If you are like most ardent weekend BBQ enthusiasts, you know doubt have dreaded on occasion one part of the BBQ process: trying to get the charcoal briquettes lit and burning. This can be a frustrating process, and unless you have the proper technique, strategy and conditions, you could spend an hour or more just trying to get the charcoal properly lit and ready to cook your food.
Fortunately, there is now a device that can help with this starting process: an electric charcoal starter. Using electricity from any standard wall socket, an electric charcoal starter can shave several minutes when trying to light the briquettes, allowing you to cook and ultimately eat in a much timelier manner.
To help you select the perfect charcoal starter for your particular needs and preferences, below we have reviewed several of the most popular and well-loved electric charcoal starting devices, and highlighted the pros and cons associated with each product.
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We have also put together an Electric Charcoal Starter Buying Guide, in which we have outlined and explained the various features and factors you should consider when shopping for one of these indispensable BBQ items.
- Looftlighter Charcoal Starter
- Grill Dome Rapid-Lite Electric Charcoal Lighter
- Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter
- Electric Charcoal Starter Buyer’s Guide
Looftlighter Charcoal Starter
A name that has become synonymous with BBQ starting the world over, the Looftlighter Charcoal Starter can ignite campfires and BBQ coals in just a few seconds, and keep them hot until you are ready to cook over them. Its patented hot air stream makes it akin to a “hair dryer on steroids,” and the use of this device eliminates the chemical taste that infuses onto food when using lighter fluid, gas or other harmful substances. Equipped with a safety casing, the Looftlighter Charcoal Starter never throws flames, but it will speed up the heating process of briquettes and fires at a tenfold pace.
- No burners. Instead of using burners as many electric charcoal starters do, the Looftlighter Charcoal Starter uses hot air to produce the needed heat.
- Powerful. The Looftlighter Charcoal Starter puts out a whopping 1500 watts (United States) of fire starting power, and 1800 watts of power if you buy in Europe.
- Must continuously hold the starter. Many electric charcoal starters can be laid in the fire or briquettes, but with its heated air system the Looftlighter Charcoal Starter must be held at all times.
Grill Dome Rapid-Lite Electric Charcoal Lighter
With 600 watts of power, the Grill Dome Rapid-Lite 600-Watt Electric Charcoal Lighter can start coals in minutes. Boasting a unique double loop design, the starter can cover more coals than the single looped devices; and its stainless steel sheath prolongs the life of the starter, giving customers much more bang for their buck. The stay-cool handle on this electric charcoal starter is a very nice touch; and the sharp bend angle allows for better contact with the briquettes for faster starts.
- Stay-Cool Handle. The stay-cool handle protects the user’s hands when the starter is in use.
- Double-loop design. The double loop design of the Grill Dome Rapid-Lite 600-Watt Electric Charcoal Lighter allows it to cover and ignite more charcoal at a time.
- Not safe on rainy days. As with all electric starters, the Grill Dome Rapid-Lite 600-Watt Electric Charcoal Lighter cannot/should not be used on rainy days or in standing water.
Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter
The Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter boasts a durable and well-designed stainless steel sheath and its heat resistant handle makes even the most novice charcoal lighters look and feel like experts. The tool can be used to light campfires, woodstoves, grills and more, and its compact design makes for very easy storage.
- Versatile. The Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter can be used in a variety of fire and charcoal lighting scenarios.
- Compact. The small compact design of the Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter makes for very easy storage and fast cleanup.
- Budget Friendly. This starter is the most budget friendly on our list of products.
- Small cord. The cord on the Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter is only 2 feet long, which means users will need to setup very near an electrical outlet or use an approved outdoor extension cord.
- No bend shape. Because the shape of the Brinkmann Electric Charcoal Starter is not in a bend, users will need to bury the tool diagonally in the charcoal to produce optimal results.
Electric Charcoal Starter Buyer’s Guide
If you elect to go with an electric charcoal starter—a very fast and convenient way to light your charcoal briquettes—you should know exactly what you are buying and the advantages to using this type of charcoal starting system. You should also brush up on the correct way in which to use your new BBQ toy. This information—and more—is what we have provided for you down below.
What Is an Electric Charcoal Starter?
Usually shaped like a wand of sorts, an electric charcoal charter, also known as a charcoal iron, is an excellent choice for starting charcoal fires, mostly because it does not require the use of a bunch of chemicals to get the fire started, chemicals whose nasty taste and aroma can leach into your food. Relatively inexpensive, an electric charcoal starter is the device of choice when it’s imperative that you start your coals fast.
