Lighting a charcoal grill isn’t always easy, but the right charcoal starter makes things a lot easier. While there are different types of BBQ lighter types out there, we cover everything you need to choose the best grill lighter for your needs below. Get your next BBQ off to the right start with our reviews and buyer’s guide below.
View in gallery
There is no denying that charcoal grills are big on flavor, but lighting them can be a real headache. Of course, you can use lighter fluid, but that can distort the taste of your food and even endanger your health.
Fortunately, you don’t need to ruin your grilling experience by using the wrong charcoal starter. The market is awash with safe and easy-to-use BBQ lighters that will get the job done faster.
Do you fancy a hands-free electrical firestarter? Or, perhaps a propane blow torch is more your style. Whatever tickles your fancy, there are plenty of options available for your consideration. Keep reading to find which charcoal starter is right for you.
The Best Charcoal Starters for Backyard Pit Masters
If you’re unsure how to light a charcoal grill without frustration, chances are you need a good BBQ lighter. Whether it be a chimney, electric starter, propane lighter, or refillable torch lighter, they each have their pros and cons. Below, we weigh all of these factors and more to help you determine the best charcoal starter for your next cookout.
If you want to get your barbecue up and running within minutes, get your hands on the Weber Rapidfire chimney starter model 7416. It will turn your charcoal into red-hot briquettes in no time.
We love the large capacity bin that will light charcoal for up to 22.5-inch grills. But what won us over about the Weber chimney starter is its user-friendly design, heat retention, and excellent value for money.
The aluminized steel body enables the lighter to retain the heat better, ensuring that your charcoal is ready within minutes. Additionally, the coals light up effectively without the need for lighter fluid thanks to the inverted cone-shaped bottom.
This charcoal chimney is also very easy to use. Once you fill it with coals and place it above the lighter cubes, all you have to do is wait. The charcoal will be ready for the grill when the top turns ash gray.
With the Weber Rapidfire, you also get a thermoplastic handle to protect your hands from the heat.
Want to light your grill without the limitations that come with corded lighters? The highly portable JJ George torch charcoal starter gives you a faster and easier way to fire up those coals. You don’t have to waste your precious time looking for extension cords and electrical outlets anymore. And thanks to the self-ignition, lighting a charcoal grill has never been easier.
You can adjust the flame up to 1,300 degrees for faster results without worrying about depleting the gas. The torch will light your charcoal in a matter of seconds, and the 14 oz. can is sufficient for up to 100 starts. And with JJ George gas lighters, you don’t have to blow air on your charcoal before lighting them, meaning sparking is kept at a minimum.
The grill torch features an extended nozzle. This unique design enables you to light the grill from as far as 20 inches away, all while keeping the propane canister safely upright.
Apart from keeping your hands safely away from the fire, the handle is ergonomically designed to maintain a comfortable grip. Its cantilever style makes it easier to hold and use.
The Bernzomatic TS4000 propane lighter is designed to handle many applications, including soldering and heat treating. But you can use it to light charcoal just as effectively.
It produces a swirl flame that is optimized for maximum heat output. Therefore, you can get your coals ready within no time. Thanks to the automatic start/stop ignition, you can produce a flame with the push of a button and extinguish it just as easily. But if you want to keep the fire burning continuously, the run-lock button will come in handy.
This charcoal starter boasts a cast aluminum construction for added durability. And the fact that it is manufactured in the USA means you should expect many years of service. But in case you have doubts, the product is backed with a one-year limited warranty.
Since the pressure in the torch is regulated, it allows the flame to burn in all directions. Therefore, it will produce consistent performance even when inverted. That makes it the perfect tool for lighting a charcoal grill effectively and evenly.
One other great thing about this starter’s design is the detachable fuel cylinder. When not in use, you can just unscrew it from the torch. If you live around young kids with curious hands, it will help reduce the chances of accidental burns.
If you want to spend less time waiting and more time grilling, check out the Char-Broil electric charcoal starter. There are no buttons to push or switches to fiddle with here; once you plug it in, just turn it on and push it into the charcoal. The coals will be grill-ready within minutes!
The Char-Broil electric starter is also easy to handle owing to its lightweight nature. Although the iron end can get pretty hot, the heat-resistant handle will prevent your hand from getting burned.
