Charcoal cookers still get the job of grilling, smoking, or barbecuing food done. But starting a charcoal pile has always been the slow and challenging bit for most outdoor lovers. However, with the Charcoal Chimney Starter, you can light a charcoal pile easily.

Searching through hundreds of products for the best starter can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Fortunately, we’ve taken it off your hands by putting together reviews of the top ones in the market.

Best Charcoal Chimney Starter

In this article, you’ll also learn how to safely light, clean, maintain, and ultimately choose the best charcoal chimney starter for your needs.

Top 6 Chimney Starters Comparison

Weber 7429 Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Best Overall
  • Heavy-duty aluminum steel chimney
  • Ergonomic handle with heat shield
  • Holds 60 to 100 briquettes at once

Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Best for Smaller Grills
  • Portable and compact design
  • Thermoplastic handle with heat shield
  • Well-vented design

Oklahoma Joe’s Half-Time Charcoal Starter

Best for Innovative Handle Design
  • Massive chimney capacity for up to 100 briquettes
  • Well-vented design and construction
  • Cool-touch handle

HOMENOTE Rapid Charcoal Chimney Starter

Best Value
  • Comes with BBQ mitts, an air blower, and lighter cubes
  • Comfortable handle with heat shield
  • Galvanized steel construction for durability

Kingsford Quick Start Charcoal Chimney Starter

Best Budget
  • Large chamber capacity
  • The relatively affordable price tag
  • Compatible with lump charcoal

Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter

Best for Safety Feature
  • Bottom release system for easy pouring out of coals
  • ABS plastic handle for comfort
  • Sturdy zinc-coated steel chimney

How does a charcoal chimney starter work?

A charcoal chimney starter is a tool for heating coals and firing up your barbecue. It has a metal container and a bottom grate. While the metal cylinder is for holding coal, the grate is where a fire starts. Air flows from the bottom through the grate spaces and makes the flames rise. In turn, this causes your coals to burn.

Since the coals are tightly packed, and there’s oxygen, the flames rise quickly. That way, your coals can burn up to 500°F.

Why should you use a chimney starter?

➡ Eliminate the use of lighter fluid: For years, using lighter fluids has been a popular way to fire up charcoal grills. However, lighter fluids contain chemicals like benzene, hexamine, propane, naphtha, and lycopene. These chemicals are called hydrocarbons, and they can harm you even when you don’t ingest them. 

Inhaling lighter fluids for long can cause intoxication, like that of using drugs. In severe cases, the hydrocarbons in them can lead to a cardiac arrest.

When you use lighter fluids to fire up coals, your grilled food might have a weird taste and odor. If the liquid has several hydrocarbons, your meal could also smell like petrol.

➡ Safer: Charcoal chimney starters are safe since the coals are placed in a metal container until you’re ready to use them.

➡ Fast: At first, the process of lighting charcoal with a chimney starter might seem cumbersome. However, when you get the hang of it, you’ll be getting the job done in 15 to 25 minutes. This fast prep time is because the flame has easy access to oxygen and coal. Hence, you can prepare your meals in a shorter time.

➡ Even: A chimney charcoal starter heats all the coals in the cylinder at once. That way, the heat can be evenly distributed when cooking.

Features to look for when getting a charcoal chimney starter

1. Charcoal capacity:

If you don’t want to light your coals in batches, you should try to get a starter that holds enough coal for cooking. Of course, the capacity that’s right for you depends on your cooker’s size, the length of your cooking sessions, and whether you have a grill or smoker.

Also, the type of coal you use can affect the starter capacity you should be on the lookout for. For example, lump charcoals are bigger than charcoal briquettes. To light them efficiently, you’ll need a big chimney starter.

2. Proper ventilation:

Your charcoal pile needs oxygen to burn. And if they don’t get enough, starting your cooker can take forever. 

Check out chimney starters that have lots of vents or holes around the cylinder. They’ll save you from waiting for your cooker to fire up.

