The best bbq starter chimneys [UK]: Top bbq charcoal chimney starters compared and reviewed
This article was last updated on July 31st, 2021 at 2:59 am
For most of us, a barbecue just isn’t a barbecue unless it’s charcoal on a charcoal bbq or food smoker. Words won’t let you compare how much better a charcoal bbq is for taste than gas – (but I tried :D). Playing around aside, the biggest problem we face though, is the amount of time it takes to get charcoal fully alight and started without the use of copious fire starter fluid or firelighters, so sadly some of us do resort to using gas grills for convenience and that’s where the best bbq starter or bbq chimney starter as it’s otherwise known comes in to get things going and bridge the gap of convenience vs quality food taste (gas vs charcoal bbq’s).
Our top picks for the best bbq starter chimneys in the UK:
Best bbq starter in the UK: Weber Chimney Starter
Best value bbq chimney starter: Woodside Outdoor Charcoal Chimney Starter
Biggest bbq starter: Denmay BBQ Charcoal Chimney Starter
Professionals choice for a charcoal bbq starter: Weber Chimney Starter
Best compact bbq starter chimney: Weber 7447 Chimney Starter, Compact
What you get in this article:
What is a bbq starter chimney and how does it work to catch charcoal on fire? (And why you need one)
A bbq starter is designed with the simple and singular aim of starting charcoal as easily and efficiently as possible. Charcoal has always been notoriously difficult for your average person that doesn’t bbq frequently to get going. So how does it work? It’s so simple you won’t actually believe it! A typical chimney starter is a cylindrical gadget that usually has three sections – a grate, portion below the grate which is the source of fire, and the portion above the grate where you put the charcoal.
Simply scrunch up a load of newspaper and jamb it in from the bottom, you then fill up with charcoal, and preferably lumpwood charcoal. Place it on the centre of the bbq and watch the magic happen when you light the paper. You can substitute newspaper for eco firelighters which is more effective still, and if you’re like me using a charcoal that’s damp sometimes where water gets through under the bbq doors for example (thanks to the British weather of course – somehow we still get rubbish Summers in the UK despite all promises :D), you’ll really appreciate having a natural fire starter to hand. If you are using damp charcoal there’s also another option. You can place the bbq starter on top of a gas ring and hit it with flames that way. Rather than o this in the kitchen which could potentially be dangerous, a little camping stove is almost tailor made for the job. Whatever way you go about this, the process will take about 4-5 minutes before you can empty the contents onto your bed of charcoal in the grill. That’s it, it’ll all take nicely!
What I’ve found from my testing it that the size of holes on these bbq starters makes very little difference, they are all super effective so long as the ventilation is there. They basically work by increasing the amount of surface area of coal that is exposed to flame, it’s really that simple and ingenious. What’s more they don’t cost a fortune either!
The very very best thing about these is the smoke. I bet you’ve searched for how to start a charcoal bbq without it smoking? Well The bbq starters can be moved to a suitable part of the garden of your choosing so that it minimises the smoke to neighbours. It’s a very friendly piece of equipment just make sure you don’t place it on decking pretty obviously. It needs a stone, concrete, or Earth base to avoid damage to surrounding areas.
What you’ll notice is the shiny new look disappears instantly and it becomes a rather nasty looking tin pot – don’t worry it works just fine and it’s only aesthetics, much like when you buy a garden incinerator for the first time and it looks nice but quickly turns burn’t and tired looking.
Here’s a really good demonstration that’ll only take 30 seconds without draining your life away as most YouTube videos seem to do 😀
None of us particularly like the idea of starting our charcoal barbecue with chemicals and so a charcoal starter(otherwise known as a charcoal chimney or chimney starter) is the perfect solution and the perfect accompaniment to eco firelighters. A charcoal chimney starter should be safe to use and quick to set our briquettes to a nice white glow. The method in which the hot embers are transferred must be safe, secure, and practical so based on these criteria I have reviewed the best charcoal chimneys for you and collated the info into a table for comparison to help you make a choice. The best BBQ starters aren’t particularly expensive but you still want to make sure you get the right one for you!
