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Three Tools for Lighting Charcoal

From left, chimney, Looftlighter, electric charcoal starter.

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A charcoal fire started with lighter fluid tends to impart a chemical flavor to grilled foods, so we recommend these three alternatives. 

Need tips for setting up your grill first? Read How to Set Up a Grill for instructions.

Chimney
A chimney is a wide metal tube with a handle that has two interior compartments separated by a grate.  The deep top section is for coals, and the shallow bottom section underneath is for newspaper. Once the paper is ignited, the tall, narrow shape directs the heat up through the coals while keeping out any wind that might blow out the flame. It takes about 30 minutes until the coals are ready for grilling.

Looftlighter A Looftlighter works by forcing superheated air (about 1250°F) onto the charcoal to ignite it. To use it, plug in the Looftlighter and point it at the base of the coals. Press the tool’s button and hold it in position for about a minute until flames appear. At this point, it takes about 20 minutes for the coals to burn down, but you can speed up the process by continuing to blast the coals for another 5 to 6 minutes until they are ashed over.

Electric Charcoal Starter This device has a long looped metal coil with a heat-resistant plastic body. Mound your coals on top of the coil and turn it on. The coil takes about 10 minutes to ignite the coals surrounding it. After removing the coil, the coals will take about 20 minutes longer to ash over.

Photo: Scott Phillips

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