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
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.
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?
A chimney starter (also called a charcoal chimney) is a device that allows you to quickly and easily start a charcoal grill. It is a hollow metal cylinder with holes at both ends. A wire basket holds the lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. Once you have filled the basket, the device is lit from the bottom. A handle on the side allows you to easily pour out your charcoal once it is lit.
How Do You Use a Chimney Starter?
The easiest way to start charcoal in a chimney starter is to use newspaper. Place wadded up newspaper on the grill and set the filled chimney starter on top. Light the newspaper through the holes and the fire will ignite the charcoal. You can also use lighter cubes instead of newspaper.
Do You Need Lighter Fluid to Use a Chimney Starter?
You don't need lighter fluid to use a chimney starter. In fact, chimney starters are designed to start a charcoal grills without lighter fluid.
How Much Charcoal Should You Put in a Chimney Starter?
How much charcoal you need depends on many factors. How much food you are cooking, what temperature you are cooking at, and how long you will be cooking. The general rule of thumb is to fill the chimney 25% full for low heat, 50% full for medium heat, 75% full for medium-high heat, and 100% full for high heat.
Can You Cook Over a Chimney Starter?
It is possible to cook over a chimney starter, but the fire is very hot and can burn your food if you are not careful. It is dangerous to cook over a chimney starter and it is not recommended for new grillers.