The best electric charcoal starter is a wonderful convenience if you want to barbecue but can't get your gas grill outdoors. They have a reputation for being slow to heat up, but the latest versions have made great strides in efficiency, so you can now enjoy grilled meat within an hour or so.
An electric charcoal starter lets you light your coals from the comfort of your own home. This means that even if it's raining or too cold to sit outside, you can still get some backyard flavor with one of these devices. Some are designed to work with quick-lighting briquettes while others are compatible only with lump charcoal. Some are also able to use natural hardwood chunks, although this requires extra attention and patience.
If speed isn't a concern then one of the best outdoor gas grills may be more suitable as they get hot quickly and let you cook without any effort on your part once they're up to temperature. The range of options available makes choosing the right model difficult though, so we've highlighted our favorites below including both large and small models to cater for different needs and preferences. If there's space at home for one of these units then consider pairing them with one of the best patio heaters too for maximum comfort when cooking out in colder months.
How We Choose
We've done the research so you don't have to. The best electric charcoal starter is one that warms up quickly, evenly cooks food and has a long cooking time per load.
We've gathered our top picks below, all of which offer these features and more. Whether you're looking for an appliance that can help you get dinner on the table faster or simply want a better way to barbecue, we're confident that you'll find something here to suit your needs.
WishDirect Electric Charcoal Starter
The WishDirect 600W Electric Charcoal Starter Fire Lighter is a great choice for anyone looking to start their barbecue with an electric charcoal lighter. This model has a large, sturdy base that can sit securely on any grill or fireplace surface, and it also comes with a 29-inch cord which makes it convenient to use even when you're cooking outdoors.
The safety features built into this model are particularly impressive, as it will not fuel the lighter fluid and matches are designed in such a way that they cannot be used to ignite the coals. The handle of this product is made from long-lasting stainless steel which ensures durability and reliability, while the non-toxic design of this electric charcoal starter means there's no need for harmful additives or chemicals.
It takes only minutes to heat up using this model, making it ideal for those who want to get straight back into their BBQ routine without having to wait around too long between each stage. Overall, we highly recommend the WishDirect 600W Electric Charcoal Starter Fire Lighter - especially if you're looking for an electric charcoal starter that works well on both indoor and outdoor surfaces.
Mata Leon Electric Charcoal Starter for Grill
The Mata Leon Mataleon Charcoal Starter is a great option for those who want to start their charcoal fires with minimal hassle. This starter has an ergonomic design that makes it easy to use and convenient to store, making it perfect for outdoor cooking.
The curved shape of the device allows you to easily move it around your grill without getting bent or damaged, and the extra-long neck makes it easy to get the perfect amount of coals on your grill. The 1.5M/5ft long thick AWG 16# cable is user friendly, making this a great option for beginners new to charcoal grilling.
Weighing just under two pounds, this charcoal starter is lightweight enough that you won't have any trouble lifting it into position on your grill or moving it around if need be - something that can be important when trying out new grilling techniques such as smoking food or using wood chips in place of charcoal briquettes.
KITOSUN Electric Charcoal Starter
The Kito Sunfire Charcoal Starter is a great electric charcoal starter that works with most gas and charcoal grills. It's easy to use, safe for storage and won't explode or catch fire if you drop it.
The heat element is made of 304 stainless steel which means it will be more durable than other products on the market. The only downside we found was the lack of an auto shut-off feature so you have to manually turn off the electricity after lighting up your coals.
However, this does mean that there are no sparks flying around which could cause injury or damage your grill surface.
Multipurpose Electric Charcoal Starter
The M. Rosenfeld Fire Tower Electric Charcoal Starter is a great electric charcoal starter that will get the job done for most people. It has a very simple design, with an electric burner and a long steel rod to place your charcoal on.
The steel rod also doubles as tongs so you can move the coals around easily. The steel rod is also safe enough to use indoors or outdoors, making it easy to set up wherever you want to grill.
The safety of this product is backed by ETL approval which means that you can rest assured that it won't explode or catch fire while being used safely in your home or outside on your patio. This makes it one of the safest portable grills out there and we highly recommend it for anyone looking for an affordable charcoal grill option.
