From fire-breathing dragons to BBQ masters, discover if chimney starters are the secret sauce or just hot air!

Are Chimney Starters Worth It?

If you’re an avid griller, you know that starting a barbecue can be a daunting task. Chimney starters claim to make the process easier and quicker. But are they actually worth investing in?

As a barbecue enthusiast, I decided to try out a chimney starter to find out if it lives up to the hype.

First, it’s important to understand what a chimney starter is and how it works. Essentially, a chimney starter is a metal tube with a handle and a grate at the bottom. You fill the chimney with charcoal, light a fire starter beneath the grate, and wait for the coals to catch fire and heat up. Once the coals are ready, you simply dump them into your grill and start cooking.

So, is it worth it?

In short, yes.

Using a chimney starter saves time and effort compared to the traditional method of using lighter fluid or other ignition materials.

Plus, chimney starters are an affordable investment that can last for years. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind before purchasing one.

Pros and Cons of Using a Chimney Starter

As someone who enjoys grilling and smoking meats, I have tested various methods for lighting charcoal, including lighter fluid, electric starters, and charcoal chimneys.

I will discuss the pros and cons of using a chimney starter to light charcoal.


  • Faster than other methods: One of the biggest advantages of using a chimney starter is speed. With a chimney starter, you can have hot coals ready in as little as 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your chimney and the amount of charcoal you are using. This is much faster than waiting for lighter fluid to burn off, which can take up to half an hour.
  • No added chemicals: Since you are not using lighter fluid or other chemicals, your food won’t have an unpleasant taste and smell. This makes a chimney starter a great option for those who are health-conscious and want to avoid unnecessary chemicals in their food.
  • Economical: A chimney starter does not require any additional equipment or accessories, making it a very economical option. Once you buy a chimney starter, you can use it for years without having to spend any more money.


  • Large size: One of the few disadvantages to a chimney starter is its size. Chimney starters need to be large enough to hold enough charcoal to start your fire, but this can make them tricky to store. If you have limited storage space, a chimney starter may not be the best option for you.
  • Requires more effort: While using a chimney starter is straightforward, it does require more effort than other methods. You need to fill the chimney with charcoal, light it, and wait for the coals to get hot. This can be a minor inconvenience for some people.
  • Wind can be an issue: On windy days, lighting your chimney starter with a match or a lighter can be difficult. The wind can blow out the flame, making it impossible to get the coals started. In this case, you may need to use a different lighting method.

Overall, using a chimney starter is a great option for those who want a fast, easy, and chemical-free way to light their charcoal. While it may not be perfect for everyone, the pros far outweigh the cons, and I highly recommend giving it a try.

How to Use a Chimney Starter

Using a chimney starter is a straightforward process that requires minimal effort and time. Here’s how to use a chimney starter to light your grill and get cooking:


Before you start using the chimney starter, you need to ensure that the grill grates are clean, and there are no remaining ashes inside the charcoal grill. Additionally, check that you have enough charcoal depending on the quantity of food you plan to cook.

Fill the Chimney

Fill the chimney starter with the desired amount of charcoal. Avoid using lighter fluid or other flammable liquids as they can affect the flavor of your food.

Light the Chimney

Place the chimney starter on the lower grill grates, then light the charcoal through the smaller holes at the bottom. Do note that chimney starters are designed to light coals quickly and efficiently without using any lighter fluid.

Wait for the Charcoal to Ignite

Let the charcoal burn for about 10-15 minutes until you notice some ash on the top coals. Pour the hot coals onto the lower grill grates carefully. Add some dry wood chips if you want to add more flavor to your food.

Start Cooking

Once the coals are covered in grey ash, and the grill grates are heating up, it’s time to start cooking. Spread the hot coals evenly across the lower grill grates and start cooking your food.

Using a chimney starter is an easy and effortless way to start your coals, and it’s also a safer option than using lighter fluid.

With these simple steps, you’ll be able to light your charcoal grill quickly and easily, giving your food that authentic, smoky flavor without any chemical aftertaste.

Chimney Starter vs. Other Methods of Lighting Charcoal

When it comes to lighting charcoal, there are several methods you can choose from, including lighter fluid, electric starters, and of course, chimney starters.

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, but in my opinion, chimney starters are the most effective and efficient way to light charcoal.

Lighter Fluid

Lighter fluid is a popular method of lighting charcoal because it’s cheap and widely available. It’s not the best option for several reasons. First of all, it can be dangerous, especially if you use too much or don’t wait long enough for the fluid to soak in before lighting.

Lighter fluid can give your food an unpleasant chemical taste, and can even pose health risks if ingested.