3. Handy handle:

You don’t want to burn yourself when lighting your cooker. But lifting a starter from its grate or cylinder isn’t an option. While you can use mitts, a good starter should have its handle far from the chimney. The handle should also shield your hands from the heat, and it should be non-flammable.

Keep away from chimney starters with wooden handles that are close to the chimney.

4. Safety features: 

Asides from the handle, you should check out starters with other safety features to avoid burning your hands. For example, there are quick release starters. When using one, your coals get released from the canister with a push of a button or trigger, instead of you pouring them out. 

Alternatively, some charcoal chimney starters have two handles instead of one.

5. Construction material:

Another thing to consider is the material of the canister, grate, and handle. If you want your starter to last for long and resist heat properly, you should consider units made from steel. 

It would help if you stayed away from painted units because they won’t hold up against the repeated heat that comes with using a chimney starter.

Detailed Review of 6 Best Charcoal Chimney Starters

Our team of researchers and cooking experts handpicked the following starters as the best in the market:

01

Weber 7429 Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Best Overall

Our Thoughts

Since 1893, Weber has been a leading manufacturer of cooking equipment, and the 7429 Rapidfire chimney starter is one of its top accessories. It is a simple yet useful starter to get the charcoal going.

Like other Weber accessories, the 7429 Rapidfire is manufactured in the US. Its canister is made from aluminized steel and coated with aluminum-silicon alloy. Hence, the container is strong and built to last. Although the handle is thermoplastic, it remains cool even at regular temperatures. There’s a heat shield to protect your hands and a secondary handle for pouring lit charcoal.

If you include its handle, this chimney starter is approximately 13 inches wide. However, the container is 12-inch tall with a 7.5-inch diameter. So, you can definitely light 60 to 100 briquettes at once, depending on the brand.

Asides from charcoal cookers, the 7429 Rapidfire chimney starter works with propane ignition systems. It has a cone-shaped grate. That way, coals can start at the same time, instead of lighting from the bottom.

Pros
  • Durable construction
  • Comfortable to hold with an ergonomic handle
  • A two-year warranty backs this chimney starter
  • Well-vented design
Cons
  • Top dumping can be challenging to control
  • Not the largest product available

Recent customer reports:

Recent customers love the 7429 Rapidfire chimney starter. Many commented that it’s built tough and can take a lot of chimney starters at once. But more importantly, they like that it burns quickly (15 to 20 minutes on average).

On the flip side, some customers reported that the thermoplastic handle on this unit gets hot (and sometimes melt) when the chimney approaches high temperatures. So, they advise you use it just as Weber recommends and not grill or smoke in it.

In a nutshell, they are convinced the 7429 Rapidfire is simple to use and an effective tool for starting coals.


02

Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Best for Smaller Grills

Our Thoughts

Chimney starters aren’t always bulky, large, and challenging to fit in your cooking box. Like the Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter, some models are designed for short grilling sessions and compact grills.

This unit is made from steel, and its thermoplastic handle is miles away from the container. It is also large and reinforced with a heat shield. So, there’s a low risk of burning your hands when using it. There’re several vents just below the canister.

The 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney starter is 8 inches tall and 5.8 inches wide. Hence, you can fit 10 to 40 briquettes at a go. Of course, this starter is unpainted, and it works with different types of grills, including Jumbo Joe and Smokey Joe charcoal grills.

Pros
  • Compact design
  • Durable construction
  • A 2-year warranty backs the unit
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • Not suitable for lump charcoal

Recent customer reports:

Customers say they like the unit for its cool features. They’ve reported that their coals come out glowing and ready to use after only five to ten minutes. Plus, most customers are impressed with its quality.

Although customers say they use heat-resistant mitts, there was hardly any report of the handles heating up.


03

Oklahoma Joe’s Half-Time Charcoal Starter XL

Best for Innovative Handle Design

Our Thoughts

Whether you’re a pro or beginner, a charcoal starter like the Oklahoma Joe’s Half-Time XL could be the unit to get your cooker fired up in no time. Unlike other starters, this one is made from heavy-duty stainless steel. 

