Some of the products reviewed here are country specific and may not be available in the Amazon US store
If you have a charcoal or wood burning barbecue, you know that they can be quite tricky to light. Gas is so much easier, whether it has an electric spark lighter or even if you have to use an old-fashioned match. Elsewhere on this site, you’ll find one of our TIPS AND TRICKS articles about How to light a charcoal grill or BBQ. But now I’ll review the products themselves.
Basically, there are three types of product to help you like your charcoal: Chimney Starters, lighter fluids/gels and solid fire starter blocks. The last two are consumables but the first is a one-off purchase that you can then re-use. A Chimney Starter is basically a large pot with air holes into which you place your charcoal and some scrunched up newspaper. It is this paper that acts as your kindling. You use the paper to get the charcoal burning in the chimney starter and after the coals are hot and covered in white ash, you tip them onto the grill and spread them around the grill bed.
AMOS Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter
Quick Start Galvanised Steel Camping Fire Ignition Lighter Coal Fuel Burner Lighting Kit with Thermoplastic Handle
If you’re even a little bit sceptical about how well these Chimney starters work, just try this one once and I promise your doubts will be banished forever. Made of heavy-duty, galvanised steel and with a conical grate to hold the charcoal while allowing air circulation, this Chimney starter works a dream! The airflow is further assisted by the clever combination of small air holes at the sides and larger ones at the bottom.
Safety comes in the form of a stay-cool thermoplastic handle and a safety guard between the chimney and the handle for an extra layer of insulation. The makers do however recommend wearing BBQ heat protection gloves to provide an added layer of safety.
Suitable for both lumpwood charcoal and briquettes, this is a very effective way to light the coals for your outdoor grill. It is large enough (2.8 kg) to accommodate the charcoal for a good size grill. The exact dimensions are 30.5cm (H) x 30cm (W) x 19cm (D). As an added bonus, AMOS UK have thrown in a clear instruction manual with both step-by-step instructions and some sample recipes.
I found this chimney starter to be incredibly effective. After as little as 10 minutes, the charcoal is ready to go onto the grill bed - although in practice it is better to wait 15 or 20 minutes.
Slightly smaller than the Amos, and marginally cheaper, the Landmann (a good name in BBQs) does the job. The diameter is 17 cm and the height 27.5. Although not as elegant as the Amos, and slightly smaller, it works almost as quickly, getting the charcoals ready for pouring out and grilling in 20 minutes max.
It has a wooden handle and a heat guard, but as with the Amos I would advise wearing heat protection gloves - possibly even more so with the Landmann. It heats the charcoal more or less evenly, but does a better job with briquettes than lumpwood, if only because lumpwood is itself or irregular and uneven size.
I cannot yet say how long it will last, but it seems somewhat less durable than the Amos. However, all chimney starters discolour and rust through normal usage. The trick is to keep it out of the rain and if you wash it when it cools down, to dry it immediately. It is water and air, rather than heat that kill the life out of these products.
All in all, I’d say the Amos has the better price/performance ratio, but this one has the Landmann name.
LIVIVO BBQ Chimney Starter Lighting Kit
Light Quickly Barbeque BBQ Lighter
Same size as the Landmann, but almost half the price, I can recommend this item as a real bargain. It matches the other two in performance, but may not last as long as the Amos. It also falls short of the Amos in terms of capacity. The bottom grate can be opened and the side holes allow adequate airflow to feed the flames.
It also has a heat-resistant handle and heat shield. But as with the others, we recommend wearing heat protection gloves. If you only do outdoor grilling occasionally, and you’re looking for a bargain, this is the chimney starter to buy.
From Weber, you’d always expect something good. And this one doesn’t disappoint.
It works pretty much the same way as the other:, put the newspaper and charcoal in and light it. Then, when the charcoal is hot enough, you just lift it and tip the charcoal out onto the grill bed (or charcoal grate).
There are plenty of small air holes at the bottom of this chimney to assist with the airflow.
The main thing this chimney starter has going for it is the excellent, ergonomic, heat-resistant handle which - in addition to the heat shield - protects your hand from getting burned. Still, heat protection gloves are advised when lifting the chimney away.
Did I say the main thing? Actually know. I’ve saved the best till last. This chimney starter measures 19 cm diameter x 30.5 cm height, equalling the Amos, but with the added imprimatur of the Weber name!