Electric Starters

Electric starters are another popular option, and they’re certainly a more convenient choice than lighter fluid. However, they can be quite slow compared to chimney starters. You’ll typically need to wait around 10 to 15 minutes for the coals to glow red hot, which can be frustrating if you’re in a hurry. Additionally, some electric starters can be expensive.

Chimney Starters

Finally, we have chimney starters. In my opinion, they’re well worth the investment. A chimney starter is essentially a metal cylinder with a grate at the bottom. You fill the cylinder with charcoal and place some fire starters or crumpled newspaper underneath the grate. As the paper or starters ignite, they’ll create a chimney effect that quickly draws hot air up through the charcoal. Within 10 to 15 minutes, the coals are usually ready to pour into your grill or smoker.

The biggest advantage of chimney starters is that they’re incredibly fast and efficient. No more waiting around for lighter fluid to soak in or for an electric starter to heat up. Additionally, since you’re not using any chemicals, your food will taste better and be healthier. Finally, chimney starters are often not too expensive to buy and they should last you for many grilling sessions.

Lighter FluidCheap, widely availableDangerous, can give food unpleasant taste
Electric StartersConvenientCan be slow, expensive
Chimney StartersFast, efficient, chemical-freeRequires some effort to light

Overall, while each method has its own merits, chimney starters come out on top in terms of speed, efficiency, and safety. If you’re serious about grilling, I highly recommend investing in a quality chimney starter.
When it comes to choosing the right chimney starter for your needs, there are a few key factors to consider. By finding the right fit for you, you’ll ensure that your chimney starter works effectively and efficiently for years to come.


The first factor to consider is the material of the chimney starter. While you can find chimney starters made of plastic, metal, or aluminum, we recommend choosing one made of stainless steel. This material is durable, rust-resistant, and will hold up to high temperatures over time.


Next, you’ll want to consider the size of the chimney starter. The larger the chimney starter, the more charcoal it can hold, meaning you’ll be able to cook more food at once. However, if you’re only cooking for a small group, a smaller chimney starter may be a better fit.


The shape of the chimney starter can also impact its effectiveness. We recommend choosing a chimney starter with a cylindrical shape, as it allows for more efficient air flow and ensures that the charcoal heats evenly.


Finally, consider any additional accessories that come with the chimney starter. Some models come with heat-resistant gloves or ash catchers, which can be a convenient addition to your grilling toolkit.

By taking these factors into account and finding a chimney starter that fits your needs, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and enjoyable grilling experience.
After carefully considering the benefits and drawbacks of using a chimney starter, the question remains: is it worth the investment? Here’s my conclusion:


  • A chimney starter offers a quick and easy way to light charcoal without the use of lighter fluid, which can be harmful to the environment, and may leave a chemical taste on your food.
  • It evenly heats charcoal, ensuring that the heat is distributed evenly, so that your food can cook perfectly.
  • It saves you time, as the charcoal can be ready in as little as 15 minutes.
  • It’s a one-time investment that will last for years with proper care and maintenance.


  • It requires the use of newspaper or fire starters to ignite the coals, which may require additional expense or preparation.
  • The initial cost may be higher than other methods of lighting charcoal.

To Sum Up 💭

Using a chimney starter can significantly impact your grilling or smoking experience. Here are some of the key takeaways from the article.

  • The benefits of using a chimney starter are numerous. It is environmentally friendly, safer than using lighter fluid, and saves time. Additionally, it allows for even heating and better flavor in your food.
  • One of the main advantages of a chimney starter is its quick heating time. It usually takes around 15-20 minutes for the coals to heat up to the desired temperature.
  • If you don’t have a chimney starter, you can use other alternatives such as an electric starter, fire starter cubes, or even a blowtorch.
  • A charcoal starter is an excellent alternative to a chimney starter. It is an electric device that ignites the coals and starts the fire.
  • Unused chimneys need ventilation to prevent the buildup of harmful gases inside the chimney.
  • The best chimney starter depends on your specific needs. There are various types available, including different materials and sizes.
  • Filling the chimney starter with charcoal will cost you around $10-$25, depending on the brand and amount you purchase.
  • While chimney starters are designed to work with charcoal, you can also put wood in them. However, it’s essential to note that wood takes longer to ignite than charcoal, and the flames can be higher, so you need to be careful when using it.

So, is a chimney starter worth the investment?

In my opinion, yes.

The benefits of using a chimney starter far outweigh the drawbacks. Not only does it provide a convenient, eco-friendly, and efficient way of lighting charcoal, but it also saves you time and money in the long run. You’ll enjoy evenly cooked food with a delicious smoky flavor.