Holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics, loves traveling and learning new languages. Fluent in Spanish, is learning French and Czech at the moment. Enjoys exploring national cuisines every time he visits new countries.
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous online and offline grilling masterclasses runs his own BBQ accessories shop.
Last updated: July 19, 2021
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Starting your barbecue quickly isn’t the easiest task, especially if you don’t want to use lighter fluid or other chemicals to get it burning. These accelerants are harmful and can alter the taste of the food you’re grilling. That’s why many grillers are choosing the best electric charcoal starter to get their grills going. These are easy to use, with no mess and no dangerous chemicals to pollute the air or your meals.
There are several different types of starters on the market, which can make it hard to choose the right one. We’ve reviewed five of them, with the BBQsmokerMods Charcoal Starter coming out on top. It includes great features, like the long heat-resistant handle, the angled design, the mounting bracket, and the cooling stand. It is also made of mostly stainless steel, so it is durable and weather-resistant. There are also a few other types, including a Hookah charcoal starter and a few hot air models to choose from.
When deciding on the best charcoal starter for your grill, there are a few features to consider. Whether it is corded or battery-powered is important since you may not be near an outlet when using it. The length of the cord is another because even if there is an outlet, it may not be as close as you’d like. The dimensions of the unit will tell you how portable it is or where you can store it. To make your decision easier, we’ve created a comparison table with in-depth reviews for our chosen products, with a buying guide covering all their features at the end.
If you’re looking for the best electric charcoal starter on the market, the BBQsmokerMods Electric Charcoal Starter is a good place to start. This barbecue tool is lightweight and compact, plus it is easy to use, even if it’s your first time at the grill.
This tool has a long heat-resistant handle that stays well away from the coals during the heating process. The angled design not only keeps the handle cool, but it also keeps your hands away from the flames as well. The length of the handle even makes it easier to reach farther into those deeper barbecue or smoker models, letting you heat more charcoal at once.
There is a mounting bracket near the handle for hooking onto the side of the grill, keeping the lighter in place and preventing it from falling into the hot charcoal. This piece is made of stainless steel, which is durable and weather-resistant, so it should last as long as the starter does.
There are no buttons or switches to deal with to get this tool heating, either. All you need to do is place it in the pile of charcoal and plug it in to get it going. The cord is a bit short, so you may need an extension cord to reach the nearest outlet, but this won’t hinder its usage. A cooling stand is included with the electric starter for added convenience.
Though the VENYN Multipurpose Charcoal Burner is designed for use with hookahs, it is versatile, so you can use it for your barbecues and smokers, plus heat a hot beverage if needed. It is compact and lightweight, too, so you can use it at home or take it with you camping, to a friend’s house, or anywhere else.
This tool is coated with porcelain, which is heat- and corrosion-resistant, adding to its durability. To start it up, you just plug it in, turn it on, and add your charcoal. Heat up time is only 3-5 minutes, so you don’t have to wait around for hot coals. There is also a heat control power adjuster that allows you to turn the heat up or down as needed.
The stainless steel charcoal tray is removable, so you don’t need to worry about dropping any charcoal and burning a hole in your carpet. A top plate can be placed on the tray as well to warm up some coffee or tea.
The handle on the side of the unit is also removable, so you can attach it to the steel tray for lifting and carrying it. You can also use the handle as tongs for picking up the hot charcoal and placing it in the hookah. If left attached to the burner, the handles do get hot, though, so it’s best not to leave them on there for too long.
A good electric charcoal starter doesn’t have to be overly fancy or expensive to get that charcoal hot and ready to cook on. The Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter is a basic model that takes very little of your time and effort to use, plus it has a great low price that will fit into any grilling budget.
It has a heat-resistant handle, which keeps you from burning yourself when handling this electric tool, even when the iron end is red hot. The cord is quite short, so you will need an extension cord to reach even nearby outlets, though this shouldn’t add too much of a hassle to your cooking experience.
The 120V heating element generates about 550 watts, which heats your charcoal pile in only minutes, so you can get your meat and veggies on fast to feed your family and friends. There are no buttons or switches to deal with either. Plugging it in turns on the heat, so be sure it is placed where you want it before you start it up to reduce the risk of injury.
A metal bracket between the handle and the iron end holds this electric tool on the side of the grill instead of allowing it to fall into the hot coals. This piece can also be used as a stand, keeping the hot end off any surfaces as it cools down after the charcoal is lit and the starter is removed.
The HomeRight Electro-Torch is a handy device to have when you need to get a fire going quickly to feed the hungry members of your household. You can also use it for lighting your fireplace, wood stove, or even a campfire, provided you have an outlet nearby to plug into, as the cord isn’t very long.
The Electro-Torch uses 1,500 degrees of hot air to ignite the charcoal in your grill or any other type of kindling used for your chosen fire. It includes a dual ignition switch, which has one setting for igniting the charcoal or wood and a second setting for high-velocity airflow to give you a roaring fire. This switch isn’t lockable, so you do need to hold it down the entire time you’re using this charcoal starter.