Electric Charcoal Starter FAQs
There are many different types of charcoal starter, each with their own unique features. It can be hard to figure out which one is the best for you!
And it's even harder when you're bombarded with conflicting and confusing information from all kinds of sources. Thankfully, we've taken all of the guesswork out of finding the perfect charcoal starter for your needs. With our help, you'll be able to make an informed decision about which product is right for you.
How Long Do You Leave An Electric Charcoal Starter On?
Gas-fired starters are designed to be left on for a few hours. They're not meant to be turned on and off throughout the day like you would with a traditional charcoal briquette starter. This is because they use propane in their fuel tank, so there's no need to reignite them once they're lit.
Electric starters should only be left on for about four hours max, as leaving them on too long could overheat the coils and result in an explosion or fire hazard. Be sure to check your user manual for specific guidelines from that manufacturer.
How Does Electric Charcoal Starter Work?
Charcoal is very combustible, but it's also quite porous and not very dense. That means that when you put a chunk of charcoal in your barbecue, it will take a while to ignite and there won't be much depth or density to the flame. If you wrap the charcoal in paper first, this helps create an even layer of coals to make sure your fire is evenly spaced and consistent.
Electric starters work by taking that principle one step further by surrounding the charcoal with an insulating layer of air so that as soon as it ignites, the flame can be transferred to your barbecue. This way you're able to get a blaze going quickly so that you don't have to wait around for minutes before cooking begins. The starter does this by using electricity (or gas if you opt for a propane model) to power fans which direct oxygen into the center of your coals through perforated rings or tubes. This ensures they ignite almost immediately without any actual flame touching them directly.
Are Electric Fire Starters Worth It?
While you can use a match to light most fires, it can be frustrating if your hands are cold and numb. An electric fire starter lets you get the flame going with the press of a button, so you don't have to stand there shivering while the logs catch fire.
Electric fire starters aren't expensive, so they're well worth investing in if you live in an area where power outages are common or if your home is susceptible to blazes caused by candle flames.
How Do You Use An Electric Starter On A Charcoal Grill?
When you're starting a charcoal grill, it can be difficult to get the coals hot enough for high-heat grilling. An electric starter is an excellent way to achieve the ideal cooking temperature quickly.
To use an electric starter, simply fill up the bowl with paper or lighter kindling and place it under the bowl of coals. Then plug in the starter and wait a few minutes until you see smoke coming from your grill's chimney. Once there is smoke, carefully pour some of the coals into a metal container on your kitchen counter. Next, take one packet of coals from your kitchen counter and gently pour them into each side of your grill grate so that you have even heat distribution throughout both sides of your barbecue pit.
It's important that you never leave an electric starter unattended because they get extremely hot and present a fire hazard if left alone. Some starters also come with features like locking lids to prevent little hands from getting burned as well as silicone finger guards to protect against sharp edges while handling hot bowls and lids.
When You Light Charcoal Do You Leave The Lid Open Or Closed?
If you're using a gas grill, you can leave the lid closed for the entire duration of cooking. This will help to create an indirect heat zone that is ideal for low and slow barbeque. If you're grilling with charcoal briquettes, however, it's best to keep the lid open for about 20 minutes after lighting your coals. This will allow any excess moisture in the briquettes to evaporate so they'll burn more consistently and produce better flavor. After 20 minutes or so, close your grill's lid so smoke can slowly fill your cooking chamber while food cooks over indirect heat.
Do You Leave Vents Open When Starting Charcoal?
It's a common practice to leave vents open when lighting charcoal. The theory is that oxygen will help ignite the coals and get your barbecue fired up faster. We're not fans of this method, however, and here's why:
Opening the vents allows too much oxygen into your barbecue, which can cause flare-ups. And because you'll be adding more briquets as needed throughout your grilling session, there's no need for extra air anyway. Finally, this method lets out all the heat you've been working so hard to build up inside the grill so that it can escape through the top vent. Unless you live in an extremely windy area or have had problems with coals blowing out before now, we'd recommend closing those bottom vents completely and only opening one of the top vents very slightly (no more than quarter of an inch) while lighting your coals.
How Long To Burn Charcoal Before Cooking?