Our research shows that the Oklahoma Joe’s Half-Time XL charcoal starter heats up as fast as standard starters. However, its competitive edge is its cool-touch handle. It’s a fair distance from the container and easy to use.

The vents in this unit run round the container and up to the top. While the unit is 12.05 inches tall, its width measures 15.39 inches. Such a large capacity can fit 100 briquettes at once. But you can also heat up your lump charcoal in it.

Pros
  • Multiple vents around the starter
  • Massive coal capacity
  • Burns evenly
  • Handle feels comfortable
Cons
  • Managing the starter when full can be challenging
  • Plastic on the inside could be of better quality

Recent customer reports:

Customers think this unit is well-designed with a top-notch handle. They say the stainless steel body makes cleaning and maintaining the unit a breeze. Plus, they like how fast it burns coal evenly.

However, some customers weren’t pleased with the aluminum rivets that hold the grid and handles or the plastic on the handle. They say they aren’t best for extreme temperatures. So, you should stick to how Oklahoma Joe’s tells you to use the starter and not over-burn coal in it.

But overall, customers report that this starter is effective and gets charcoal going in only a few minutes.


04

HOMENOTE Rapid Charcoal Chimney Starter

Best Value

Our Thoughts

If you’re new to chimney starters and need a package with everything you need, check out the Homenote Rapid Charcoal Chimney starter. Asides from the starter, you get an air blower, lighter cubes, and heat-resistant mitts in the box. 

This charcoal starter is 11.5 inches long and 7 inches wide. Hence, it is suitable for briquettes of different sizes. Unlike other models, this one is made from galvanized steel. Its handle is wooden and well-spaced from the chimney’s body.

There are a few vents at the bottom of this unit and three rows of tiny holes just above them. Our team found that this starter is non-toxic and great for different types of cookers.

Pros
  • Reasonably priced
  • Safe and efficient to use
  • Burns coal quickly and evenly
  • The handle has a heat shield
Cons
  • Accessories increase the cost

Recent customer reports:

Recent customers say that the deal that Homenote offers with this chimney starter package was difficult to refuse. They were also happy that the unit came with accessories to cushion the effect of its shortcomings. For example, there are few vents in this one. Fortunately, there’s a battery-powered air blower in the box. Also, the wooden handle tends to get hot. Again, there’re mitts in the package.

The unit’s tall shape and how quickly it heats coal was undoubtedly their best things about this charcoal starter.


05

Kingsford Quick Start Charcoal Chimney Starter

Best Budget

Our Thoughts

If you’re switching from lighter fluids, you won’t want to spend a fortune on the first charcoal starter chimney you find. Luckily, there’re affordable ones like the Kingsford Quick Start Charcoal chimney starter.

This chimney starter is made from zinc-plated steel, and its silver color is hard to miss. It is 10.74 inches long and 11.42 inches wide. Therefore, you can fit up to 80 briquettes in this one. 

In the Kingsford Quick Start, the Charcoal chimney starter comes assembled, and it is suitable for tailgating or camping trips. Our BBQ experts found that although there are medium-sized holes on the canister, the grate is well-vented.

For its price, the Kingsford Quick Start Charcoal chimney starter offers the features of premium-grade units.

Pros
  • Has cool handle and heat shield
  • Massive capacity for briquettes and lump charcoal
  • Comfortable grip for different hand sizes
Cons
  • More vents could be on the body for optimum airflow

Recent customer reports:

Many customers say this unit is the best chimney starter they’ve found, which is pretty accurate. The body can get really hot. So, many were happy the handle is far from the starter’s container.

A few customers reported that their handles melted. However, several customers reported that this would only happen when you put it on a grill instead of using it to start their coals. 

Generally, customers say that this unit makes starting their charcoal cooker safer for only a few bucks.