How to pick the best bbq starter chimney in the UK?
You need to decide what you want, and how many people you’re cooking for. The larger the bbq chimney the better has been my experience as we always get through the coal. There is normally at least 5 of us though. You want to factor that into your selection. If I wanted a small one for a couple of people I would probably pick the Weber 7447 Chimney Starter, Compact, however for large families and to get the job done fast I would go for Weber Chimney Starter. Not only that, experience tells me two is better than one so I use two all the time now!
There’s a bit more to it than that though. Some are built better than others. Take the Weber linked above. Very very rarely is a product rated so highly. This particular bbq starter is very well built, and designed equally as well too.
Best bbq starter chimneys reviewed
When I reviewed the Weber Chimney Starter a couple of years ago there is no notable differences. It seems that sometimes you really can get things perfectly right the first time and the feedback all over the internet would certainly back this up! The internal cone rings that spiral upward give more surface area for charcoal and flame to contact, this results in better and quicker combustion which is in my opinion the source of this becoming the best bbq starter chimney in the UK. It’s no surprise that Weber do the best work with a bbq charcoal though is it?
Time wise you want fifteen to twenty minutes with scrunched up newspaper. Much much less with a camping gas ring though, even five minutes is overkill. that’s where this tool becomes super effective for me and as a medium you can use a couple of firelighters for middle of those timeframes quoted.
The dimensions are 32 x 20 x 31 centimetres (LxDxH) so it’s a pretty standard size and certainly one of the larger models, I personally go for two too really speed things up. Some prefer to get the charcoal going then top up, I think two works out much better. If you have a standard kettle shaped bbq then one is enough, but for larger bbq’s I really do think two is better.
The handle has two parts one is for holding the chimney and the other is to help pouring the burning charcoal into the bbq. I have to tell you the two handed operation is a bit easier but you’ll want bbq gloves to avoid getting burnt.
The Weber Chimney Starter is different from other models when compared because it has more ventilation at the bottom where you start the flame. In my opinion this (and the heat deflector for when you pick it up) set it apart from the other options.
- More ventilation
- Two handles to control pouring the burned briquettes
- Heats up faster
- Easy to light up just using newspapers
- Priced a bit higher than generic models
- You’ll want two for big bbq’s
2. GFTIME Chimney Starter
The GFTIME Chimney Starter is 30cm tall (so one of the larger canisters) and is one of the best chimney starters available online. When I reviewed this a couple of years ago the design hasn’t changed much except they had made the mistake then of advertising it as stainless steel so all assumed it would stay nice and sparkly despite applying 700 degrees of heat! 😀
You load up your charcoal in the top section and then lift it at an angle and poke some newspaper under. Simply set it on fire and wait for fifteen minutes for your charcoal! It is really that easy. You can expedite the charcoal speed considerably with eco firelighters and further again with a camping gas ring.
This model differs from the weber in that the heat shield is slightly flatter. I don’t think it makes much difference to the usability though. They also use the same cone technique to increase the surface area of charcoal when set on fire. It’s another well thought out design and easy to see why it’s become trusted and a top seller in the last couple of years.
When you compare it to the best pick the Weber, you don’t lose a lot. You have the secondary handle to control the pour of the charcoal. I have to say, in the right controlled environment and carefully prepared I prefer to dump my charcoal in without the second handle. Now this most certainly isn’t safety advice, but if you have a deep drum bbq like me then it’s absolutely no risk at all and will in fact actually reduce the chances of being burnt – that certain is my experience. When you’re using fire though, always make sure you use common sense to keep yourself safe!
- Larger size
- Nice design like the Weber for easy start ups
- Holds enough coal to fill a kettle bbq
- Can get charcoal ready in less than ten minutes from personal testing.