Really the best way to burn your charcoal is going to depend on what type of grill you're using. Gas grills are going to allow you to preheat for about 15 minutes and then start cooking immediately once the coals are lit. Charcoal grills will require a longer period of time for preheating, generally about 45 minutes before you begin cooking. This is because it takes significantly longer for charcoal briquettes and chunks to heat up sufficiently in an open fire pit versus a sealed gas burner.
An easy way to gauge how long your coals have been burning without actually touching them is by observing their color. If they're white or gray, they're not ready yet; if they're black, they're too hot; if they're brown, that's perfect! It might take some trial and error at first but eventually you'll get the hang of it!
Can You Light Charcoal Without A Chimney Starter?
The easiest way to light charcoal is with a chimney starter (or an alternative product such as the Grease Pot), but it's also possible to start coals without one. Just be aware that this method takes more time and work, so it's best suited for grilling masters who don't mind getting their hands dirty.
You need newspaper or paper towels and a drip pan. You can use any size pan, but you want something deep enough to hold water without having the coals touch it at the bottom – otherwise they'll burn away before they have time to heat up properly. Make sure your drip pan has sides at least 2 inches high, so none of the hot water spills over when you add it later on in the process.
Lay a single layer of paper towels or newspaper down on your countertop, then place about six cups worth of unlit coals in an even layer across the top (don't put them directly on any fabric). Cover them with another layer of paper towels or newspaper and then place something heavy on top – like a cast iron Dutch oven filled with water – to keep the covering from blowing away while you're waiting for them to ignite. Wait 15 minutes or until you see gray smoke coming out from under your lid. Remove your weight carefully and pour off any excess liquid into your sink (sopping up any puddles with paper towels first). Replace your weight and wait another 10-15 minutes before removing all three layers together (along with your coals) as gently as possible so no pieces break apart underneath; replace them in exactly the same position as before if possible for best results. Pour ½ cup of cold water into each side of your drip pan; do not pour directly onto hot coals! Then place both ends of your chimney starter firmly over either side of the pot; fill one end halfway up with briquettes, cap tightly and quickly remove that end by twisting it slightly sideways so there's just room for air through its crack; repeat on other side until full; stand upright by placing one hand underneath each side near its base while holding lighter securely in other hand ready to flame once briquettes are lit; open valve very slowly using caution not to let too much air rush in too quickly or else briquettes may flare erratically instead of lighting steadily which would ruin everything we've worked so hard up until now toward achieving! Now stand back while charcoal lights evenly alongside crackling sound similar to popcorn popping minus flavorings we don't want here since we're only cooking meats plain grilled seasoned salt free nothing else icky flavored artificial candy sweetened syrup …
How Hot Does An Electric Charcoal Starter Get?
Most electric charcoal starters will get to at least 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much hotter than the coals in your barbecue burn. You can gauge how hot it is by feeling the handle – it should be very hot. It's not recommended that you touch the bowl or lid after you've put your briquettes in unless you're wearing oven mitts and have followed proper safety precautions (like standing as far back from the bowl as possible). Be sure to monitor your starter while it's operating so that no one gets burned.
Do Charcoal Grills Need Fire Starters?
Generally speaking, yes. Charcoal grills don't have gas burners like gas grills do, so they need a source of fuel: either propane or natural gas if you're buying a more high-end grill, or charcoal briquettes if you're looking for something more affordable. It takes time for the coals to get hot enough to cook on (around 20 minutes), and when they do, there's still that pesky smoldering log at the bottom of the pile that needs attention before you can start cooking.
Fire starters are designed to solve this problem by getting your coals good and blazing in just five minutes or so. They essentially give you an extra burst of heat that gets your briquettes burning hot enough to cook on quickly without needing any further tending over the course of your session. If you're going with a lower-cost charcoal grill and don't want to shell out for fire starters then it's easy enough to use newspaper as a replacement – check out our guide here for more information.
Choosing the best electric charcoal starter can be a difficult process, but by considering your needs and budget you should be able to find one that meets them perfectly. Make sure to read reviews from other customers before making your final decision so you can ensure that you get quality service from the product. This way, you will have an enjoyable grilling experience every time!