Power cord is long at close to five feet. Delivers 600 watts of power. Curvature of heating element places more of it in contact with the charcoal.
Pricey. Design may be too large to fit inside some charcoal chimneys.
Small enough to fit nicely inside a charcoal chimney. Will have small amounts of charcoal burning more quickly than some other options. Very good price. Heat-safe handle is larger than some others.
Heating element is a little small, so it works better with small amounts of charcoal. Power cord is short.
Quality construction with extra-long base and sturdy handle. Blow-torch style operation makes it one of the fastest starters. Attractive two-year warranty.
Some reports of aluminum cover melting off. Lighting mechanism stops working within a year for some. Must hold down button entire time.
Decent durability considering its low price point. Really made for smaller grills, as it won't heat large amounts of charcoal quickly. Compact unit that you can store easily. Inexpensive.
Short power cord is a hassle. Heating element is a little narrow, creating less contact areas.
Allows you to heat up charcoal, wood pellets, or wood chips. Has a larger handle than most, so you can grab the unit safely. Includes both an ignition setting and a distribution setting to spread heat evenly.
Expensive unit. Larger than most electric charcoal starters, making it more difficult to store.
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If grilling and barbecuing are your favorite summer pastimes, chances are you’re well on your way to becoming a pitmaster. Nothing beats a savory meal cooked on a charcoal grill, so you and your guests likely count every minute until mealtime. If you’re ready to speed up your grilling, an electric charcoal starter is an essential cooking accessory.
Electric charcoal starters ignite a fire without the use of any chemicals or flames. Instead, they have a stainless steel heating element that sits in a charcoal pyramid and gets the fire going in less than ten minutes. All you need to do is plug it in and let it sit there. Once your charcoal is lit, simply use the heating element to even out the flame and you’re done. After that, unplug your electric charcoal starter and let it cool down.
With such a simple way to get the fire started, it’s an easy decision to get an electric charcoal starter. We explored the best starters and assembled this buying guide so you can get on top of your grill game in no time.
Besides serving as devices that kick-start your grilling session, electric charcoal starters come with plenty of other benefits.
Economical: An electric charcoal starter is an economical choice for the frequent griller. Lighter fluid gets expensive, and if you run out, it could put a damper on your meal plans. With a starter, it’s a one-time investment that pays for itself after a handful of uses.
Eco-friendly: Electric charcoal starters are also an environmentally friendly alternative to lighter fluid. They don’t utilize harmful chemicals or emit any into the atmosphere because the heating element comes into direct contact with the charcoal.
Better taste: You’ll also notice a lack of the aftertaste that is sometimes evident in food cooked using lighter fluid.
Safe: Electric charcoal starters also reduce fire hazards because you aren’t squirting lighter fluid all over the place, and you avoid the unpredictability of open flames.
An electric charcoal starter includes a heat-resistant handle, metal neck, and stainless steel heating element. To ignite the charcoal, plug in the starter and stack the charcoal in an even, concentrated pile. Place the heating element on top of the pile and cover it with another well-distributed stack of charcoal. Within minutes, you’ll have a flame going, at which time you can redistribute the charcoal around the grill and remove the starter. Close the grill lid and let it reach the optimal temperature for cooking.
An electric charcoal starter is a relatively basic device that contains an internal electrical component, stainless steel heating element, and heat-resistant handle. The stainless steel heating element holds up to frequent heating and evenly distributes heat along its loops. The heat-resistant handle is made with commercial-grade plastic and is usually at least six inches long. Most have some grooves or ridges to improve your grip for a safe and secure hold.
One of the main considerations when choosing an electric charcoal starter is the heating time. On average, they take between eight and ten minutes to ignite the charcoal. If that’s not fast enough for your grilling needs, there are some rapid-heating models available that ignite in between two and six minutes. They’re designed with multiple coils so their heating elements maximize their contact points. The more contact points, the quicker the charcoal pyramid can heat up.
After igniting your charcoal, your starter needs to cool down, which is why some premium models come equipped with a base or detachable stand. A stand holds the starter either upright or at an angle. This is an essential feature worth looking for from both practicality and safety perspectives. A base or stand keeps the heating element away from wood, plastic, or other flammable surfaces and helps avoid situations in which children, adults, and pets could accidentally come into contact with the hot metal.
Perhaps the main concern consumers have with electric charcoal starters is the short cord length. On average, the cord is only about five feet long, and while that’s a generous length for most other electrical devices, it seems inadequate in a starter. For one, you’re most likely using it outside where it can be hard to locate an outlet that’s close to your grill. As a result, most people end up purchasing an extension cord at the same time as their electric charcoal starter.
Electric charcoal starters cost between $10 and $80, so it’s an ideal investment if grilling or barbecuing is a regular activity.
Inexpensive: At the low end, between $10 and $20, most of the starters have an oval heating element and a relatively short neck and handle.
Mid-range: Starters priced between $20 and $40 have an extended neck that adds considerable space between the heating element and the handle. Many also have a double-looped heating element that heats briquettes more efficiently.
Expensive: At the high end of the range, between $40 and $80, are electric charcoal starters that heat more quickly than other models, particularly the torch styles in this range.
Q. My electric charcoal starter takes too long to light the charcoal. What are my options?
A. Assuming your starter isn’t defective, double-check the expected heat time to make sure your expectations are realistic. You should also examine whether your briquettes are properly stacked on and around the starter. Sometimes suboptimal placement makes heating take much longer than necessary. If you’re just not a fan of waiting for the flame, consider purchasing a rapid-starting model to speed things up.
Q. How do I clean my electric charcoal starter?
A. First and foremost, only attempt to clean the starter when it is completely cool. As far as cleaning goes, most starters can be wiped clean and returned to the box or stored indoors with your other electric appliances. There’s no need to use harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbing, so for the most part, electric charcoal starters are low-mess, low-maintenance devices.
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