- Only a few quid more for the Weber
3. Bruzzzler charcoal chimney starter
The Bruzzzler charcoal chimney starter dimensions are 31 x 19.5 x 30.5 (LxDxH) so again one of the larger starters if you’re trying to compare which will hold the most charcoal in one go…
When I reviewed this a couple of years back there seemed to be an issue with the handle overheating and breaking or just flat out melting. It’s good to see that this reported error has clearly been fixed given that trend of review over the internet has stopped and it’s now spoken of in a far more positive light and hence making it’s way to my 3rd pick of he bbq starter chimneys.
Much like the Weber when you compare, the handle on this chimney starter is petty well insulated but I feel you still want to handle it with an oven or bbq glove. As I mentioned before there appeared to be a bit of a design flaw in the earlier models which I’m glad to point out has been rectified. The Bruzzzler charcoal chimney starter prices much better than the Weber when compared directly but probably isn’t as well designed, you can expect charcoal glowing red in about 20 minutes, the Weber is definitely quicker at getting up to temperature in my mind.
This model like the GFTIME also takes advantage of the cone method to get as much surface area touching flame as possible off the start. Some users have reported a few bits of newspaper won’t get this going. I have to say when using a good bit of newspaper scrunched up, it is certainly slower than throwing a couple of firelighters under but it does work.
- Much cheaper than the Weber when the same size canister is compared
- Steel is the material used
- Double handle design
- Can easily start the fire
- Doesn’t seem quite as effective as the top picks
- The odd handle failure from overheating
4. Woodside Outdoor Charcoal Chimney Starter
The Woodside Outdoor Charcoal Chimney Starter is a more recent addition to the reviews. It didn’t have enough feedback when I first wrote this review so I couldn’t include it with confidence. Since then it’s made a considerable number of sales and gained plenty of trust on Amazon so I am pleased to select it.
It’s slightly smaller than the Weber, GFTIME, and Bruzzler so hard to compare directly. We are not talking by much though, the dimensions are 17cm by 27 cm so a few cm in both directions but when you’re talking about volume on a sphere that’s a fairly large difference, at least 15% smaller and interestingly in their sales picture they show the charcoal over the height of the sphere! Not sure I fancy picking up charcoal that’s not encased in metal. If they want more charcoal they’ll have to up the size to make me happy on that point!
Currently it’s the best value though. And whilst I like Weber we have to remember that we are simply holing a bit of charcoal in a glorified large baked bean can with holes poked into it and a base to let the charcoal breath 😀 So for me, given I know this will get your charcoal ready is as little as 20 minutes makes this a top buy after the criticism above. I’d point two things out though. Firstly a camping stove rather than newspaper will get this going much faster than twenty minutes, and also, you can actually have TWO of these for the price of one Weber and as I bang on about with my large bbq two is the only way this is effective for me.
- Half the price of Weber when compared
- Good design
- Practically no negative reviews online
- Good customer service
- Once they gain more trust the price is going up guaranteed.
- Bit smaller than the larger bbq starters
- Can distort a bit under high heat but not a big deal
5. Weber 7447 Chimney Starter, Compact
You’re probably thinking how has the Weber 7447 Chimney Starter, Compact made it to the reviews? This ads been banging on about how you need two all day long. Well, not everyone has a large bbq, this is perfect to get a two person bbq going and is practically tailor made for a portable charcoal bbq setup.
Jokes above aside, if you’ve got a large bbq you can move on from this review, it really isn’t going to be for you, especially when you probably need two of the larger ones! However for those looking for a two person bbq setup then this makes a lot of sense. It’s basically a smaller version of the Weber Chimney Starter when compared but it doesn’t have the second handle which in my opinion isn’t a big loss if you can carefully and quickly tip the red hot charcoal contents onto a bed of unlit charcoal in your bbq anyway. You can actually argue in some cases that second handle is a hindrance!