There is a built-in thermal safety switch that will cut off the power to the device if it overheats. When it cools down, the unit automatically resets, so it is ready to go the next time you need it.
This tool starts a fire in only 2-3 minutes, which is faster than many other models on the market. It isn’t too big, so you can pack one in your RV and take it on the road with you if needed. The cord is a bit short, so an extension cord may be needed when using it in the backyard or at a campground.
Technically speaking, the BBQ Dragon Charcoal Starter doesn’t actually start the fire in your barbecue, fireplace, or smoker since it doesn’t create any heat. You still need to light the fire by more conventional methods, such as some paper and matches. You just don’t need any accelerants to speed up how quickly the heat spreads throughout the charcoal since the BBQ Dragon does this for you.
It includes a variable speed fan that directs the chosen amount of cool air onto the charcoal, adding oxygen to help the fire catch and spread faster. Your charcoal will be lit and ready for grilling in only a few minutes after the BBQ Dragon is put to work.
This handy device uses stainless steel for the main body and the long adjustable neck. This material is durable enough to withstand the heat from the grill, even when the fan’s on high and pushing the flames to the max.
There is a heavy-duty spring-loaded clamp on the end that allows you to attach it to your barbecue, fire pit, or anywhere else you need it. You can move it whenever needed for the best airflow or bend the neck without shifting the entire tool’s position.
This unit uses 4 AA batteries, though these won’t last long if using it regularly. Rechargeable batteries are a good replacement, using the USB port in the device and the included micro-USB cable to charge them when needed.
What makes it special?
Variable speed motor
What cons did we find?
Flimsy battery door hatch
Batteries don’t last long
An igniter and a chimney are also required
Things to Consider
Getting your charcoal grill going can take some time and effort, and for some people, a bit of lighter fluid. This isn’t the best way to do it, though, especially since that fluid adds a nasty flavor to your grilled meals. The best electric charcoal starter allows you to start your charcoal quickly and easily, with no harmful chemicals to alter your otherwise tasty meals. Best of all, even beginner grillers can use them like a pro in no time.
Why it’s worth getting an electric charcoal starter
If you’re thinking about purchasing an electric charcoal starter but aren’t sure if it’s worth it, perhaps you should consider the following advantages to one of these devices. First of all, they eliminate the need for chemicals of any kind to get the charcoal burning. Not only are these chemicals harmful to the environment, but they are also unhealthy for you, adding chemicals to your food as the charcoal burns. They also alter the flavor of the food you’re grilling. Electric starters are safer and healthier every time.
Another reason to use one of these tools is that they can get the charcoal burning much faster than any other method. In fact, with models like the HomeRight Electro-Torch, you could be ready to cook in about 5 minutes. Most models don’t even need any matches or paper to get the charcoal starter. They provide their own heat to start the fire.
An electric charcoal starter is reusable and can last for years if properly used and cared for. These tools are also rather inexpensive, so you won’t be spending more than $50, even if you’re buying a high-end model.
Another great thing about these tools is that they are versatile. As well as starting your charcoal barbecue, they can be used to light the kindling in your fireplace, wood stove, or backyard fire pit. The VENYN Multipurpose Charcoal Burner is even designed to light charcoal for a Hookah, so you can find the right one to meet every need.
Features to consider while choosing an electric charcoal starter
When choosing a new electric charcoal starter, you may want to consider the following features. This will ensure you are getting the one that suits you best.
Wired or battery-operated?
Almost all of the models we’ve reviewed above include a cord, which allows you to plug the charcoal starter into your home outlet to power it. This is handy because you don’t need to fuss with any controls or buttons to get it running. Of course, this also means you need an outlet nearby, which may not be as convenient if you’re trying to light a fire pit in the middle of your backyard. An extension cord will then be needed to get your starter going.
There are a few models, like the BBQ Dragon Charcoal Starter, that are battery-powered as well. These can be more convenient in certain situations, like lighting that backyard fire pit or when camping in a tent or in an area that has no electrical service. You will need to keep some extra batteries on hand, though, which can get pricey over time unless you choose to use rechargeable ones.
Power cord length
The length of the power cord will determine whether or not you need an extension cord to power your electric charcoal starter. For instance, the Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter has a cord that is only two feet long. Unless you have an outlet right next to your grill, you’re going to need an extension cord to get the starter running. The longer the cord is, the better chance you have of it reaching the closest power outlet and saving you a bit of money on an extra extension cord to keep it running every time you want to barbecue.
The materials used to make an electric charcoal starter are rather important, especially when you consider that these tools aren’t just near the heat, they are generating it. Stainless steel is a popular choice for most of the parts since this material is durable, strong, and won’t corrode or rust if it gets wet. This doesn’t mean you should leave your electric starter out to suffer the wrath of Mother Nature, though. You should still treat it like you would any other tool, taking care of it and putting it away when you’re not using it.
