“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 or hybrid 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 options should you use? Well, we’ve got 9 of the best chimney starters 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 2020 Reviewed
1. GrillPro 39470 Chimney Style Charcoal StarterBest Chimney Starter for Medium Size Grills
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
- Heatshield could be bigger
- Need to do a couple of batches for lighting up large grills
- Thin metal; may not last long
2. Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney StarterBest Compact 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
- The handle can get hot
3. Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney StarterBest Aluminized Steel 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 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 allows 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
4. Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney StarterBest Chimney Starter with Quick Release Trigger
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 compared to other similar 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
5. Lodge Charcoal Chimney StarterBest Steel Chimney Starter
The Lodge Charcoal Starter is made out of rust-resistant galvanized steel, which means it’s durable enough to use for a long time. It is 12 inches tall, allowing you to light up lots of coal for your grill without any problems. Better yet, it 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
6. BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity Charcoal StarterBest Fast Chimney 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 models
7. Charcoal Chimney Starter, Charcoal Cooker, Stainless SteelBest Stainless Steel Charcoal Chimney Starter
For those who won’t settle for less when it comes to the quality of construction and customer care, this product from a firefly is the one for you. From its gorgeous, stainless steel outer material to its Galvanized charcoal rack, this charcoal starter takes no chances when it comes to durability and quality. The unit is also surprisingly lightweight, and very easy to handle.
Besides its high end make, the Firefly Grill ‘N More chimney starter’s design incorporates a small area to hold the lump charcoal, which makes the charcoal heat up hotter and faster than you’d expect from using lighter fluid.
The good people at Firefly Grill ‘N More didn’t go without also ensuring the unit was safe, putting in place a rigid Bakelite handle and a heat resistant plate between the handle and starter. It comes with its anti-smoke BBQ accessories and all the tools needed for assembly. So worry no more about having to hold the burning coal and let the Firefly Grill ‘N More do all the dirty work for you.
- Quick heating
- Heat resistant plate for safety
- Quality make including Bakelite handle
- It’s pricey
- Has sharp edges that may gash fingers
- Needs hands-on assembly
8. Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Ultimate Chimney Charcoal StarterBest High Capacity Chimney 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 give 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. Eau Large Charcoal Chimney StarterBest Large Chimney Starter
The Eau Large Charcoal Chimney Starter is among the largest in our top 9 list. The beast can comfortably hold up to 4 pounds of charcoal, which is enough to light up a 22 ½ inch grill. Its design is however quite similar to most other charcoal starters. It has a canister design with large vents at the bottom coupled with a really large diameter that enhances fast heating. With its increased airflow the Eau will heat your charcoal 3 times faster than the typical flat square starters.
The Eau works great outdoors, perfect for any fireplace, Firepits, campfires and pizza ovens. It also comes with all accessories that will make your BBQ experience run flawlessly. Its handle is duly user-friendly as well. Not only will it not heat up, but it also feels comfortable in your hand.
Judging from all its features plus an outstanding five-star rating on Amazon, you can rest assured that the Eau will not fall short of your expectations.
- Has a cool look
- Has large vents
- Is large
- Design is not exactly what you’d call extraordinary
- Same old grey color
Choosing The Best Chimney Starters – The Ultimate Buying Guide
Lighting up your grill should be a breeze with a chimney starter. But there are a few things you must consider when choosing a one and we’ve got it all written down for you.
Consider the following points to get your ideal model!
How do You Use A Chimney Starter?
Depending on the model, there are many ways on how you could use the starter, but ideally, one would start by wadding up a piece of paper, like a newspaper or something on the grill, then setting the chimney starter on top. You would then light the piece of paper through the holes of the starter and let the fire ignite the charcoal.
If you find yourself too ‘bad and boogie’ for a newspaper, lighter cubes can also serve as an alternative. Also notable is that chimney starters don’t need lighter fluid, and they don’t leave your grill in a big mess, requiring you to clean it up later.
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. 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 is your best bet.
If you plan on lighting up several grills, then you want a starter with a really large capacity like the Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Ultimate Chimney Charcoal Starter.
Can You Cook Over Your Chimney Starter?
Yes, this is possible, but the fire tends to get a bit hot if you do so. Therefore unless you especially prefer your food burnt, we wouldn’t advise you to do so on purpose. It’s considered dangerous, more so, for new grillers, and that’s why you see many people taking measures to prevent grease fires.
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 that are 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 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 models like the Weber 7416 Rapidfire 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.
How Much Charcoal Should You Insert in A Chimney Starter?
This depends on a lot of different factors. Including the capacity of your chimney starter, how long your meal takes to cook, what quantities of food you are cooking, as well as the temperatures that you’ll be cooking at.
The standard measure, however, is filling the chimney 25% full when you are on low heat, 50% full, on medium and 75% for medium to high heat, and finally 100% for when you are at full blast.
In the end, a charcoal burner is by far the easiest and most efficient means of firing up your grill. In the process, it will save you huge amounts of time and frustration. So whichever starter you choose; you’ll be making a wise move by merely investing in a charcoal chimney in the first place.
It will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable addition to your grill set. However, you can narrow down your decision making by considering the construction, size, and safety of it.