Charcoal Grill Starter Alternatives

Light Your Charcoal the Clean and Safe Way

Grilling is a great way to make a meal that's delicious, fun, and nutritious. Cooking on the grill provides several health benefits, like consuming less fat (as any excess drips off into the grates) and getting more vitamins and minerals (as grilling vegetables retains more nutrition). While grills can provide many nutritional benefits, it can also help the environment.

Charcoal is often dirtier to work with, in comparison to the gas used in gas-powered grills, but comes from renewable resources like sawdust, corn starch, and lighter fluid. However, lighter fluid is one of the top causes of grilling-related injuries and may create a great deal of petroleum-based pollution. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), charcoal lighter fluid creates emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air which contribute to the formation of the ozone layer.

Luckily, you can light your charcoal grill without lighter fluid. Green grilling alternatives, like charcoal starters, are devices used to directly ignite lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes to get them hot. Most charcoal starters cost about the same as a bottle of lighter fluid and are more eco-friendly.

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    Weber Charcoal Chimney

    Weber Charcoal Chimney
    Weber Charcoal Chimney. Weber-Stephen Products Company

    The Weber Charcoal Chimney is a great way to light charcoal at a reasonable price. To ignite your charcoal:

    1. Place a piece or two of crumpled newspaper in the bottom, fill the top with charcoal, and light. In about 10 minutes, you will have burning hot coals.
    2. Pour them (gently) into your grill and you are ready to cook.

    One of the great advantages of charcoal chimney is being able to start up more coals anytime you need them. The Weber Charcoal Chimney is well-built and durable enough to last through hundreds of startups. In fact, this will light more charcoal than a dozen bottles of charcoal lighter fluid, and can save you a lot of money over the years.

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    Grill Pro Electric Charcoal Starter

    Grill Pro Electric Charcoal Starter
    Grill Pro Electric Charcoal Starter. Onward Manufacturing Company

    To get charcoal burning, all you need to do is get it hot enough to light. An electric charcoal starter is nothing more than heating element that gets very hot when plugged in. This pollution-free device is about 110 volts and easy to use. It works by starting charcoal with heat from a coil instead of a live flame. You can use this to handle up to two pounds of charcoal.

    The Grill Pro electric charcoal starter has a wide loop with a curved line so you can get a lot of charcoal in contact with it all at once. Using an electric charcoal starter allows you to get your coals burning in just a few minutes without even striking a match. Plus, you can use it wherever needed:

    1. Pour charcoal in your grill and insert the charcoal starter.
    2. Heat up coals in a metal buck if you need to add more to your fire.
  • 03 of 05

    Looftlighter 60 Second Charcoal Starter

    60 Second Charcoal Starter
    60 Second Charcoal Starter. Hammacher Schlemmer & Company, INC.

    Most charcoal starters require 10–15 minutes to get the charcoal burning completely. The Looftlighter can do it in a minute. This safe and eco-friendly starter can light charcoal, briquettes, and wood in 60 seconds without using any dangerous chemicals.

    The Looftlighter works by using super heated air (and no flame or gas). Like a high powered paint stripper, it focuses hot air (around 1250 degrees F.) at the coals. This gives charcoal enough heat to get the fire going and also fans the flame as a high-powered blower. While this option is on the higher-end, costing around $80, it delivers fast results.

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    Fatwood

    Also known as "lighter wood," Fatwood is a slang term from the South referring to a natural resin saturated wood from the base of ancient pine trees. Typically, it comes from the stumps of trees already harvested.

    This wood is highly combustible and can be lit with a match. You can burn it wet or dry due to its naturally rough texture. Once burning, it burns very hot, which is perfect for lighting any kind of fire or charcoal with. Using Fatwood is the old traditional way of lighting up a grill or smoker—and is a safe and natural way to get your grill burning in no time. Plus, it has no chemicals or additives.

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  • 05 of 05

    Diamond Strike a Fire

    Diamond Strike a Fire
    Diamond Strike a Fire. Jarden Home Brands

    Diamond Strike a Fire's charcoal starters are made out of a paraffin saturated press wood material that burns for about 10 minutes. Working just like a match, these starters light your charcoal easily:

    1. Take a fire starter out.
    2. Strike the red tip igniter on the strike strip located on the back of the box. This will light it just like a match.
    3. Once the end is burning, simply push it down into a pile of charcoal, and you'll have a fire going.

    While these starters aren't necessarily the most environmentally-friendly solution—in comparison to other igniters—these do the job. Plus, they don't require electricity or sheets of newspaper, which makes them great for lighting charcoal with when you're not at home.