The best way to get this going is with a couple of eco firelighters placed on your grill, fill up the kettle with charcoal and place it directly in the centre and wait. If you’re having difficulty visualising that then here’s a picture from Weber demonstrating just how easy this is to get going:
It has considerably less sales than the best bbq starter pick but nonetheless still popular with those who need a small setup and it’s definitely a trusted buy from me on this one.
- Nice compact design
- Doesn’t have the second handle which can get in the way
- Cheaper than the larger Weber
- Ideal for small bbq setups or portable bbq’s
- Forget it if you have a large bbq
- Fairly pricey
6. Denmay BBQ Collapsible Foldable Charcoal Chimney Starter
The Denmay BBQ Collapsible Foldable Charcoal Chimney Starter has made it to my list because it’s a really cheeky little design and whilst it is flawed I really like where this unique design was going. Turning the bbq starter chimney into a portable grill was a really really nice and unique idea.
Firstly they’ve tried to make this totally portable by making it collapsible which sadly is the reason for failure. Having hinged metal under that much temperature for long periods of time on mid quality steel was never going to work however the design is a cracker and with some modifications this could easily become the best seller.
Ironically despite being called portable you can fit a huge amount of charcoal in this as a conventional bbq starter chimney. How you would take advantage of this is use it for your first camping trip as a portable bbq and then see where you’re at. It wont collapse anywhere as neatly the second time. You can then use it as a standard bbq starter or accept it doesn’t collapse and continue to use it portably. As long as you appreciate the current design constraints this is a very interesting and pleasing bit of kit to use and overall a definite buy if you know what you want it for.
The thermoplastic handle is pretty good too, Not many reports of that failing which clearly proves its design is good as the intention is to leave the hot charcoal in the kettle for a longer period of time than the other bbq starters.
- Can be used as a grill
- Collapsible for space saving
- Square design
- Works well
- Up there with the price of Weber
- Won’t last long as intended by the seller
7. Denmay BBQ Charcoal Chimney Starter
You can’t compare the Denmay BBQ Charcoal Chimney Starter with the Denmay BBQ Collapsible Foldable Charcoal Chimney Starter. Their collapsible idea was a spin off from a VERY good quality product. So after giving them a bit of a kicking on the last review I wanted to make up for that and show you a product of theirs that is really working.
You only have to look at the pictures to see this design is a spin off and taken much inspiration from the to pick Weber. In fact, it’s actually slightly bigger in terms of what it’ll hold. In the Weber you get about 2.8kg (so slightly under a 3kg bag of briquettes) whereas this will take a whole 3kg bag of briquettes no problem. Now when this was researched and tested it has to be noted the briquettes could have been smaller for this and so better packed in but my hunch was this is noticeably bigger.
The thermoplastic handle works well.. I would have liked to have seen a handle a bit further from the heated body but it’s in line with the other models when compared. Depending on whether you choose to get the charcoals going with newspaper or a firelighter you can expect between 10-20 minutes to be ready to get cooking.
Given the large size it’s got the stability handle which I think is pretty much useless unless you wear bbq gloves, I still prefer the pour it in method carefully with just one hand, it does actually come down to strength a bit with this big bbq starter though…They had their first 1 star feedback recently and I am convinced it is because of the new grill idea – they should pull that line or make an uprated bbq starter to avoid damaging an otherwise flawless reputation on this product.
Top tip: They’ve started making these grills for them thinking it would be turned into a portable bbq – and thats fine, but the handle wasn’t designed for hours of prolonged heat and will fail, it’s just a case of when. Used as a bbq starter chimney though it’s a cracking pick.
- Very large bbq starter
- Good design on the handle as a bbq starter
- Additional handle for stability on pouring if you want it
- Holds over 3kg of charcoal
- Handle will fail if used for prolonged periods as a portable bbq
- A bit pricey – up there with the trusted Weber
8. AMOS Charcoal Chimney
The AMOS Charcoal Chimney is still the same dimensions are 30.5 x 30 x 19 centimetres (HxWxD) from a couple of years ago and the design hasn’t changed much at all. They got this right off the bat. It was a lower rated product a couple of years back just getting started out but now has hundreds of positive reviews online. It caught my eye then as I like the way it was holed for ventilation and the handle was quite a fair way from the heated boy to stop injury.
