“Why is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a grill?” – Anonymous
An age-old question, right? And we’ll probably never know the answer to that. It’s like asking how many _____ does it take to change a lightbulb. Anyway, that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you get to start your charcoal grill the right way. And that means not using any gasoline, starter fluid, or other chemicals you might have in mind that will make your lighting your grill easier. Yes, it will light up your grill. But there’s a very large possibility that you’ll get burned too. Also, the noxious vapors coming from those chemicals aren’t going to make your food any tastier.
Not to mention the possibility of getting sick from the fumes. So, what is the right way? It’s using a Chimney Starter which is a charcoal griller’s best friend. Also known as a Charcoal Chimney, this is a tube or cylindrical canister that has an upper and lower compartment that allows you to quickly light up your charcoal. You place the briquettes in the upper compartment and crumple some newspaper in the lower compartment. Light a fire using the newspaper and in about 10-15 minutes, you’ve got your coals ready to be placed inside your grill.
So, which chimney starter should you use? Well, we’ve got 9 of the best listed here that you can choose from. And later one, we’ve got a guide to help you make your own choice.
Top 9 Chimney Starters of 2017
- Top 9 Chimney Starters of 2017
- 1. Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter
- 2. GrillPro 39470 Chimney Style Charcoal Starter
- 3. Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter
- 4. Lodge Charcoal Chimney Starter
- 5. Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter
- 6. BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity Charcoal Starter
- 7. Charcoal Companion Stainless Steel Chimney Charcoal Starter
- 8. Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Ultimate Chimney Charcoal Starter
- 9. OUTXPRO Charcoal Chimney Fire Starter
- How to Choose a Chimney Starter
1. Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter
Nobody makes a charcoal grill as good as Weber. So why wouldn’t Weber be the one to make the best chimney starter? It is, after all, just a smaller version of a charcoal grill. The Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter has a spacious compartment that can accommodate up to 90 briquettes, enough to fuel a 22 1/2 kettle grill and cook around 12 burgers with a bit of time to spare.
The vents are big enough which allow you to easily ignite the newspaper within using matches. There are two handles that ensure the starter remains secure and your hands remain safe while you pour hot coals into your grill. The stay-cool thermoplastic handle is an added safety measure we appreciate. And the cone bottom ensures that it lives up to its name – rapid fire.
- trusted brand
- can accommodate a large amount of coal
- some users prefer a bottom drop out instead of pouring the coals out
- some users have reported that their handles got very hot
- smaller chunks of charcoal can fall right through the space between the grate
2. GrillPro 39470 Chimney Style Charcoal Starter
GrillPro’s Chimney Starter is as simple as they come. It’s a metal canister with huge air vents that can hold up to 2 pounds of charcoal. It has a plastic handle and a heat shield. And it only costs around $10.
- easy to use
- good price
- lights up coal in 10 minutes
- heat shield could be bigger
- need to do a couple of batches for lighting up large grills
- thin metal; may not last long
3. Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter
Char-Griller’s Chimney Starter with Quick Release Trigger is a one-of-a-kind charcoal starter. Unlike all the others you’ll find, the patented trigger release allows you to drop the coals directly into your grill, no pouring necessary. This kind of placement also allows you to keep the hottest coals on the bottom of the pile for better heat distribution. The large size of the base and air vents shortens the amount of time it takes to heat up the charcoal. And the canister also has a larger capacity than other chimney starters, holding up to 4.5 lbs of coal.
- Drops coal from the bottom of the starter
- large capacity
- lights fast
- durability issues with the hinge of the trap door
- falls apart easily after frequent use
- small heat shield
4. Lodge Charcoal Chimney Starter
The Lodge Charcoal Chimney Starter is made out of rust-resistant galvanized steel, is 12 inches tall, and features a wooden handle plus heat shield for protection against heat transfer.
- wooden handle
- lots of ventilation
- lights up in 10-15 minutes
- made in China
- the spaces in the bottom wire are too large; coal can fall through
- some users have reported receiving incomplete products
5. Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter
This is the smaller version of the original Rapidfire Chimney Starter and is perfect for those who want to do low and slow cooks or who only wish to light smaller grills. The chimney starter can hold up to 40 briquettes. It has a single, plastic handle with a large heat shield.
