Most people believe that there’s only one way to light a charcoal grill. How many times have you arranged a pile of charcoal in the center of your grill, added lighter fluid, and lit it up?
The truth is, lighter fluid is pretty dangerous as it can impart an unpleasant flavor to your food.
For this reason, you must expand your grilling horizons and use a charcoal chimney starter.
Chimney starters are essential for any barbecuer grilling over charcoal as they will help you get a fire going faster. However, not any old chimney starter will do.
What Is a Charcoal Chimney Starter?
Essentially a charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder that’s designed with a grate inside the tube that promotes airflow.
In addition to this, the small grate separates the materials used to start the fire, such as newspaper, lighter cubes, or cardboard from the coals. This way, you can use the fire starter to light the coals.
What To Look For in a Chimney Starter
Just because you know what a chimney stater is, does not mean you should go out and purchase the first starter you see.
There are a few characteristics you must look for in a chimney starter before you purchase a charcoal chimney starter.
Size and Charcoal Capacity
We all can agree that there’s nothing more annoying than having to refill your charcoal reserves while you are in the middle of the cooking process.
Not only are the grills grates covered in fats rendered from the food, but the food is hot and messy, which means you will end up with a giant mess.
Therefore making sure you choose the right size chimney starter is critical. Luckily chimney starters come in different sizes and are compatible with different grills.
In addition to this, a chimney starter’s capacity is defined by the size of its top chamber.
When it comes to chimney starter’s bigger is always better. This gives you the option to choose the number of coals you want to light.
Furthermore, with a bigger chimney starter, you can cook the food on the starter.
You should use a smaller chimney starter only if you reside in an RV or are a frequent camper.
Smaller chimney starters will be easier to transport as bigger starters take up more space and are difficult to transport.
In addition to this, you should also consider the room inside the starter’s lower compartment.
If the chamber is too small, it may be harder to light the newspaper due to the limited airflow or the inadequate amount of newspapers.
The vast majority of chimney starters are designed with a cylindrical shape.
However, some starters can also be square or rectangular in shape, while others are collapsable, so you can fold them into a flat shape.
The folding features are a space saver if you do not have a lot of real estate, making them the perfect starter for transporting.
However, some people also question the safety of foldable starters as they are afraid they will collapse while they are using them.
Triangular starter chimneys are also preferred because they make it easier to pour the charcoals into the grill.
All that’s required is tipping your hot coals against the edge adjacent to the handle.
When you pour the charcoal into the grill, it will fall in a safe straight line into the base of the unit, allowing you to start your grill safely.
The only drawback of a triangular charcoal chimney starter is that it decreases the charcoal capacity, and most of these starters are foldable, which leads to the same problem as square collapsable starters.
Opt for a chimney starter that is cylindrical in shape.
These starters are ideal because they stimulate air circulation, which helps the coals ignite and maximizes their capacity.
Cylindrical starters are not foldable, so it eliminates the chance that they will collapse while you use them.
Oxygen is essential to sustaining life on this planet, just as it is essential for maintaining a fire.
A quality chimney smoker has an adequate ventilation system that creates an adequate updraft. A quality updraft allows you to effectively ignite the charcoal quickly.
Choose a chimney starter that has a lot of holes in the starter’s body. In addition to this, inspect the divider grate on the starter’s interior.
Some chimney starters are designed with a conical shape, while others feature a structure crafted from narrow metal twines.
Both of these options surpass the flat plate, which usually has a string of perforations.
Unlike the flat plate, these structures circulate more cold air during the ignition phase. In addition to this, there will be more room for you to add newspaper at the base of the chamber.
When dealing with chimney starters, the handle should be a good distance away from the chimney’s body.
Not only will the handle being a good distance away protect you from getting burned, but it will also keep the starter’s handle from getting burned.
Choosing a charcoal chimney starter with an ergonomic handle that you can comfortably hold while having a good grip is best.
Ensure your chimney starter has a handle that’s crafted from heat-resistant material.
