Charcoal chimneys give barbecue lovers a safe and easy way to light their grills and smokers. They’re simple to use, cost effective, and eliminate the need to use lighter fluid.
Check out our guide to the best charcoal chimneys where we review the top models and go over the key features to look for.
At A Glance
- Best Overall – Weber Rapidfire Chimney
- Runner Up – Char-Griller Charcoal Chimney Starter
- Budget Pick – Kingsford Charcoal Chimney Starter
- Best For Tailgating – CampMaid Collapsible Charcoal Chimney Starter
There are a number of ways to start a charcoal fire, but using a charcoal chimney is definitely the best.
Lighter fluid smells nasty, can give your food an off-putting taste, and is dangerous if you’re not careful.
Electric starters take forever to ignite charcoal, can’t be used when grilling in the rain, and are useless if you don’t have access to electricity.
Propane torches are more expensive in the long run and what happens if you run out of propane? Plus they require you to stand over the coals for several minutes until they’re fully ignited.
With a barbecue chimney starter, you just need to load it with either lump charcoal or briquettes, light up the bottom with some newspaper or paraffin wax, and crack open a beer while you wait for it to be ready. After 10 or 15 minutes, just pour the charcoal into your grill or smoker and you’re in business.
Here are our picks for the best charcoal chimneys.
Best Overall – Weber Rapidfire Chimney
The Weber Rapidfire Chimney is the starter I use myself when I’m lighting charcoal in my backyard. I’ve been using it for years and never had a problem with it.
The thermoplastic handle stays cool to the touch even when the chimney is fully burning and the secondary handle provides extra support and control when you pour the charcoal into your cooker. And a heat shield offers even more protection (though I still recommend wearing gloves to protect against stray embers).
The aluminized steel means you don’t have to worry about flaking or rust, and the cone-shaped bottom improves air flow and ensures a quick start. Your charcoal will be ready to go in about 15 minutes.
You can’t go wrong with the Weber Rapidfire. It really is the best charcoal chimney.
Runner Up – Char-Griller Charcoal Chimney Starter
Another of our favorites is the Char-Griller Charcoal Chimney Starter, which makes starting your barbecue quick and easy.
Simply add charcoal and light it. When the coals are ready to go hold it over your cooker and pull the trigger to release the charcoal.
The trapdoor feature is neat and it allows you to empty the starter without having to awkwardly pour them in. Just be sure not to hold the starter too high when you pull the trigger. A few inches above the grill is perfect as the coals can just fall right in exactly where you want them to go.
If you hold it too high the coals have farther to fall and can bounce around. You could get hit by the embers or even a stray coal that bounces out.
Budget Pick – Kingsford Charcoal Chimney Starter
If you want to save a few bucks and don’t care about features like a second handle or a trigger release trapdoor, the Kingsford Charcoal Chimney Starter is for you.
It’s durable and rust resistant and it includes a heat shield and a stay-cool handle for safety. It might be missing some bells and whistles but it’s a solid option that will make lighting your charcoal grill easy.
Best For Tailgating – CampMaid Collapsible Charcoal Chimney Starter
When you’re camping or tailgating, you’ll be glad to have a collapsible chimney starter that doesn’t take up much room. The CampMaid Collapsible Charcoal Chimney Starter folds up when not in use and it takes up much less room than any of the other chimneys on this list.
Last summer we vacationed in the Outer Banks with a few other families and my buddy Matt brought the CampMaid chimney starter from home. I was expecting a collapsible chimney to be kind of flimsy, but I was pleasantly surprised by how sturdy and well-made it was.
Chimney Charcoal Features To Look For
Look for a chimney that holds enough charcoal to fill your grill with one load. If it’s too small you might need to light a second batch and that’s a waste of time. If you know you’ll have to do that, leave a few pieces of charcoal in the chimney to ignite the second batch.
Pro Tip – For long smoking sessions you can use the Minion method. Start by adding a layer of charcoal to your grill and then form a well in the center. Light up your charcoal chimney and when the coals are ready pour them into the center of the well. As the starter coals burn out they’ll light the ones around them and maintain a steady temperature.
Smaller chimney starters come in handy when you’re camping or tailgating at the big game.
Don’t just grab the cheapest model you can find. You want a starter that’s well built with a sturdy handle. Remember, you’re going to be holding super hot coals in it. The last thing you want is the handle to break and send burning coals spilling all over the place.