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Updated Sep 22, 2022 10:32 AM
The best charcoal chimney has one purpose: to quickly get coals ready for your charcoal grill or charcoal smoker. Packing the coals into a chimney harnesses radiation and convection, which work together to move heat evenly through the coals. The result is quicker, hotter, coals without hot spots or cool zones. All the briquettes will be ready to cook simultaneously.
Since a chimney is designed to start coals burning more efficiently, you don’t need to add an accelerant like charcoal lighter fluid. Those contain hydrocarbons that don’t break down easily and can change the flavor of grilled foods. Charcoal chimneys take lighter fluid out of the equation, ensuring your grill is ready faster and that your food always tastes amazing.
Best Charcoal Chimneys of 2022: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity
All-Around Best Charcoal Chimney
BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity BBQ Dragon
Why It Made the Cut: The BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity features an innovative 90-degree internal elbow that pairs with a specialized fan to increase oxygen flow to the coals, resulting in hot coals in just 3 minutes.
3 Key Features
- Dimensions: 11 x 11.5 x 6 inches
- Materials: Heavy gauge galvanized steel, nylon handle
- Speed: 3 minutes
- Internal elbow oxygenates coals
- Heavy duty galvanized steel walls
- Built-in heat shield and heat-resistant handle
- Requires separate fan for maximum performance
- Smaller capacity compared with other chimneys
The feature that makes the BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity the all-around best charcoal chimney is its internal design. A 90-degree elbow tucked inside the chimney increases air flow, bringing more oxygen to your coals. This can be paired with a proprietary gooseneck fan that fits into the elbow’s opening and acts like electric bellows—producing glowing coals in as little as 3 minutes.
The chimney includes a built-in heat shield at the base of the heat-resistant nylon handle, so it’s comfortable to pick up the chimney to move it or pour out the contents when the coals are ready.
Be aware that the internal elbow that gives the BBQ Dragon its turbo oomph takes up some interior space, so the chimney’s overall capacity is reduced when compared with standard chimneys of similar size.
Best Collapsible: CampMaid Collapsible Charcoal Chimney
Best Collapsible Charcoal Chimney
CampMaid Collapsible Charcoal Chimney
Why It Made the Cut: The CampMaid Collapsible Chimney folds flat to fit inside a 12-inch dutch oven, so it’s easy to store and pack.
3 Key Features
- Materials: Electrogalvanized steel
- Capacity: 45 briquettes
- Speed: 7 to 10 minutes
- Collapsible and portable, includes carry bag
- Coals ready in 7 to 10 minutes
- Arrives fully assembled
- Smaller capacity at 45 coals
- Handle can get hot
CampMaid’s collapsible chimney folds completely flat for packing along on camping trips, putting away when barbecue season ends, or tucking into your emergency kit.
When folded, this chimney fits snugly inside a 12-inch dutch oven and comes with a carrying bag to prevent scratching.
This best collapsible chimney is constructed with electrogalvanized steel to protect against rust and corrosion. The capacity of this chimney is on the lower end of the spectrum, so it’s best-suited for smaller grills. Be aware that the handle may get a little hot, and the hinges can be stiff on first use.
As a bonus, this chimney can be used as a survival stove, providing 30 to 45 minutes of heat.
Best for Lump Charcoal: Oklahoma Joe’s Halftime Charcoal Starter XL
Best Charcoal Chimney for Lump Charcoal
Oklahoma Joe’s Halftime Charcoal Starter XL
Why It Made the Cut: Oklahoma Joe’s Halftime XL Charcoal Chimney accommodates up to 100 briquettes as well as lump charcoal, so it’s ideal for bigger barbecues.
3 Key Features
- Dimensions: 12 x 15.4 x 7.8 inches
- Materials: Stainless steel
- Capacity: 100 briquettes
- Durable stainless steel
- Extra-large capacity
- Speedy—about 10 minutes to coals
- Innovative pouring handle
- A portion of the handle is plastic
Oklahoma Joe’s Halftime XL, the best charcoal chimney for lump charcoal holds a whopping 100 briquettes, making it perfect for bigger grills—without having to refill the chimney to get enough coals for the job.
Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than briquettes, but its irregular shape can make for uneven coals. Larger capacity chimneys like this one accommodate lump charcoal by providing space for airflow so the coals heat evenly.
The double-handle design makes it easier to move and pour out the chimney, even when filled to capacity. The handle is partially plastic, so while it’s designed to stay cool, it’s a good idea to light the coals away from the handle and go slow when grabbing the handle to pour out the coals.
