The 8 Best Charcoal Starter Models to Get Your Grill Going

May 19, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The top chimney starter is the Weber RapidFire Chimney Starter. It is made from high quality material, has a large capacity, lights the charcoal quickly, and is lightweight to boot.

I am pretty old fashioned when it comes to BBQing which means no lighter fluid for me. Instead, I have a large selection of charcoal starters and I am always looking to add to them. So, testing out the starters for this post was a breeze!

In this post, I will reveal the best charcoal starter, provide some additional suggestions to you, and guide you through buying your own starter!

best charcoal starter

Comparing the Top Charcoal Chimney Starters

Preview
Best Overall
Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter, Standard,...
Runner Up
KINGSFORD Heavy Duty Deluxe Charcoal Chimney...
Best for Easy Release
Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter...
Best Camping Chimney Starter
REDCAMP Collapsible Charcoal Chimney Starter...
Material
Aluminized Steel
Zinc Steel
Zinc Steel
Galvanized Steel
Capacity (lbs)
5
5
4.5
5
Dimensions (Inches)
13 x 7.5 x 12
10.74 x 6.8 x 11.25
7.6 x 12 x 12
14 x 8.4 x 10.6
Weight (lbs)
0.0006
2
3.1
3
Best Overall
Preview
Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter, Standard,...
Material
Aluminized Steel
Capacity (lbs)
5
Dimensions (Inches)
13 x 7.5 x 12
Weight (lbs)
0.0006
Runner Up
Preview
KINGSFORD Heavy Duty Deluxe Charcoal Chimney...
Material
Zinc Steel
Capacity (lbs)
5
Dimensions (Inches)
10.74 x 6.8 x 11.25
Weight (lbs)
2
Best for Easy Release
Preview
Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter...
Material
Zinc Steel
Capacity (lbs)
4.5
Dimensions (Inches)
7.6 x 12 x 12
Weight (lbs)
3.1
Best Camping Chimney Starter
Preview
REDCAMP Collapsible Charcoal Chimney Starter...
Material
Galvanized Steel
Capacity (lbs)
5
Dimensions (Inches)
14 x 8.4 x 10.6
Weight (lbs)
3
Preview
CADARA Chimney Starter
Charcoal Chimney Starter BBQ Grill Lighter...
GrillPro 39470 Chimney Starter
GrillPro 39470 Chimney Charcoal Starter,...
Beau Jardin Charcoal Chimney Starter
BEAU JARDIN Charcoal Chimney Starter 11"X7"...
Rosle Charcoal Chimney Starter
Rösle Stainless Steel Charcoal Starter...
Material
Alloy Steel
Alloy Steel
Alloy Steel
Stainless Steel
Capacity (lbs)
4
2
4
4.5
Dimensions (Inches)
10.83 x 7.09 x 11.02
6.5 x 11 x 10.6
6.89 x 6.89 x 11.02
12.8 x 7.48 x 12.99
Weight (lbs)
1.76
0.0006
2.16
3.48
CADARA Chimney Starter
Preview
Charcoal Chimney Starter BBQ Grill Lighter...
Material
Alloy Steel
Capacity (lbs)
4
Dimensions (Inches)
10.83 x 7.09 x 11.02
Weight (lbs)
1.76
GrillPro 39470 Chimney Starter
Preview
GrillPro 39470 Chimney Charcoal Starter,...
Material
Alloy Steel
Capacity (lbs)
2
Dimensions (Inches)
6.5 x 11 x 10.6
Weight (lbs)
0.0006
Beau Jardin Charcoal Chimney Starter
Preview
BEAU JARDIN Charcoal Chimney Starter 11"X7"...
Material
Alloy Steel
Capacity (lbs)
4
Dimensions (Inches)
6.89 x 6.89 x 11.02
Weight (lbs)
2.16
Rosle Charcoal Chimney Starter
Preview
Rösle Stainless Steel Charcoal Starter...
Material
Stainless Steel
Capacity (lbs)
4.5
Dimensions (Inches)
12.8 x 7.48 x 12.99
Weight (lbs)
3.48