It feels as if it was modelled around the Weber. When you compare the two they have similar shape and design with holing an identical (or practically identical) weight and volume of charcoal. Being cheaper than the Weber it isn’t a bad shout if you aren’t worried about having the absolute best but want sensible value for money. In the last coupe of years since I wrote the first review on this product you can see there hasn’t been many failures reported online at all.
The handle design is slightly different when you compare them though. Weber favour a slanted angle on the arms whereas the Amos design is straight arms. I don’t think it makes much difference but the Weber feels that little bit more sturdy.
The sales team show you can scrunch up paper to get this going and yes, it does work, but a couple of fire lighters are far more effective. If you have a seriously big barbecue you will still want a couple of these even though it’s pretty large. You can expect to have a decent fire going in 15-25 minutes.
- Strong and sturdy
- Reasonable pricing
- Dimensions are 30.5 x 30 x 19 centimetres (HxWxD)
- Thermoplastic handle with safety guard
- Not quite as good as the Weber
9. Simpa Chimney Charcoal Coal Fast Starter Kit
Last on the list but not least is the Simpa Chimney Charcoal Coal Fast Starter Kit. I added this to the list because I wanted a full and round review. With this being different to all the other products when compared because of the wooden handle.
Heat and wood normally do quite well, especially when you compared heat and plastic! For the price, this isn’t a bad little fire starter at all. Let’s start with what I think could be better. I’d like to see a larger heat plate to protect your hands more when pouring charcoal.
That’s it’s really on the downside really, other than that it’s a pretty decent little bbq starter. Expect to hold around the same amount of charcoal as the Weber when compare. You realistically want a good twenty minutes for this charcoal chimney to be effective and get you cooking.
- Strong handle design
- Much cheaper than the best pick
- Large kettle holds nearly 3kg of charcoal
- Wooden handle resist heat well
- Bigger heat plate to protect hands would be nice
Price comparison table for bbq starter chimneys
Best bbq starter chimney buying FAQ’s
People ask me all sorts of questions commonly so I thought it best to answer a few here such as best ways to start charcoal quickly and the best value for money. I also decided to help you solve that age old problem of starting damp charcoal too 😀 What a real handy tip if you live in the UK.
What is the fastest way to set alight charcoal in a bbq starter chimney?
Without any question at all the to get the best out of a bbq starter chimney you want to start the charcoal on a gas ring. It doesn’t matter if it’s the gas ring from your gas bbq, indoor cooker, or portable camping stove, as long as it’s safe to do so.
Using this method you can expect to be cooking anywhere from five to ten minutes and so drastically reduces the overall time when compared to using fire lighters, and even further reduces the time when compared to newspaper again which is the slowest method of all. Personally I think a good balance for reliability is fire lighters and an absolute must if you’re charcoal is wet.
Which is the cheapest bbq starter chimney?
After spending days researching bbq starter chimneys I came to the conclusion that the cheapest in terms of value for money was the Woodside Outdoor Charcoal Chimney Starter. Now there were some other good choices such as the Simpa Chimney Charcoal Coal Fast Starter Kit but they didn’t get anywhere near as close price wise being as much as 40% more. The interesting thing about the Woodside was the fact it was actually one of the better bbq starters in the range. Hence it making to the best value and if you’re a bargain hunter then pay close attention to that product.
How much charcoal can you fit in a large bbq chimney?
You’ve probably read me rattle on about the fact that you need two chimneys to make a serious dent on a large bbq. That doesn’t quantify it though does it? Normally in the Weber Chimney Starter you can carry about 2.8kg of charcoal whereas the largest in my opinion from testing was the Denmay BBQ Charcoal Chimney Starter which without question clearly held over 3kg of charcoal. The smaller ones will be enough for a portable charcoal bbq or a little Weber Kettle.