- perfect for low and slow cooks or smaller grills
- Weber brand of excellence
- too small for some
- some users report that it takes too long to light up the coal
- handle can get hot
6. BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity Charcoal Starter
BBQ Dragon’s Chimney of Insanity Charcoal Starter is one of the most expensive picks on our list. But some things are worth the cost and this is true for this charcoal starter. It has a 90-degree elbow to the side of the chimney that blows air directly into the charcoal, making it light up even faster. Using a fan directly into the side hole can shorten your start time to less than 10 minutes. And adding fuel to our fire is also made easier. The chimney starter is made out of thick gauge steel and features a heat-resistant nylon handle as well as a thick heat shield for preventing heat transfer.
- unique design
- fast starting time
- smaller capacity than other chimney starters
7. Charcoal Companion Stainless Steel Chimney Charcoal Starter
Charcoal Companion’s Stainless Steel Chimney Starter is one of the largest in our top 9 list. It can hold up to 5 pounds of charcoal. It features a wooden handle and a stainless steel heat shield. The large air vents facilitate airflow, shortening the starting time.
- 5-year limited warranty
- large holding capacity
- naturally heat-resistant rosewood handle
- aluminum rivets may need replacing after awhile
- the heat tarnishes the shiny look of the chimney starter
8. Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Ultimate Chimney Charcoal Starter
Another uniquely designed chimney starter, this time from Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue. Instead of a canister or tube-like design, this Ultimate Chimney Charcoal Starter has a square shape design. The square corners gives you more control when pouring the coals into your grill. It has a 7-pound capacity, the largest one in the market. The starter features a main bakelite handle and a second flip-up handle for extra control and stability when you’re pouring hot coals.
- perfect for lighting up multiple grills
- large air vents
- square design provides better control for pouring
- handle gets hot
- some users have reported rust
9. OUTXPRO Charcoal Chimney Fire Starter
The OUTXPRO Charcoal Chimney Fire Starter is quite similar to most other charcoal starters. It features a canister design with large vents at the bottom, a heat shield, and a capacity for 4 lbs of charcoal, enough to light up a 22 1/2 inch grill. It lights up coal quickly, around 15 minutes. The hardwood handle doesn’t heat up and feels comfortable in your hand. What we do find different about this particular chimney starter is the look. Unlike the usual gray metal appearance of chimney starters, this one is colored black using durable, heat-resistant paint.
- looks cool
- large vents
- comfortable wooden handle
- paint chips off quickly
- heat shield doesn’t block the heat well
- Some users felt the product is cheaply made
How to Choose a Chimney Starter
Lighting up your grill should be a breeze with a chimney starter. But will any old chimney starter do? Unfortunately not. Not because they won’t work. Lighting up coals doesn’t take rocket science. But there are a few things you must consider when choosing a chimney starter and we’ve got it all written down for you.
How much coal do you need to light up?
For a regular-sized grill like a Weber 22 ½ inch grill, you’ll want a chimney starter that can hold at least 90 to 100 briquettes such as the Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter. If you have a smaller-sized grill like the Smokey Joe or you want to do some low and slow cooking, then the Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter is your best bet. If you plan on lighting up several grills, then you want a chimney starter with a really large capacity like the Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Ultimate Chimney Charcoal Starter.
Is the handle really heat resistant? Does it have a heat shield?
Remember, you are lighting up charcoal. You are literally playing with fire. So you should ensure that you remain protected from the heat. Some chimney starters feature wooden handles which is better at resisting heat than plastic. All chimney starters feature a heat shield. However, some of them have smaller heat shields while others may be large but do not prevent heat transfer. Even if the manufacturer swears that you’ll never get hot hands using their product, always wear gloves.
How are the coals transferred?
Most chimney starters will require you to pour the hot coals into your grill. And this is fine. What matters in this case is how stable the canister is while you’re doing this. Some chimney starters like the Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter and the Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Ultimate Chimney Charcoal Starter feature a secondary handle for added stability.
One chimney starter that caught our eye uses a patented trigger release system to drop hot coals from the bottom instead of pouring it out. This could be advantageous, no need to worry about the mess you make when pouring hot coal and ashes into the grill. However, if not designed properly, you may end up accidentally dropping hot coals on your feet. Definitely something to think about.
All in all, there isn’t really much to consider when it comes to choosing a chimney starter. Most will only cost you between $10 to $20 and will last you a season or two. But while the considerations are few, they must all be taken into account to ensure you remain safe and happy lighting your fire.