The Best Charcoal Chimney Starters

Here are the top charcoal chimney starter models for you to choose from:

1. Weber RapidFire Chimney Starter

Best Overall

Specs

  • Material: Aluminized Steel
  • Capacity: 5lbs
  • Dimensions: 13 x 7.5 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 0.0006lbs

Quick Lighting Design

One of my favorite things about this charcoal chimney starter is that the inner grate has a cone shape where you add the fire starter. As a result, the starting point of the fire is narrower, allowing the coals to catch fire more quickly. In turn, the entire chimney starter catches alight at a faster rate too.

High Quality Materials

I am the kind of person who uses their grill quite often. Due to this, I want to make sure that I am getting my money's worth when I buy a chimney starter. So, I made sure to put this starter through its paces.

And, I have to say that it held up beautifully. The chimney starter held its shape and structure time and time again. I didn't notice any warping and there was minimal discoloration. All in all, a great value.

The only issue I did have was with the heat shield. Initially, it worked quite well but over time, it lost effectiveness. Eventually, I had to wear gloves before picking up the starter when it was filled with lit charcoal.

Person Adding Burning Charcoal on the BBQ Grill

Large Capacity

If you have a medium or large sized charcoal grill, then you are going to love how much charcoal this chimney starter can hold! It can easily store up to 100 charcoal briquettes. So, even if you have a larger grill, you will be able to get all the charcoal you need to be lit at the same time.

In doing so, you will be able to get your cook faster. This feature also comes in handy when you need to get your charcoal grill going again in the middle of your cook.

Lightweight Design

Of all the chimney starters on the list, this is certainly one of the lightest. I am quite grateful for this as the heftier chimney starters get even heavier after they are carrying hot coals. So, if you struggle with your upper body strength, you will appreciate this lightweight design.

Pros

  • Quick to light
  • Durable
  • Large capacity
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Heat shield slowly loses effectiveness

2. Kingsford Deluxe Chimney Starter

Runner Up

Specs

  • Material: Zinc Steel
  • Capacity: 2lbs
  • Dimensions: 10.74 x 6.8 x 11.25 inches
  • Weight: 32 ounces

Great Durability

One of the things that I was really impressed with about this charcoal chimney starter was its durability. Sure, this starter feels strong but I was able to put it to the test and see just how well it held up against the heat. There were no issues at all and I didn't notice any defects or damage the longer that I used the chimney starter.

The other thing that I like about this charcoal chimney starter is that it is made from zinc coated steel and which makes it corrosion and rust resistant. So, your investment will last longer.

Easy to Light

If you want to ditch the lighter fluid but are new to using a chimney starter, this is definitely a good option, to begin with. This is because there are large holes at the bottom of the charcoal chimney starter, where the fire starter goes, below the lump of charcoal. It is easy for you to stick a long match in and get everything going.

The only downside here is that it can take the fire a while to get going and spread to the other coals in the chimney starter.

Heat Resistant Design

It is great to discover that this chimney starter actually lives up to its claims of being heat resistant. I was able to hold onto the handle and carry the chimney starter around, even when it was full of lit coals without feeling anything at all.

As an added bonus, even as I continued to use the chimney starter, the heat shield held up.

Good Capacity

It doesn't matter if you are dealing with smaller or larger charcoal grills, you will be able to easily get enough lump charcoal in there to work with all kinds of sizes.

Pros

  • High durability
  • Easy to light
  • Heat resistant
  • Good capacity

Cons

  • Takes a little while to heat up

3. Char-Griller Charcoal Chimney Starter

Best for Easy Release

Specs

  • Material: Zinc Steel
  • Capacity: 4.5lbs
  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 12 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 3.1lbs

Easy to Use

The best thing about this charcoal chimney starter is that it has a release feature. This way, you don't have to use your strength to tip the coal into the charcoal grill. Instead, you simply press the lever, and the charcoal is emptied into the grill.