What’s more, the coal starter’s design incorporates a metal bracket between the iron head and handle, which allows you to fix the lighter on the side of the grill to prevent it from falling into the charcoal. This feature also doubles as a stand when the starter is cooling off.
To top it all, the price is pocket-friendly and is unlikely to stretch your budget.
Why leave a chemical aftertaste in your food when there is a cleaner and easier way to light your coals? The Cadara charcoal grill chimney gets the job done in 10-15 minutes. All you need to do is place your light coals at the bottom and your charcoal at the top and wait for physics to do the rest.
This chimney starter features a zinc-coated galvanized steel construction for durability. It also comes with diameter holes at the base, where you can fit your light coals or crunched newspaper.
Thanks to the generous ventilation holes on the sides, there is sufficient air circulation to ensure your coals are ready for the grill in no time. Additionally, it is easier to distribute the hot coals thanks to the breakaway at the upper chamber.
The design also has safety in mind, featuring a nylon handle and a heat shield to effectively prevent heat transfer to your hand. You can even lift the chimney by the handle while lighting a charcoal grill without wearing gloves!
The Flame King YSNFS-02 arrives fully assembled and ready to fire. All you need to do is connect it to any standard propane tank, and you’ll instantly see how easy it is starting charcoal without lighter fluid. Once on, the fire starter throws off a giant flame that turns your charcoal into red-hot embers within seconds.
You can control the flame size depending on your needs, thanks to the flame control valve. This makes the grill lighter ideal for a variety of uses, including starting campfires and fire pits. If you open the valve to full blast, the flame will devour anything on its path. You may not need that big of a flame though.
The Flame King grill torch includes a 5-inch hose with a 350 PSI rating plus a brass adjusting valve. Due to its lightweight nature, it is easy to use and carry around. This feature also makes it easier to store and a perfect choice for all outdoor spaces.
Your hungry guests can’t wait forever for you to light your grill. In such desperate moments, the Looftlighter Electric Lighter could save the day.
This outstanding electric firestarter utilizes electrical heat and air, and can hit temperatures of up to 1100°F. With that kind of heat, you can have your coals glowing within just 60 seconds.
Since the Looflighters use nothing but heated air to light your coals, no gas or flame is produced. That in itself makes the lighter safe enough; but it is even safer than that. Right at the business end, the aluminum heat shield prevents the heating elements from bouncing around. However, it won’t protect your hand from the heat, so don’t even think of touching it.
When holding the BBQ fire starter, use the insulated handle only. And since it is far away enough from the heat, gloves are not a necessity.
This electric blower also features a stand that protects the surface from heat when the device is resting. When working, you can also use the stand to hang the blower on the side of the grill. Interestingly, the attachment also works as a bottle opener.
Searching for how to start charcoal in the shortest time possible? You can never go wrong with the HomeRight Electro-Torch grill starter.
This long lighter produces 1500 degrees of hot air that will ignite your charcoal within minutes. With that level of heat, you’d think it would risk overheating. But thanks to the built-in thermal safety switch, the power automatically cuts off well before dangerous temperatures are ever reached.
The dual ignition switch on this bad boy throws versatility into the mix. With one setting, you can generate enough heat to light your coals. The second setting produces a high-velocity airflow and emits a roaring fire.
Although this fire starter will light your charcoal faster than most models in the market, it is not as big. Thanks to its compact design, you can easily carry it wherever it is needed.
But the best part is that this electric starter is built with durability in mind. In case of any defects in manufacturing, it is backed by a two-year warranty.
In terms of pure speed, the BBQ Dragon may be the best charcoal chimney starter you will come across.
It includes a 90-degree elbow situated on the side. The opening creates a turbo effect that drives in more air into the chimney to accelerate the ignition. This innovation will turn your coals amber red in mere minutes.
You can fit a BBQ Dragon fire starter fan (sold separately) at the opening for optimum performance. When used with the fan, you can make your charcoal grill-ready in under 10 minutes. Most of the time, using a charcoal chimney takes significantly longer.
The hole on the side will also prove useful when adding your lighting material. Therefore, you don’t have to risk moving a hot chimney whenever you want to add lighting material.
But in case you have to move the chimney, the nylon handle and the thick heat shield combine to protect your hands from the heat.
