Starters

charcoal grill starters

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Lighting a charcoal grill can be tricky – unless you have the right tools.

In this post, we will share the best ways to light your charcoal grill using different methods and recommend some of the best charcoal grill starters on the market!

The 5 best tools for lighting a charcoal grill

1. Best for most people – charcoal chimney starter

Charcoal chimney starters are the most popular way to start a charcoal grill. They are simple to use and very effective. All you need is some newspaper, a chimney starter, and of course some charcoal.

weber chimney starter full of lit charcoal

Here’s how it works: first, place the coals in the bottom of the chimney starter. Then crumple up some newspaper, torn up egg boxes, or a good fire starter and place it on top of the coals. Finally, light the newspaper and wait a few minutes for the coals to start glowing red.

Then, using a pair of tongs, or even better, some good heatproof gloves, carefully pour the hot coals into your grill and you’re ready to cook!

One downside of charcoal chimney starters is that they can be a bit heavy and awkward to carry around. But there are some great lightweight options available, like the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter.

Weber is one of the biggest names in grilling for a reason, and this little starter is a great option if you’re looking for an easy way to light your charcoal.

It’s made of durable steel, has a built-in handle, and holds enough coals to get even the largest Weber grill started.

Because of its lightweight and compact design, the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter is also a great option for taking on picnics or camping trips.

What we like:

  • It’s made by Weber There is a level of confidence that comes with a product made by a trusted brand in the barbecue world.
  • Double handle – The double handle system makes pouring out the hot coals a lot easier. As this is a bigger chimney, you don’t want to be dropping those red hot coals on yourself!
  • Cone-shaped starter – The cone-shaped interior helps light the coals quickly and evenly. You won’t even be tempted to use lighter fluid.

What we don’t like:

  • May be flimsy – We have heard some complaints that the metal and rivets are a little flimsy. But on the whole, most who have bought this product feel that the quality is not a problem.

2. Natural fire starters – Light-A-Fire All Natural Fire Starters

Natural fire lights are a great alternative to using a chimney starter and you don’t have to worry about any harsh chemicals or accelerants ruining the flavor of your food.

Made from all-natural materials, such as made of American pine wood shaving and food-grade wax, these fire starters are a great way to light your charcoal grill without using any synthetic products. They also work perfectly well in your chimney starter.

What we like:

  • Natural – They are made of all-natural materials.
  • Doesn’t flavor the food – No risk of any chemicals leaching into your food.
  • Good for the environment – They are also biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable.

What we don’t like:

  • No accelerant – The only downside is that they can be a little harder to light.

3. Best electric charcoal grill starter – Looftlighter Charcoal Electric Lighter & Firestarter

Electric charcoal grill lighters are a great option if you don’t want to use any kind of chemical-based fire starter. The Looftlighter is our top pick because it is the most reliable and efficient electric charcoal lighter on the market.

The Looftlighter works by blowing superheated air out the end of a nozzle, which lights the charcoal briquettes instantly. It is also very easy to use – just hold the Looftlighter about 12-18 inches above the coals and press the button.

The only downside of using an electric charcoal lighter is that it can be a little more expensive than some of the chemical-based starters. But, overall, we think the Looftlighter is worth the investment.

What we like:

  • Fast – The speed at which you can have your barbecue lit and ready to go when using this device is very appealing.
  • Good warranty – Quality construction with a 2-year warranty.
  • No need for starters – No need to use paper or fuels to get your coals lit. Even if you are using a starter chimney, in windy conditions the ash coming off the paper can be messy.
  • Added bottle opener – The unit comes with a hanger that doubles as a bottle opener. Nice touch.
  • Works on wood – The air that the Looftlighter blows out is so hot that you can light wood with it, making it a bit of a barbecue allrounder.

What we don’t like:

  • Noisy – The unit is a little noisy. While this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, be warned that the sound is akin to that of a small leaf blower. If that kind of a sound would grind your gears, it is worth considering that before you outlay the money.

4. Best propane charcoal grill starter – Red Dragon VT 3-30 C Propane Vapor Torch Kit

The Red Dragon is technically used to burn away weeds, but it works equally well on charcoal. The adjustable flame makes it easy to control, and the nozzle is long enough that you don’t have to get too close to the grill while you work.

This miniature flame thrower runs off of a propane canister, so it’s easy to get going. It also has a safety trigger lock to keep you from accidentally burning yourself (or your deck).

The best way to use the Red Dragon to light a charcoal grill is to place it a few inches away from the charcoal and light it. Once the flame is going, you can move it over to the grill. Hold the flame over two or three of the briquettes for a few seconds until they light, and then move on to the others.

What we like:

  • Multi-purpose – This is a heavy-duty unit and is multi-purpose. In fact, you might find this a handy piece of equipment to have on hand for more than just lighting your barbeque.
  • Durable – The unit is well made and should last a long time.
  • Easy to use – Assembly is quick and easy. You will need a couple of wrenches, but that’s all.
  • Won’t flavor the food – Unlike gasoline or other fire-starting chemicals, propane is flavorless and odorless.

What we don’t like:

  • Not technically a BBQ lighter – This is not built purposely as a barbecue lighter. As such, the long nozzle and general size of the unit can make it a little awkward to use. This is especially true in the case of ‘green egg’ cookers, as you will need to get the nozzle down into the barbecue to light the coals.

What makes a good charcoal starter?

Before you head out to buy a charcoal starter, you need to determine what makes a good one:

  • Ease of use – the last thing you want to be doing when you’re trying to get a barbecue going is struggling with your charcoal starter. What works for you is going to depend on what grill you have. For example, a chimney starter is going to be much more difficult to use on a small grill, while the Red Dragon is a little difficult to use on deeper girls, like the Green Egg.
  • Size – if you have a large barbecue, you’ll want a large charcoal starter. It’s no use having a small one that won’t fit all your coals, or won’t fit on your grill.
  • Design – does the charcoal starter have a good design? Is it easy to hold and use? Will it stay in place on your grill?
  • Ease of cleaning – once you’re finished barbecuing, you’ll want to be able to clean your charcoal starter easily. Some are dishwasher safe, others can just be hosed down.
  • Price – charcoal starters can range in price from around $15 to over $50. Consider what you’re getting for your money, and whether the starter is worth the extra cost.
  • Speed – how long does it take the charcoal starter to light your coals? The Red Dargon and the Looftlighter are both very fast, while the chimney starter can take a little longer. The trade-off is that both the Red Dargon and the Looftlighter need to be connected to either a propane canister or an electrical outlet.
  • Durability – will the charcoal starter last for multiple uses, or will it need to be replaced after a few times? The chimney starter is the most durable and can be left out in the elements.

The best way to light your charcoal grill

Charcoal starters come in a few different varieties, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. However, each of them represents the best way to light your charcoal grill quickly and efficiently.

Now your charcoal grill is lit, you should learn how to control temperature.

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