I also find that this method tends to be a lot safer too. So, if the idea of tipping hot coals into a grill frightens you, this starter will take care of it for you.

Durable

I like how sturdy this chimney starter is. Even with continuous use, it withstands heat well and there are no dings, scratches, or deformities as a result of the heat. Even with the extra features, everything feels solid and well put together.

The only issue that I have with this chimney starter is that the heat resistance isn't great. Due to this, you need to use gloves while handling this starter.

Charcoal Chimney Starters

Good Capacity

The charcoal chimney starter also has a good capacity. It is able to hold more than enough coal for both mid sized as well as large grills. This allows you to get your grill going all at once.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Durable
  • Good capacity

Cons

  • Minimal heat resistance

4. REDCAMP Collapsible Chimney Starter

Best Camping Chimney Starter

Specs

  • Material: Galvanized Steel
  • Capacity: 5lbs
  • Dimensions: 14 x 8.4 x 10.6 inches
  • Weight: 3lbs

Collapsible Design

I got really excited when I found this charcoal chimney starter because I hadn't seen one quite like it before. This is an excellent option if you are going camping or even if you are taking your charcoal grill to a park or any other spot.

As the charcoal chimney starter is collapsible, it flattens down, making it easy for you to pack away. At the same time, it is the collapsible design that makes it just as simple for you to reconstruct the starter when you need it.

Sturdy Design

I was hesitant about how sturdy this charcoal chimney was going to be, considering that it was collapsible. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. The metal as well as the folding mechanisms are really well made and strong. Due to this, even with continuous use, this charcoal chimney starter really holds up!

In fact, it is so sturdy that it even doubles as a charcoal grill if you want a portable option! Just slip the provided mesh over the top of the opening and it turns into a grill.

The only downside is that this charcoal chimney starter is pretty heavy for a camping option so you should prepare to have to take on some extra baggage.

Good Heat Resistance

The heat resistance throughout this charcoal chimney starter is really good. Even after using it time and time again, there was no damage or warping. Also, I was able to hold onto the handle without needing any additional padding.

Pros

  • Collapsible design
  • Sturdy
  • Heat resistant

Cons

  • Heavy

5. CADARA Chimney Starter

Specs 

  • Material: Alloy Steel
  • Capacity: 4lbs
  • Dimensions: 10.83 x 7.09 x 11.02 inches
  • Weight: 1.76lbs

Easy to Light

One of the things that I like most about this charcoal chimney is that it is really easy to light. This is largely due to the sizable ventilation holes that are around the bottom. This allows you to slip in a newspaper and a match and get a fire going without any issue at all.

Also, the vents alongside the chimney starter allow the fire to spread quickly.

Lightweight Design

It is also cool how lightweight this starter is. This way, even when you have lit charcoal or charcoal briquettes in it, you can still carry and empty it out without any issue. Due to this, anyone can use this chimney starter without issue.

Unfortunately, this lightweight is due to the material that the starter is made out of. The downside to this is that the material does rust easily so you do have to take good care of it to prevent this from happening.

Starter for Kindling Coals for Grilling

Good Value

Some of these chimney starters can get pretty pricey so it is nice to see one that is more affordable. At the same time, the durability and design of this chimney starter are so good that you don't feel like it is a budget option.

Pros

  • Easy to light
  • Lightweight
  • Good value

Cons

  • Has a tendency to rust

6. GrillPro 39470 Chimney Starter

Specs 

  • Material: Alloy Steel
  • Capacity: 2lbs
  • Dimensions: 6.5 x 11 x 10.6 inches
  • Weight: 0.0006lbs

Affordable

As you will have noticed from many of the other charcoal starters on this list, these items can be a bit on the expensive side. If you only BBQ occasionally or you are on a tight budget, then you will find the GrillPro chimney starter to be just what you need!