Advantages of Using a Charcoal Starter for Your Grill
There are many advantages associated with the charcoal starter. To illustrate this, below we have highlighted and explained just some of these benefits.
- Fast. When you need to get your coals going and ready to cook in less than 10 minutes, an electric charcoal starter is a great choice.
- Budget-friendly. Compared to some of the other expensive fire-starting devices out there, the electric charcoal starter is very budget-friendly.
- Easy to Find. Charcoal starters can be found at almost any retailer that sells grills and BBQ accessories.
- Reusable. When taken care of, an electric charcoal starter will last a very long time—that’s hundreds of starts from a single device.
- Nothing else needed. When you use an electric charcoal starter, nothing else is needed—no matches, no lighter, no starting fluids. This is something that cannot be said of chimney starters.
- Healthy/Environmentally Friendly. With lighter fluid, not only do you risk ingesting harmful chemicals, the smoke that is emitted when using this fluid can be toxic to the environment and eco-system.
How to Use an Electric Charcoal Starter
When using an electric charcoal starter, there are several steps you will need to follow, but keep in mind that these steps go fairly rapidly and the overall time needed to start your briquette fire is negligible. Here is a list containing the exact steps you will want to follow when using one of these devices:
- Inspect the Starter. Before using any electric charcoal starter, be sure to check it over thoroughly to ensure it is totally intact, with no broken pieces or hanging wires. Charcoal starters in disrepair can often cause problems that may lead to injuries—or worse.
- Pile the charcoal. Make a small, yet uniform pile using the charcoal briquettes or coal pieces in your BBQ. Try to lay them out fairly flat, but make sure all the coals are touching the one adjacent to them (at minimum).
- Lay the burner down. Lay the burner portion of the electric charcoal starter over the pile of coals, making sure that the handle is up and away from the coals.
- Pile on more briquettes. Now, pile more briquettes on top and around the burner of the electric charcoal starter.
- Plug in the starter. Once you have built your pile of coals—under, atop and around the burner of the electric charcoal starter—plug the unit in to a standard wall socket. Keep in mind that many of these devices have short cords, so feel free to use an approved outdoor extension cord if the need arises.
- Wait for coals to ignite. With the unit turned on, leave the electric charcoal starter plugged in until you begin to witness the charcoal around the burner beginning to glow and develop some ash. At this stage you should additionally check on the middle of the pile, where the temperature is the hottest. Here the charcoal briquettes should be glowing bright red. The whole process usually take between 8 and 10 minutes, but in rare instances it can take as much as 15-20 minutes when using an inferior electric charcoal starter.
- Unplug the starter and remove. Once the coals have started to burn, unplug the electric charcoal starter and, using heat-resistant gloves, carefully remove it from the fire. Try to keep as much of the pile intact so the coals will continue to burn.
- Hang the device to cool. After you have removed the electric charcoal starter from the fire, hang it somewhere out of the way to cool down—somewhere in which you won’t bump into it and nowhere near any flammable materials. The iron will be extremely hot, so please be very careful during this step.
By the time you have unplugged your electric charcoal starter, removed it from the fire, and hung it somewhere with care, your coals should be just about ready to cook on. However, unless all briquettes have caught fire you can move them around and wait a couple more minutes before cooking.
More Recommendations Regarding Your New Electric Charcoal Starter
Since most electric charcoal starters have cords of 3-feet or less, you may have to use an extension cord. In doing so, please make sure the extension cord you are using is approved for outdoor use. Additionally, you will need to come up with a system for keeping the extension cord up and out of the way when the electric charcoal starter is in use. Failing to do this could lead to some very bad accidents—even an unwanted fire.
Never exceed the time that is provided in the manual when it comes to how long to leave the grill plate of the starter on the coals. This time is given as a way to prevent the burners, handle and cord from becoming too hot and potentially melting.
Never walk away when your electric charcoal starter is in use. This is a fast process, and because of the heat that is involved it is also a process that should be consistently monitored.
Finally, you should always designate a “cooling spot” in which you can place the electric charcoal starter after you use it. Hanging it up and out of the way of the BBQ is usually your best bet.
Now you can enjoy your first BBQ feast using your new electric charcoal starter. Bon Appetite!