Have you ever tried to start your charcoal grill without a chimney starter? I used to light my grill that way all the time. Talk about a frustrating experience! I would pile the charcoal high, douse it in lighter fluid, and wait forever for the smell of lighter fluid to dissipate. Then someone told me about chimney starters. Once I purchased one I never looked back! Chimney starters make it quick and easy to start your charcoal grill, without having to use any lighter fluid.

If you’ve never used a chimney starter, it may be hard to figure out which one to buy. To help you decide which chimney starter is right for you, we took a look at the four highest rated models and put them to the test. We rated each one on their most important features: Durability, Capacity, Ventilation Holes, and Handle Design. Once we had them ranked and rated, we assigned Overall Scores and chose our Pitmaster’s Choice.

To get an overview of each chimney starter, start with the table below to see the scoring results. Then take a look at each individual product, clicking on the “Read Our Full Review” button if you want additional information.

Chimney Starters Review Scores

Brand

Durability

Capacity

Ventilation Holes

Handle Design

Overall Score

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Weber

5

5

5

5

5

Char-Broil-Chimney-Charcoal-Starter-1

Char-Broil

5

5

5

5

5

Char-Broil Comfort BBQ Grill Tools

Steven Raichlen

3

5

4

5

4

Original 3-Piece Weber Grill Set

Charcoal Companion

4

4

3

4

3.5

Weber Chimney Starter Rapidfire 

For those of you unfamiliar with the charcoal chimney starter, this item is designed to speed up the time needed to get a BBQ fire started. The chimney part refers to the shape of it, and has nothing to do with actual chimneys. To use the Weber chimey starter, you find a suitable place, like open ground or a metal surface or other non flammable area, such as your BBQ. Then make a stack of fire lighters or crumpled newspaper, light it and sit the chimney on top filled with charcoal. The shape of the chimney funnels the heat up into the packed coals, thus lighting them far quicker than can be managed in the grill itself. The coals get hot enough to start cooking in about fifteen minutes, which is quite impressive.

This Product Is Ranked as the #1 Pitmaster’s Choice In The Chimney Starters Category

Char-Broil BBQ Charcoal Starter

This Char-Broil chimney starter needs some assembly when it arrives, but it’s just a few screws, so nothing major. I had trouble finding the hardware at first, but finally found them tucked away inside the packaging in a small bag. If you have the same trouble, the screws are in there, just not very well indicated. I also had trouble lining up the screw holes, accuracy of manufacture wasn’t the best. Just don’t tighten them until you have them in place.

Overall, if you’re looking for speed of ignition and a decent amount of hot coals, this Char-Broil BBQ starter does the job, although the manufacturer should pay more attention to quality control and the labelling of small parts.

Steven Raichlen Charcoal Chimney Starter 

Charcoal starter cans are designed to help you start grilling faster by getting the fire started more rapidly. The idea is you fill the device with charcoal, stuff newspaper or fire-lighters underneath and light them up. The shape keeps the charcoal tightly packed and so the fire builds much quickly, around twenty minutes in this case.

I was surprised how fast this bbq charcoal starter went from brand new to looking like it was several years old in only one use. It was blackened and stained, the paint was tarnished and it warped slightly out of shape. Materially it stayed solid, but this rapid deterioration doesn’t bode well for the longevity of this product.

Charcoal Companion Chimney Starter

Charcoal Companions version of a chimney lighter is smaller than some on the market, holding a maximum of around five pounds of charcoal. This is enough for a small grill, but can also help light a larger one.

What we have here is a chimney bbq starter designed by someone who’s never seen one before, and doesn’t know how they work. When it comes to lighting and moving hot coals around, safety is key, so even if you can get this model lit, I would recommend it with reservations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Chimney Starter?

How Do You Use a Chimney Starter?

Do You Need Lighter Fluid to Use a Chimney Starter?

How Much Charcoal Should You Put in a Chimney Starter?

Can You Cook Over a Chimney Starter?