Charcoal Chimney Starters

August 20, 2013 0 Comments

Charcoal Chimney Starter

Why Use Chimney Starters

My recent article on lump vs. briquette charcoal got me thinking about my chimney starter, which is the best device to set your charcoal aflame for grilling or cooking. Typically, I’ll put my gas grill to more use on a regular basis, but my chimney starter is the only way to really get a fire going.

Chimney starters, also known as charcoal chimneys, will give you a large quantity of hot coals for grilling in a short amount of time. If you want to avoid taking a bite into a piece of meat that tastes like lighter fluid, a chimney starter is your best bet. Thinking of making the purchase for your summer grilling? Read on…

What Is A Chimney Starter?

A chimney starter is a cylindrical-shaped tin or container that includes a grate welded inside at the bottom. Chimney starters have holes below the grate to promote air flow. Most of them also include insulated handles on either side for gripping.

Once the newspaper at the bottom of the grate is lit, it will ignite the lump or charcoal pieces that are placed above it.  It takes around twenty minutes for the coals to be heated and ready to be transferred to the grill.

How to Use It

Place your briquettes or lump charcoal pieces in the top section of the chimney container. Next, grab a few sheets of newspaper and roll them into a loop shape to put at the bottom of the chimney. Helpful tip: roll the newspaper so that it has a donut-like hole in the middle (this allows for some air to escape which will encourage the charcoal to light faster).

Light your newspaper with a match and then wait a few minutes until the coals start to heat up. Depending on the quantity and type of charcoal that you are burning, the coals should be hot in around 15-20 minutes.

Once a gray ash starts to form and you can see the orange glow creeping up through the coal pieces, the charcoal should be ready to transfer onto the grill.


Chimney starters are the easiest and most effective way to light your charcoal pieces. The device relies on thermodynamics to evenly heat the lump pieces or briquettes.

The biggest advantage to using a chimney starter is that you don’t have to use the self-igniting fluid that contains hazardous and unhealthy additives. Although it might seem easier to squirt on some lighter-fluid, you don’t want the residual taste of these toxins present in your meal.

What To Look For

When buying a good chimney starter, the first thing to look for is one with ventilation holes on the side. A charcoal chimney without holes won’t have enough airflow to sufficiently heat up the coal.

Many brands have heat-protectant handles, but look for a device that has a handle that is sturdy enough to allow you to move the canister onto a fire-safe surface. The last thing you want is the handle to break off while you’re moving the device, causing a nasty accident.

Most importantly, make sure the chimney starter you buy has a large capacity for charcoal and can heat up a grill that is at least 22 inches wide. The Weber Chimneys are the most popular and hold around 5 quarts of charcoal— which should be enough to spread across a large grate.

Cost wise, these devices range from $15-30. Other companies that sell them in this price range are Charcoal Companion, Outset, and Kingsford.

Safety Tips

Be careful when you’re using a fire starter!  It can be a little tricky once the appliance is hot and you have to dump the charcoals onto the grill, especially when the device is pretty heavy to carry. I don’t own a pair myself, but sometimes people invest in heat-resistant gloves to wear when handling a chimney starter.

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There are lots of sources for purchasing top of the line Grills, Barbecues & Outdoor Cooking Equipment.  I suggest you check out your local department stores and kitchen supply shops but if you’re looking for a wide selection of products and prices, you may want to check out where I buy many of my favorite pieces of grilling tools. -Grills & Outdoor Cooking

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Last modified on Wed 30 July 2014 9:50 am

Filed in: Grilling & BBQ

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