Good for Small Grills

A lot of the charcoal starters on this list are geared for larger grills and that is great. However, if you have a smaller grill, most of these other options may seem a bit too big or heavy for you. This is whether the GrillPro model comes in. Its smaller capacity makes it ideal for smaller grills or even if you want to go camping.

Lightweight Design

This is a tie for the lightest chimney starter on this list. So, if you are looking for something that is easy to lift even when it is full and lit, then this is the chimney starter for you! You require practically no upper body strength to lift it.

Easy to Use

Thanks to the large vents at the bottom of the chimney starter, you can light up the newspaper or a fire starter without any issue at all. In this way, you can get the fire going quickly.

Unfortunately, as there are no vents along the starter, the fire does take a while to spread to the other lumps of charcoal.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Takes longer to be ready

7. Beau Jardin Charcoal Chimney Starter

Specs 

  • Material: Alloy Steel
  • Capacity: 4lbs
  • Dimensions: 6.89 x 6.89 x 11.02 inches
  • Weight: 2.16lbs

Simple to Use

This is the kind of chimney starter that can be used by beginners as well. It is just a matter of slipping some newspaper or charcoal fire starter underneath and you are all set to go. The large vents at the bottom section make this a breeze to do.

Durable Design

I was also impressed by how durable the chimney starter is. Not only is it more than capable of holding larger quantities of charcoal, but it is able to withstand heat and fire without any issue at all. Even as I put it through its paces time and time again, there were no signs of damage or even discoloration.

The only disappointing element is that the handle isn't fixed well. As a result, you are going to have to keep tightening the screws time and time again.

Smoking Charcoal Chimney Starter Bucket in the Backyard

Heat Safe Features

What I really like about this charcoal starter is that the heat shield is really good. Due to that, you barely feel the heat coming off the metal and can hold the handle without needing gloves.

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Durable
  • Heat safe

Cons

  • Handle screws keep coming off

8. Rosle Charcoal Chimney Starter

Specs

  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Capacity: 4.5lbs
  • Dimensions: 12.8 x 7.48 x 12.99 inches
  • Weight: 3.48lbs

Incredible Durability

Unlike most other charcoal chimney starters, this one is made from stainless steel. As a result, this is one of the toughest charcoal starters around. I have used this starter time and time again and it has held its shape and structure beautifully.

Not to mention, it also manages to keep its beautiful sheen. So, if you want a charcoal starter that is good looking as well, this is the one for you.

Now, these features do come with a pretty hefty price tag. Yes, it does offer good value for money but this starter may not be within everyone's price range.

Highly Heat Resistant

The heat shield on this model is incredible. It curves outwards, ensuring that the shield itself is not in contact with direct heat. In turn, this reduces how much heat can be transferred to your skin. So, if you are looking for an exceptionally safe option, this one will do.

Easy to Use

The design of this chimney starter makes it really easy to use. For instance, the large vents and the vents up the chimney starter means that you can get the fire going quickly and that it will spread to the other charcoal in no time at all.

There is also a guard at the top to prevent the charcoal from accidentally spilling out.

Pros

  • Incredibly durable
  • Highly heat resistant
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Expensive

How to Choose the Best Charcoal Starters for You?

Here are the top tips for you to follow:

Consider the Material

Now, when it comes to materials for your chimney starter, there are quite a few to choose from. You have aluminized steel, zinc steel, galvanized steel, steel alloy, and stainless steel.

The middle of the road options are aluminized steel and zinc steel. These are sturdy and durable but also budget friendly. While galvanized steel and steel alloy do a good job, they can transfer heat to your skin more quickly, increasing the risk of burns.

The best option is stainless steel. It doesn't warp and is incredibly durable. The downside is that chimney starters made from these materials are also quite expensive.

Of course, in this instance, it is always a good idea to invest more money in a good quality chimney starter. This way, you can guarantee that the starter will hold up with continuous use. And, you will be able to save money in the long run.