Avoid all chimney starters with wooden handles. Wooden handles do not have an ergonomic grip and can quickly become hot, causing you to get burned in the process.
Furthermore, you should also opt for a chimney starter that has a second helping handle.
Secondary helping handles give consumers more control when spreading the hot coals into the base of your grill.
Another thing to consider in regards to handles is a second helping handle. Secondary handles are also ideal if as they can give you more support if you intend to fill your starter to capacity.
Safety is always the most important characteristic when it comes to dealing with fire. Every chimney starter must have a heat shield.
The shield protects the handle and your hand from the intensely hot flames of the fire.
It is also a good idea to choose a starter with a quick-release trigger like the heat shield. This trigger will let you add the coals without having to turn the chimney on its side.
This trigger feature is ideal when you are using large amounts of charcoal or have a grill with a broad base.
Material is also an important feature when it comes to chimney starters. It’s best to opt for a chimney starter that was crafted from a thick and sturdy material.
Starters are usually produced from steel; however, a starter does not necessarily have to be crafted from stainless steel.
Why Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter?
The question should not be why to use a charcoal chimney starter. It should be why not use a charcoal chimney starter. After all, they are the easiest, fastest way to ignite.
As mentioned above, chimney starters eradicate the use of lighter fluid. Most people do not allow the lighter fluid to burn away completely before adding their food to the grill.
Starters decrease the chances that lighter fluid will impart a chemical flavor into your food.
In addition to this, lighter fluid is dangerous as it can cause flare-ups and cause you to get burned, and no one likes getting burned.
In addition, chimney starters are the cheapest way to light a charcoal grill.
Tips for Using a Chimney Starter
There are a few beneficial tips you should know about before testing your brand new starter. Use heat-resistant gloves and wear closed-toe shoes whenever you are using a chimney starter.
When you are transporting your lit charcoal to the grill, hot pieces of charcoal can escape from the base of the chimney on top of your bare or open-toed shoes.
In addition, you may accidentally step on a piece of hot charcoal. If you don’t want to get burned from hot charcoal, wear closed-toe shoes.
Chimney starters do not automatically cool down; they will remain hot for some time even after you have dumped the charcoal into the grill.
Do not place your charcoal starters on or in proximity to flammable materials such as a wooden deck or dry grass.
Furthermore, make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand in case you need to put out any fires while barbecuing.
Do not ignite your charcoal chimney starter on concrete surfaces.
The fire from the starter can cause the concrete to explode, leading to a damaged concrete surface or result in physical harm.
Light your charcoal chimney on a charcoal grate, the cooking grates from another grill, or fire-safe bricks arranged on your deck or patio.
How To Use a Charcoal Starter
Using a charcoal starter is very easy. Remove the cooking grates from your charcoal grate, then load up your starter with charcoal making sure the chimney starter is filled all the way up to the top.
Place the lighter cubes onto the charcoal grate, light them, then place the chimney starter on top of the lighter cubes.
The fire created from the lighter cubes will ignite the charcoal, and the flames will flow towards the top of the starter.
In approximately 10-15 minutes, your charcoal will be ready to add to the grill. The charcoal will be ready when the upper coals develop a gray ashy fil on its exterior.
Simply pour the coals into the base of the grill and arrange them to set up direct or indirect grilling zones.
Place the grill’s cooking grates onto the grill, add the lid and preheat the grill for 10-15 minutes.
Do not forget to place your starter in a safe location after you have added the charcoal to the grill.
If you are using newspaper to light your charcoal chimney starter, it is important to note that colored newspaper contains chemicals that may leech into your food.
Opt for black and white newspapers to light your charcoal starter.
The Best Charcoal Chimneys
There are hundreds of charcoal chimneys on the market, and every brand claims to be the best chimney starter on the planet.
This is why you need to know the best charcoal chimneys on the market, and luckily we have severely narrowed your options down to the best charcoal chimneys.