Additionally, the BBQ Dragon is made with thick gauge galvanized steel with extra rivets at all its seams to enhance durability. So, you can be sure it will serve you for a long time to come.
If you’re looking for a way to heat larger amounts of charcoal faster, the REDCAMP Chimney Starter could be your best bet. Measuring 14 x 8.4 x 10.6 inches, the chimney can hold up to five pounds of charcoal.
Although the chimney is big, it is easily collapsible for convenient storage and portability, folding down to 10.6 x 8.4 x 2 inches. Don’t worry; it is easy to reassemble once you take it apart.
With a charcoal chimney starter this big, durability is often a point of concern. That is not so with the REDCAMP Chimney Starter. It is made of high-quality galvanized sheet that is heat resistant to guarantee long life. What’s more, the charcoal grate is zinc coated for added durability.
Additionally, the manufacture also offers a 365-day limited manufacturer value warranty to put your mind at ease.
The metal bucket can get very hot during use, and you can burn your hands if you’re not careful. Thankfully, the ABS plastic handle is heat resistant. It will, therefore, protect your hands from any potential burns.
What to Consider Before Buying a Charcoal Starter
Charcoal starters and grill lighters come in varying shapes and sizes. However, finding the right one can be tricky when you don’t know what to look out for. The following is what you need to consider to make an informed choice. Follow our tips closely, and you’ll be grilling like a pitmaster in no time.
Ease of Use
Lighting your grill should be a straightforward process every time. That’s why choosing the right charcoal starter for your needs is essential.
Using a chimney charcoal starter is fairly easy. But devices such as electrical starters and propane blow torches make it possible to light your grill with a single push of a button. They are practically amateur proof.
However, it is essential to note that such devices need additional gear and a power source. Therefore, they may prove problematic to use when either is absent. Naturally, a charcoal chimney starter is preferable in such instances.
Want something even easier to use? Check out the best propane grills.
Nobody likes it when coals seem to be dragging their feet, and it isn’t enough that the starter just lights your charcoal. It also needs to do it in the least possible time.
If you are willing to wait for about 20 minutes for your coals to turn amber red, then a basic chimney or electric charcoal lighter will get you there. However, if you want to light your charcoal within seconds, a high-powered electrical or propane lighter with be more your speed.
If you are a grill enthusiast who uses their charcoal lighter regularly, you want something that will stand the test of time. Therefore, your lighter of choice should feature high-quality materials and sturdy construction.
Is the steel galvanized? Is the gauge thick? These are some of the questions you need to consider when looking for a grill lighter. Also, check for other additions such as extra rivets, coating, and padding.
A lighter’s warranty policy can also say a lot about the manufacturer’s confidence in their product. It will also come in handy if the charcoal lighter turns out to be defective.
One good general rule is never to buy anything you can’t afford. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t go for the cheapest option either. Instead, find something that gives you the best value for your money.
However, finding that elusive balance between price and quality is not easy. The trick is to pick the best among a list of lighters in your price range. But like our list proves, it is still possible to land something great at a bargain.
What to Avoid When Starting a Charcoal Grill
Not every method of lighting charcoal is recommended, indeed some of them are counterproductive. Here are some things you should steer clear of.
Using liquid starters is one of the least popular ways of lighting charcoal. First, the liquid fuel soaks into the charcoal and produces a foul smell when burned.
This smell will give your food a burnt, chemical flavor, thus ruining your grilling experience. Moreover, such liquids contain volatile organic compounds that could expose your body to a host of health issues.
Since such liquids are highly flammable, using or storing them around the house could also lead to accidents.
Easy Lighting Charcoal
If you are using easy lighting charcoal, you face the same problem as with liquid starters. Only this time, the charcoal has soaked the liquid to the core.
Best Charcoal Starter: The Final Word
A charcoal starter can make or break your grilling experience. It can determine how fast you light your charcoal and how evenly they burn. While some are fast and easy to use, others can even interfere with the taste of your food.
Selecting the best charcoal starters and grill lighters requires wisdom. If you are looking for one that gets the job done with little to no hassle, our list includes some of the best options in the market. You can pick whatever tickles your fancy and fits within your budget.
Time to hear from you. What are some of the best charcoal starters that you’ve come across? Have you used any from our list? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.