Examine the Mechanism

There are two types of chimney starters. The first is where you pour in the charcoal through the top, light it at the bottom, and then dump it out of the main hole into the charcoal grill.

The other option is where you pour in the charcoal through the top, light it, and then press a lever allowing the charcoal to spill out from the bottom into the charcoal grill.

Personally, I do prefer the chimney starter with the lever as it is safer and it is easier to work even when you have a large amount of charcoal in the chimney starter.

Of course, these mechanisms do have a tendency to break or fail. So, if you want a charcoal starter with no fuss and a long lifespan, then the traditional charcoal chimney starter is the way to go.

Check the Capacity

Not everyone needs the same capacity. If you have a smaller grill, then you will want a chimney starter that can hold a smaller quantity of charcoal.

The same goes for if you only want to smoke food on your charcoal grill. In this case, you would only add a small amount of coal to the chimney starter. Then, you would light this, add it to the grill, and then dump a larger quantity of unlit charcoal into the grill.

On the other hand, if you have a larger grill or are interested in grilling food at high heat, then you will need more coals. In this case, a larger capacity will work in your favor.

So, before you make your decision, think of what you will need.

At the same time, it is a good idea to think of the size of the briquettes or coal that you use. Some brands have extra large pieces. If you traditionally use these, then you are naturally going to need a larger charcoal chimney if you are going to fit one quantity in one go.

Male Hands Holding the Chimney and Kindling Coals

Check the Vents

As you are aware, a fire feeds on oxygen. This means there must be a small but steady stream of oxygen being fed into the chimney starter. This ensures that the fire spreads from the bottom of the receptacle to the top more quickly.

For this purpose, look for starters that have vents or holes throughout the chimney starter. The more there are, the more quickly you will be able to get your coals ready.

At the same time, these vents shouldn't be too big. This is especially important if you use briquettes or pieces of coal that are quite small. In this case, the coal can fall out of the vents if you aren't careful.

Examine the Heat Shield

The heat shield is a piece of metal that is between the frame of the chimney starter and the handle. As the name suggests, this is meant to keep the heat away from your hands and skin and make it easier for you to hold the handle.

Look for metal that is durable but will not conduct heat well. You should also look at the design - there should be space between the metal sheet and the frame so that the heat doesn't transfer.

Pay Attention to the Handle

Make sure that you take a long look at the handle. It should be fitted to the frame tightly and it should feel sturdy when you pick up the chimney starter. To add to this, make sure that the grip is made from a comfortable, non-slip material.

You should be able to wrap your hand across the handle and get a good grip on the starter. Keep in mind, the handle plays an important role in safety. Due to this, you shouldn't be afraid to test it out before giving the chimney starter a try.

Check the Weight

Yes, you want your chimney starter to be durable, but you don't want it to be too heavy either. Keep in mind that the starter will only get heavier once the coals are piled in. So, it is important for you to be able to carry it without any issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Charcoal Chimney Starters Worth It?

If you haven't heard of chimney starters before, I know that the concept can be a little daunting. However, I assure you that they are definitely worth the investment.

See, these starters are a great alternative to lighter fluid. And, in using the chimney starter, you can avoid that chemical taste and smell that can invade your clothes and hair when you use lighter fluid.

2. Are Electric Charcoal Starters Any Good?

As you will have noticed, there is no electric charcoal starter on this list. This is because I found that these charcoal starters tend to get very hot and so, can be quite dangerous to use. Not to mention, you need an electrical outlet for an electric fire starter.

It is easier and more efficient to use charcoal chimneys for this kind of job.

Smoking Charcoal Chimney Starter Bucket For BBQ

The Final Verdict - What is the Best Charcoal Starter?

The best device is the Weber RapidFire Chimney Starter. This chimney starter is lightweight, but it is still made from durable materials. It also has a large capacity, more than enough for larger grills, and lights the charcoal very quickly.

Of course, I would suggest checking out all the chimney starters on this list. Each of them has their own unique features and may be just what you are looking for. Happy shopping!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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