The handles are usually made of plastic or rubber, both of which work well and last a while. These materials should be heat-resistant as well. This will keep the handle cool to touch, which keeps your hands burn-free when you’re using them, plus they won’t melt or burn from the heat of the charcoal as it’s lit. A heavy-duty cord is also a must, to keep damage to a minimum and prevent shocks or fires.
There are a few reasons that you should check out the dimensions of an electric charcoal starter before you buy one. The first has to do with the size of your barbecue. If you have a small barbecue, a huge charcoal starter won’t fit very well, requiring you to angle it. This will make it harder to pile the charcoal around it to get it burning properly. An angled design, like the one used by the BBQsmokerMods Electric Charcoal Starter may make this an easier task, or you could look for a smaller model that fits your grill better.
The same goes for a small starter and a large barbecue. The small starter may need to be placed right in the barbecue, with the charcoal piled to the side over the heated end. Then, when it is lit, you’ll need to spread the hot charcoal to cover the entire base of the grill.
Another reason to check out the size of the starter is for portability. Some people like to take their grilling accessories with them camping, to competitions, or even to a friend’s house. The more portable the tool is, the easier it is to pack up and bring with you wherever you’ll need it. This also gives you more options when it’s time to store it away when you’re not using it.
Though electric charcoal starters don’t have a lot of special features, there are a few worth looking into. A heat-resistant handle is one of these features. These tools will not only be creating heat, but they’ll also be near the charcoal that you’re lighting. The cooler the handle stays, the easier it is for you to adjust their position or lift them out when the charcoal is burning to your satisfaction.
How quickly these tools light that charcoal is another feature to look at. Some models take up to 15 minutes to get the charcoal in that white stage needed for grilling while others boast only a few minutes. The faster it works, the quicker you’ll be eating your barbecued delicacies.
Versatility is one of the best special features these tools have going for them. If they only work for lighting a grill, you may not use them as much as you think. Of course, most of the models on the market can be used to light a variety of fires. This means that those with indoor fireplaces or wood stoves can use them to keep their homes warm in the winter, lighting their kindling quickly with an electric starter. Outdoor fire pits in your backyard or at a campground can also be lit using these, though you may need an extension cord in a campsite with electrical service or a battery-powered model when camping in an area with no service at all.
How to use an electric charcoal starter
To use your electric charcoal starter properly, follow these easy steps:
Lay the charcoal out in your barbecue, making them as flat as possible.
Place the electric charcoal starter across this charcoal layer.
Put another layer of charcoal over the iron section of the electric charcoal starter.
Plug in the starter and turn it on.
Leave the charcoal starter in place until the charcoal around it is turning white and creating some ash, with the hot iron glowing red.
Unplug the charcoal starter and carefully remove it from the charcoal pile, keeping the hot metal parts away from you at all times.
Hang the electric starter where it won’t be bumped, away from anything flammable or wet.
Spread out the coals and start cooking.
Store the starter away when it has completely cooled down.
If you’re using a traditional coil type of charcoal starter, it will be placed in one spot and ignite the charcoal that is touching the coil, lighting it. This will then spread to the rest of the charcoal, though this may take about 10 minutes or more. With the hot air models, you can move it around, heating multiple areas in the charcoal pile, which will speed up the process of lighting the entire pile.
Unfortunately, it isn’t specified how long these devices take to cool down. The BBQsmokerMods Electric Charcoal Starter states that it should be placed in a safe area for an extended period to cool down. This no specific time limit, though, on any of the products reviewed here. These are quite hot when finished lighting the charcoal, so the longer you leave them to cool, the safer they’ll be when you do need to store them away.
The VENYN Multipurpose Charcoal Burner can be used for hookah charcoal. It is designed to heat a few pieces at a time and even includes a handle that can be used as tongs to transfer the hot charcoal to the Hookah. It is versatile enough to work for lighting grills, fireplaces, or anything else you have on your list.
An electric charcoal starter is a handy tool to have to get your charcoal burning perfectly without using paper, matches, or lighter fluid. There are many models on the market, but the following three are our favorites.
The BBQsmokerMods Electric Charcoal Starter is our top choice. It has an angled design, with a long heat-resistant handle and stainless steel for durability. This model is easy to use and even includes a mounting bracket and a cooling stand.
The VENYN Multipurpose Charcoal Burner is great for those hookah users. It is compact, lightweight, versatile, and heats up fast. The porcelain coating prevents corrosion, and it includes a heat control power adjuster, a removable tray, a top tray, and a removable handle that doubles as a set of tongs.
Our budget model is the Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter, which has a simple design that is easy to use. The 120V element gives you 550 watts for fast heating. It also includes a heat-resistant handle and a metal bracket for sturdy positioning.