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Best Charcoal Chimneys

Updated June 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 21 Models Considered
  • 6 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 104 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best charcoal chimneys

    Last Updated June 2018

    There’s nothing like the delicious smoky flavor of burgers, steaks, and veggies prepared on a charcoal grill. Unfortunately, getting the grill ready can be a time-consuming, frustrating process. And if you’ve been trying to light coals without a charcoal chimney, you’re only making it that much harder for yourself.

    With a charcoal chimney, you can heat your coals quickly and easily and enjoy your food much sooner. And to get your charcoal going without a hitch, choosing the right chimney is key. With so many options on the market, shopping can be a little overwhelming. You need to settle on the right size, shape, and other features to make sure it performs as well as possible.

    If you’re in the market for a charcoal chimney, the handy matrix above has our top recommendations. If you’re interested in general tips on what to look for in a charcoal chimney, our shopping guide has plenty of helpful advice.

    Why use a charcoal chimney?

    A charcoal chimney is device used to heat charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal for your grill. It is a cylindrical metal container with a grate inside and perforations around the outside at the bottom. You place the charcoal on the grate and light a fire beneath the coals. The perforations allow air to enter beneath the coals and stoke the fire.

    • A charcoal chimney is quick and easy to use. The chimney’s design enables the briquettes or lump charcoal to light more quickly and burn more evenly, saving you time and effort.

    • A charcoal chimney doesn’t require lighter fluid. The main reason that serious grillers use a charcoal chimney is that you don’t have to douse your coals with lighter fluid. Not only can lighter fluid be dangerous if not used properly but it also contains many hazardous chemicals that you probably don’t want in your food. Lighter fluid can also leave behind an unpleasant taste that can affect the smoky flavor of your favorite grilled foods.
       

    How to use a charcoal chimney

    • Twist and roll a few pieces of newspaper into donut shapes.

    • Turn the chimney upside down and position the coils of paper in the bottom. Be sure to leave a central hole for airflow.

    • Turn the chimney right side up and pour charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal onto the grate.

    • Light the paper. It takes up to 20 minutes for the burning paper to heat the charcoal to the right temperature for grilling.

    • The coals are ready when ash forms on the exterior of the coals and you see a subtle orange glow between them.

    • Pour the coals from the chimney into your grill.

    Innovative design gets coals burning quickly

    The BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity will have your charcoal ignited in a hurry because its unique 90° elbow allows more oxygen to flow into the chamber. Instead of waiting for 20 minutes, you’re ready to start grilling your favorite steaks or burgers in as few as three. The Chimney of Insanity’s design also allows for more consistent and even burning for better temperature control.

    Charcoal chimney features to consider

    Size

    Before you buy a charcoal chimney, figure out how much coal your grill holds.

    • Charcoal chamber

      • It’s a good idea to choose a charcoal chimney that’s large enough to hold as much charcoal as your grill uses. It means you won’t have to ignite the coal in batches.

      • Portable grills: If you’re looking for a chimney to use with a portable grill for camping or tailgating, a charcoal chamber that holds five quarts of charcoal should be sufficient.

      • Full-size grills: For most grills, you’ll want a charcoal chamber that holds at least six or seven quarts of charcoal (about 300 cubic inches or more).
         

    • Fuel chamber

      • It’s also important to consider the size of fuel chamber (the area where you place the newspaper). Too small and the newspaper will be too tightly packed to allow the air to circulate effectively. Choose a chimney with a fuel chamber that has at least 130 cubic inches of space.

    Shape

    It may not seem like an important detail, but the shape of a charcoal chimney is actually key to the successful ignition of the coals.

    • Cylindrical: Most charcoal chimneys are cylindrical, which effectively allows the air to circulate and makes it easier to pour the hot coals from the container when they’re ready.

    • Square: Some charcoal chimneys are square and designed to collapse for easy storage. While this may seem like a good idea, these models aren’t the best option because it’s harder to pour the coals from a square chimney with any control or direction. The collapsible design can also feel somewhat flimsy, which certainly isn’t a quality you want in a container that’s holding hot coals.

