For smoking at home, charcoal chimney starters are your best best for starting a fire that will burn evenly and won’t have a chemical taste from lighter fluid. You light them from the bottom using newpaper or one of these great fire starters from Weber, and once the coals are all lit up, you add them to the coals in your smoker. Really easy.
You’re looking for a sturdy cylinder, nice grip on the handle, and plenty of room on the inside for the amount of charcoal you want to use. An extra feature you should be looking for is the second handle that helps you direct where the coals will go. You’re basically using two hands to drop the coals in the pit. Here are our choices for the best charcoal chimney starters:
Weber products are built to last, and surprisingly pretty affordable for the durability you receive. This model features a stay-cool handle, but also that second handle for better maneuverability. Dimensions: 7.5 x 7.5 x 12 inches
This model from Steven Raichlen is one of the larger chimney’s on the market, and it features a square vessel that should allow for better control for spreading the embers. This model also features a handle that will stay cool and that second handle to help control the movement.
The Charcoal Companion is probably a model you’ll see in most stores’ grilling section. Basic design without any of the additions on the other models. Unfortunately, the cost isn’t reflected with that. This starter can hold up to five pounds of charcoal, but with the grip, I wouldn’t load it that heavily.
The Char-Griller starter features something a little different than the previous models: a release chamber. This neat little addition eliminates the need for stability while spreading hot coals with a trap door on the bottom that drops the coals where you need them. Pretty nifty.
The first of the models to not be in silver, this version from Char-Broil can hold up to four pounds of charcoal, and has a basic handle made out of bamboo. The zinc coating that used for this may burn a little funky at first, but if you’re limited in choices at the hardware store, this starter should do just fine.