06

Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter

Best for Safety Feature

Our Thoughts

Char-Griller is another popular cooking-equipment manufacturer, and the brand has this chimney starter for people who still want to use charcoal cookers. It is made from zinc-coated steel, free from paints, and riddled with vents. Hence, we figure lighting your coals with the unit is easy.

Instead of flammable plastic, you get ABS plastic on the handle of this Char-Griller unit. There’s also a heat shield to protect you from accidental burns when using it. As long as your cooker is bigger than its 7.75-inch diameter, our experts reckon you’ll have no problem using the starter.

Despite its quality construction, the standout feature of this unit is its quick release. You can use this feature to pour out coals at the bottom quickly to your cooker.

Pros
  • Well-built
  • Durable handle
  • Safe to use with bottom release
  • Works with AKORN system
Cons
  • Moving parts in the bottom release aren’t built to last
  • Bottom release leaves the coldest coals in the chimney

Recent customer reports:

Recent customers think this Char-Griller tool is a fantastic unit to have for only a few bucks. As you would expect, the trigger release fascinated several people. And many say the model is large enough to fit up to 100 briquettes.

Since its body is zinc-plated, some customers complained that it got discolored after a while. Others say as long as you clean and maintain it, you should have no worries.

Overall, there were more positive than negative comments from recent users, many of which think this model is the best for safety feature.


How to light a chimney starter

Using a chimney starter is simple. Just follow the steps:

Handle your chimney charcoal starter with care!

Whether you’re starting a new pile or adding coal midway, you should be careful when using a charcoal starter; else, they’ll burn you or cause an unwanted fire.

First, don’t light a charcoal starter around children. And if there’re adults there, ensure you let them know you want to use one.

Although the handles of the best chimney starters have heat shields, you should also use mitts when holding them, just to be sure.

Next, find a safe way to light a fire before you put it on your coals. While burning newspapers can get your coals going, your safest bet is to use one or two lighter cubes. They work in the rain.

When you’re done lighting your coal pile, you should also pour them out safely in your cooker. Watch out for your feet while you’re at it.

Finally, find a right spot to drop your chimney starter when you’ve emptied the coals in it.

Cleaning and maintenance tips of chimney starters

If you want your chimney starter to last long, you should find ways to maintain and clean it regularly. Here’re the steps to take:

1. Remove ashes: Ashes help to build a fire. However, too much of it isn’t right for burning. Periodically, use a cleaning tool to scoop it out. The same applies to unburned coal in the chimney.

2. Ensure the vents and underside are unclogged: If you notice it takes a bit longer to burn your coal, the vents may be blocked. Hence, before you use a charcoal starter, poke the chimney’s vents.

3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Every manufacturer will have steps for you to follow. For example, you have nothing to worry about when water touches Oklahoma Joe’s chimney starter since it’s plastic. 

Final words

Cooking is easier when you have the right equipment, tools, and accessories. For outdoor lovers who love their charcoal units, chimney starters have now become a must-have.

So, go through our reviews of the best chimney starters in the market and our buying guide. Our experts are confident you’ll find a chimney starter that’s right for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best chimney starter recommended by you?

In our opinion, the Weber 7429 Rapidfire Chimney starter is the best chimney starter available. It’s massive and made from quality steel. But the best part is that it helps to get your charcoal started quickly and comes with safety features (heat shield and secondary handle).

What’s the exact difference between Weber 7416 vs. Weber 7429?

According to Weber, the 7416 and 7429 Weber Rapidfire starters are identical. They only have different packaging.

How long do I let the charcoal burn in a chimney?

Generally, it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get the charcoal lit. However, the size of your starter’s air vents and your weather condition can affect how long they take to burn.

You’ll know it’s time to pour out the coals when the top ones are covered with grey-white ash.

Johnny Trigg
Johnny TriggView all Posts

He’s the founder of BBQchickenUSA.com and also the owner of two barbecue restaurants. He’s passionate about reviewing, providing useful tips about BBQ Smokers, and known as BBQ Pitmaster.

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