Best Starter with Quick Release: Char-Griller Chimney Starter with Quick Release Trigger
Best Charcoal Chimney Starter with Quick Release
Char-Griller Chimney Starter with Quick Release Trigger
Why It Made the Cut: Char-Griller’s chimney features a handy quick-release trigger to make it easier to pour out the coals once they’re hot.
3 Key Features
- Materials: Galvanized steel, ABS polymer handle
- Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 7.75 inches
- Weight: 3.75 pounds
- Quick-release trap door
- ABS handle with heat shield
- Durable construction
- Corrosion can eventually affect quick-release function
The Char-Griller chimney is a large capacity charcoal starter made of fully-vented galvanized steel. The built-in heat shield and heat-resistant ABS handle protect your knuckles when picking up the chimney.
The best part of this chimney is its quick release feature. Once the coals are ready for the grill, simply lift the chimney and squeeze the lever to open the trap door and dump out the coals. That helps reduce sparks and ash during the process, making for a smooth transition from chimney to grill.
As a bonus, this chimney fits perfectly over the center fuel loading area of Char-Griller’s Akorn grill.
Corrosion can interfere with the quick release function over time, so keep the chimney dry to extend its life.
Best Budget: Kingsford Deluxe Charcoal Chimney
Best Cheap Charcoal Chimney
Kingsford Deluxe Charcoal Chimney Kingsford
Why It Made the Cut: This basic charcoal chimney starter is all you need to prep your coals quickly and evenly without investing a lot of money.
3 Key Features
- Dimensions: 10.74 x 11.25 x 6.8 inches
- Materials: Galvanized steel
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Budget-friendly model
- Rust-resistant construction
- Large capacity
The best bet when selecting the best cheap charcoal chimney is to look for a model that keeps it simple and doesn’t skimp on the basics: solid construction and good airflow.
The Kingsford chimney features a large capacity chamber with wide vents along the bottom, ensuring quick, even coals. In addition to providing optimal airflow, the large vents make it easy to light. Simply slide the match or fire starter into the vent and light at several points.
The stay-cool handle has a heat shield to protect your hands, and the galvanized steel body is rust-resistant so it can go the distance over several seasons.
Picking the best charcoal chimney for the job is a lot like picking the right grill. It’s all about focusing on the specific features you need and want and finding the option that does most or all those things.
We defined a charcoal chimney as any starter designed to hold charcoal and reduce the interval between lighting the charcoal and having coals ready for grilling. We specifically evaluated charcoal chimney starters based on physical construction and durability, capacity for holding charcoal, speed in readying charcoal, and special considerations like portability and budget.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Charcoal Chimney
A charcoal chimney needs to be able to withstand high heat and resist corrosion over time, so it’s important that the chimney is built with materials that can stand up to heavy use. Most charcoal chimneys are made from stainless steel or galvanized steel. Stainless steel is a mixture that includes at least 10 percent chromium to resist rust and corrosion and lend strength. Galvanized steel relies on a coating of zinc to protect against corrosion. It’s usually less expensive but more prone to wear.
When it comes to how well the chimney functions, pay close attention to the chimney’s airflow. Fire needs to breathe, so strategically placed vents (or other designs) improve airflow and speed up the time it takes to ready those coals. Vents near the bottom of the chimney with larger openings also facilitate easy lighting.
Consider how you’ll be using your charcoal chimney to pinpoint any unique needs you may have, such as increased capacity for use with larger grills or smokers. Other options include collapsibility for convenient storing or taking the chimney on the road, quick release levers to make it easy to pour out the ready coals, and a built-in fan to speed the combustion process.
Q: Is a charcoal chimney worth it?
A charcoal chimney is worth the investment because it eliminates the need to use lighter fluid and speeds up the time necessary to get coals ready.
Q: How long does a charcoal chimney take?
How long a charcoal chimney takes depends on a few factors like the amount and type of charcoal or even how windy it is outside. In general, you can expect the coals to be ready within 10 to 20 minutes—and in as little as 3 minutes with some chimneys, such as the BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity detailed above.
Q: How do you start a charcoal chimney with newspaper?
Starting a charcoal chimney with newspaper is a straightforward process. First, loosely scrunch up the newspaper and stick it in the bottom of the chimney. Fill the chimney with charcoal, then light the newspaper in several places. You’ll know the coals are ready when they are covered with a layer of white ash. If you have trouble keeping the newspaper lit, add a few drops of a neutral cooking oil to the newspaper.