camping, camping tips, family camping

An Electric Charcoal Starter?

Years ago the idea of an electric charcoal starter would have made me laugh. Now, while I am still a fan of the charcoal chimney and it is what we predominantly use, I think the electric charcoal lighter is a fantastic tool and the idea of using lighter fluid instead makes me cringe.

What Is An Electric Charcoal Starter?

Essentially a heating element with a handle, an electric charcoal starter is a ridiculously easy and unbelievably fast way to get your charcoal started without that smelly, toxic lighter fluid which can leave a nasty taste in your food.


Most are inexpensively priced under $15, and if you love to grill or cook with your Dutch Oven even semi-frequently, you will save far more money than you spent on this starter by not buying any more lighter fluid again. Ever.

The only major disadvantage the electric charcoal starter has is that it is, well, electric...and therefore you will need an outlet to use it. If you are going to be using for starting a charcoal grill in your backyard, that shouldn't be a problem although you might need an extension cord to reach the outlet.

But since this is a camping website I would assume you are going to be using it for camping. If you are going backpacking or primitive camping, you will have no need for this...but if you are camping in a family-type campground with organized sites, many have electricity and running water on site, and you will be able to use it there..if not, you still don't need the lighter just go back to using the easy charcoal chimney.

How To Use An Electric Charcoal Starter

Using your electric charcoal starter is very easy:
  1. Simply make a flat layer of coals, about the size of the bottom layer of coals you would use when making a pile in your grill to light.
  2. Now place the heating element of the charcoal starter on top of the coals.
  3. Cover the heating element with the rest of your pile of coals.
  4. Now rest the handle away from the charcoal and plug it in.
Within a few minutes your coals will be ready to go. Just unplug the starter and pull it out and let the coals do their thing.

Some precautions:
  • Keep the handle away from the coals so it doesn't melt.
  • After using, the tip will be hot so make sure it doesn't touch you or anything else that might burn.
  • You will probably need an extension cord to use it.
  • Can't Wait? The King Of Electric Charcoal Starters,
    The 60-Second Charcoal Starter From Hammacher Schlemmer

    That's right! No waiting...only a minute to ignite your charcoal, and your charcoal is ready to use in 5 minutes. The Cadillac of charcoal starters, The Only 60 Second Charcoal Starter. is easy to use, has a cool-touch handle, an integrated stand, and a lifetime warranty.

    While not the inexpensive electric charcoal lighter I mentioned previously, it is an unusual yet well-made piece of equipment, typical of any Hammacher Schlemmer product, which makes a great gift for the BBQ or camping enthusiast who has everything.

    Not familiar with Hammacher Schlemmer? They are a high-end company that features fun, high-quality gadgets that make life just a little bit easier.

    Just As Effective But Inexpensive

    chimney charcoal starter

    A budget-minded alternative to the 60-second charcoal starter is the Char-Broil electric charcoal starter. Just as effective, but it takes a little longer---about 10 minutes instead of 1 minute--to light your charcoal.

    One of the better quality electric starters on the market, it comes with a stainless steel sheath to store and has a heat-resistant plastic handle. It is durable and a well-made product. If probably taken care of, it will last many years through many meals.

    A Quick Summary Of Why We Like This

    Overall, the advantages of using an electric charcoal starter far outweigh the old-fashioned, environmentally hazardous method of building a pile of charcoal and dousing it with lighter fluid.

    We like it because:

    • It is safe. As mentioned, we don't have to deal with flammable lighter fluid.

    • It is healthier. Our food tastes much better this way and we are exposing ourself to petroleum-based products in our foods.

    • It is fast. Our charcoal is ready in less than half the time it takes to get it hot when using the old lighter fluid method.

    • It is cheap! We don't have to spend any more money on lighter fluid.

    All that being said, if you are camping with electricity or just starting a charcoal grill in your own backyard, this charcoal starter will be one of your favorite tools.

    Camping without electricity? Start your charcoal almost as quickly with a chimney charcoal starter

    Rather make your own? Here are simple instructions on how to make a charcoal chimney from a coffee can

    Return To Home Page From Electric Charcoal Starter

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