Grill Quick Start Zinc Plated Steel Camping Fire Ignition Lighter Coal Fuel Burner Lighting Kit with Thermoplastic Handle
Another one from Amos. This one is the king in terms of size, coming in at a hefty 3.3 kg capacity! The actual dimensions are 27cm (H) x 35cm (W) x 21.5cm (L); Folded: 14cm (H) x 21.5cm (W) x 27cm (L). Because this has a rectangular footprint (rather than a circle) it adds up to greater capacity. Added to which, the whole thing can be folded up when not in use, making it ideal for camping.
Aside from that it follows the same excellent design principles as other Amos chimney starters, including a grate to hold the charcoal in place while allowing air circulation. It also has large holes on the bottom to let the air circulate through the scrunched up paper. It works quickly, with the charcoal being ready in about 12 minutes - although it’s probably best to leave it a little longer to be sure.
Constructed of zinc-plated steel, it is sturdy and tough. The handle is of stay-cool thermoplastic and there is also a safety guard for added heat protection. Like the other Amos chimney starter, it comes with an instruction manual that both explains how to use it and offers sample recipes.
Favorit 1260 Safety Fire Lighter Fluid
Spray it onto your briquettes or lumpwood charcoal, let it soak into the porous charcoal. Then spray on a bit more and light it. The combination of the surface lighter fluid and the absorbed fluid will slowly set the charcoals burning.
This liquid is safe, because it can only burn in conjunction with a solid. It cannot burn on its own. So there’s no danger of setting the bottle alight. It also comes with a child-proof cap. You have to press sharply and turn it, in order to get it off. The spout is designed for spraying rather than pouring, so it is easy to use.
Another easy to use lighter fluid. Easy to use and effective it may be, but don’t be tempted to keep adding more. Rather, make sure that the charcoals are given the time to absorb it, then spray on the second layer and ignite.
This product is easy to use and works efficiently. Provided you don’t get tempted to spray on more once the fire is burning and as long as you let it burn for at least 20 minutes before you put the meat on, it should all evaporate and you won’t get any fumes on your food.
If you use enough of this gel, this works okay, but you have to be quite generous with it. Too little and it will burn up before it has got the coals going. You may also have to fan it a bit. But with a bit of effort, it gets the coals glowing.
Both for Raucharmes BBQ with Lotus Grill
This comes as a set: the 2.5 kg bag of beech wood charcoal and the 200 ml Lotus Grill Fuel Paste for lighting it. But it’s the paste we’re reviewing here. Made of ethanol and dye, this is a safety lighting gel specially formulated for the Lotus Grill. The paste is odorless and will not leave an aftertaste on the food.
The makers describe it as “CO2 neutral” but would only be correct if the ethanol is made from renewable materials.
The combination is specifically made for the Lotus Grill. If you don’t have one, we can’t see any special advantage of this combination over other products - other than possibly the absence of a smell or aftertaste. But then again, perhaps that’s reason enough.
**SAFER THAN CONVENTIONAL FLUIDS**
Another safety lighting gel that does the job but isn’t really any better, necessarily, than liquid firelighter. The trouble with this is that it’s very hit and miss - especially with lumpwood charcoal. The truth of the matter is that this product is as good as fluid, but can lull you into a false sense of security. And if you want it to work, you do need to use a lot of it.
The reason we recommend it is because at this price, it is a bargain.
The first thing that has to be said is that these firelighter cubes are incredibly crumbly. They will fall apart (or at least bits will chip off) when you try to get them out. But as they are supposed to burn up anyway, that isn’t necessarily a problem. If you cover them with charcoal and then light them, it doesn’t matter whether you are burning one solid cube or several pieces of one. In fact the latter is probably better for spreading the flames.
They have a peculiarly, waxy consistency. But that protects them from water. Even if water accumulates on the surface, it can’t get in. That means you can use them even if they get wet. This makes them particularly good for camping trips.
They are also easy to light in general and don’t blow out easily as some other solid firestarters do. And best of all, they leave no aftertaste (or smell) on the food.
For Fires Log burners & Stoves
These fire lighter solids have multiple uses, as their product name suggests. They work efficiently but beware of one thing: they are small. To get a proper charcoal fire going, you will need to use them liberally. So use a lot and spread them around the charcoal!
If the price looks steep, remember that it is for a jumbo set of 28 packs - each of 24. So when you factor in the quantity, this is a bargain!
And now for something completely different - well, anyway, a little bit different. These fire lighters are not based on paraffin. Instead they are made from recycled cardboard and combustible oils. This adds a nice eco-friendly touch to them. And they work just as well as their paraffin-based cousins. At under £10 for 160, they are also a bargain.
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