    Handle

    You need to be able to transfer the red-hot coals to your grill, so the handle is a very important feature on a charcoal chimney.

    • Placement: Look at the distance between where you grip the handle and the side of the chimney – the bigger the better.

    • Heat shield: Some charcoal chimneys also have a heat shield – a thin piece of metal – between the chimney and the handle to further protect your hand from the very hot chimney.

    • Material: Wooden handles can feel somewhat flimsy, so it’s best to choose a model with a heatproof plastic handle. A molded design can make the chimney more comfortable to hold.

    • Number: Some charcoal chimneys also have a second handle to make it easier to hold and control the chimney when it’s full of hot coals.

    Ventilation

    Fire needs oxygen, so proper ventilation is key to effectively lighting the charcoal in your chimney. Choose a model with ventilation holes around the sides of the fuel chamber, as well as down the charcoal chamber.

    EXPERT TIP

    When filling your charcoal chimney, don’t coil the newspaper too tightly. It can prevent the air from flowing, increasing the time it takes for the charcoal to ignite.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    For safety when igniting coals, place your charcoal chimney on heat resistant surfaces, such as a grill grate, fire-safe bricks, or a solid terra-cotta flower pot saucer.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    If you’re igniting multiple batches in your charcoal chimney, don’t dump out all the coals with the first batch. Leave a few in the chimney to help ignite the next batch.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Charcoal chimney prices

    Charcoal chimneys vary in price based on size and quality of construction. In most cases, you can expect to pay between $10 and $45 for one.

    • Budget friendly

    Small charcoal chimneys that hold less than five quarts of charcoal usually cost from $10 to $15.

    • Mid-range

    Medium charcoal chimneys that hold five to six quarts of charcoal usually cost from $15 to $25.

    • Expensive

    Large charcoal chimneys that hold more than six quarts of charcoal usually cost from $20 to $45.

    Lightweight chimney that’s ideal for small grills

    The GrillPro 39470 isn’t the biggest charcoal chimney on the market, but it can accommodate up to two pounds of charcoal, making it a perfect fit for small grills. It works quickly, fully igniting coals in about ten minutes. And the GrillPro’s bargain price makes it a great value, too.

    Tips

    • If you don’t want to use newspaper as fuel for your charcoal chimney, lighter cubes or other premade combustible materials work just as well but cost more.

    • If it’s raining when you’re preparing your grill, cover the top of the charcoal chimney with a heatproof item to make sure the coals ignite properly.

    • Slowly pour the charcoal from the chimney into your grill. If you pour too quickly, you could cause a dangerous rush of sparks.

    • After you add the charcoal to the grill, cover the grill and allow the coals to heat for another ten minutes or so.

    A charcoal chimney stays hot even after you pour out the burning coals. Place it in a spot well away from children and pets until it’s completely cooled. Prevent burns by wearing oven mitts when you handle your charcoal chimney.

    FAQ

    Q. Is a charcoal chimney safe to use?

    A. If used properly, a charcoal chimney is perfectly safe to use. In fact, using a chimney to ignite your charcoal for grilling is much safer than using lighter fluid or liquid starter, both of which can easily cause flare-ups and leave chemical residue on your food. Remember to never place a charcoal chimney on dry grass, wood, or other flammable surface when igniting the coals – or after you’ve poured the coals into the grill. The metal is still hot!

    Q. What are charcoal chimneys made of?

    A. All charcoal chimneys are made of metal, most commonly steel, to make sure that they are fully heatproof. Higher-end models are usually made of thick-gauge galvanized steel to increase durability, while mid-range and budget-friendly chimneys are typically made of aluminum- or zinc-coated steel.

    Q. How long will my charcoal chimney last?

    A. A good charcoal chimney can last up to ten years if properly cared for. That means you shouldn’t leave your charcoal chimney outside and exposed to the elements when it isn’t in use. Store the chimney in a clean, dry spot like the inside of the grill cabinet or on a shelf in your garage or shed.

    The team that worked on this review
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