Weber 7429 Rapidfire Chimney Starter
The weber rapid fire chimney starter was built to quickly ignite hot charcoal so that you will have the best barbecuing experience.
Boasting .5 inches in width and 13 inches in height, and a uniquely designed cone-shaped grate, this chimney starter will last for years to come.
Constructed from durable materials and featuring an ergonomic handle, you can comfortably use this starter without the fear of getting burned.
Furthermore, this aluminized steel starter features two handles to give the user precise control when pouring coals into the base of the grill.
You can literally hold the thermoplastic handle with one hand and the wire handle with your free hand and guide your coals into the grill.
Due to the Weber chimney starter cylindrical shape can hold enough coals to fill up your grill. In addition to this, the cone-shaped base helps to light quickly and efficiently.
Overall, the Weber rapid fire chimney starter gets the job done in a quick and efficient manner.
Kingsford Heavy Duty Deluxe Charcoal Chimney Starter
If you are looking for a chimney starter that lights your charcoal in quickly, the Kingsford heavy-duty charcoal chimney starter is the one for you.
Constructed from rust-resistant zinc steel, this starter features a heat shield and cool handle. Your hands will be shielded against the intense flames of the heat.
With dimensions of 10.74″ x 6.8″ x 11.25″, this large chimney starter will heat enough charcoals and eliminate the need to light more charcoals in the middle of the grilling process.
Furthermore, this chimney starter requires no assembly.
The Kingsford chimney starter comes assembled and ready to light your charcoals for your next meal.
If you are looking for a chimney starter that requires no assembly, this is the [perfect chimney starter for you.
You can literally take this chimney starter out of the box and cook up a feast in no time.
Char-griller Charcoal Grill Chimney
The char griller charcoal chimney features a patented trigger release that allows you to easily add your charcoal to the grill.
With a quick-release trigger, you can avoid the mess of pouring the coals into the grill. You can simply drop your hot coals into the grill, add your cooking grate and get cooking.
In addition to this, the built-in release allows the hotter coals to stay at the bottom of the unit, which distributes heat evenly and provides an efficient grilling experience.
The large size allows you to prepare enough charcoal so you won’t run out mid-cook, and the abs handle and heat shield further solidify the safety of this chimney starter.
Furthermore, the handle is so safe that you don’t even need heat-resistant gloves.
Coated with galvanized zinc, this unit heats up coals quickly and allows you to cook sooner rather than later.
In general, if you are looking for a simple, easy-to-use charcoal chimney, the char griller chimney starter is for you.
It is built with a quick-release trigger that allows you to drop charcoal into the grill, what could be better?
FAQs About Chimney Starters
With all of this information about chimney starters, you must have some lingering questions about chimney starters. These are the most common questions about charcoal chimney starters.
Are Chimney Starters Worth It?
Yes, charcoal starters are necessary. Whether you own a charcoal grill or smoker, a chimney starter is necessary. Furthermore, they are the simplest, most efficient way to light charcoal.
Are All Charcoal Chimneys Identical?
Even though chimney starters are intended to perform the same function, that does not mean that they are equal.
Truth be told, the right chimney starter depends on how you intend to use your grill.
One chimney starter may not produce enough charcoal to sustain your cook, while another starter may ignite too much charcoal.
Can You Use Lump Charcoal in a Chimney Starter?
Of course, you can use lump charcoal in a chimney starter as long as it is 100% natural hardwood lump charcoal. Best of all, it will only take 15-10 minutes to light your charcoal.
However, you should not use lighter fluid or newspaper to start charcoal.
Charcoal happens to be one of the most popular sources of fuel for grilling.
From cooking foods such as vegetables and fish to burgers and steaks, charcoal grills and smokers will also be popular.
However, knowing how to light charcoal is essential to this type of cooker. Therefore, you need to add a chimney starter to help your fuel burn efficiently.
Luckily, you now have the best 3 chimney starters, as well as all of the information you need to know about chimney starters.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.
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