Buyer’s Guide for 2018 – The Best Electric Charcoal Starters

Using your grill or barbecue requires many moving parts to keep the experience efficient, safe, and fun.

Today we’re going to be looking at a crucial aspect of your charcoal grilling experience: an electric charcoal starter.

Now that you have your charcoal grill, you need a way to get it started safely. In order to keep your grill in good condition, and keep yourself and your family out of harm, you’ll want to get an electric charcoal starter for your grilling station.

We’ll be looking at which electric charcoal starters are on the market, and how they can serve your needs differently.

Comparison Chart of the Best Electric Charcoal Starters

What Makes a Great Electric Charcoal Starter?

Material

Models made of stainless steel, polycarbonate, and heavy duty rubber ensure that an electric charcoal starter is durable, but still lightweight.

High Temperatures

Some electric charcoal starters have the ability to reach upwards of 1256 degrees. This high temperature threshold can guarantee ignition, even in cold weather. Additionally, look for a long power cord as it will make your experience more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Wattage

If the starter you’re considering uses a hot coil to ignite the coals, look for a high wattage metal coil. We recommend one around 600 watts.

Heat-resistant Handle

A heat resistant handle is a must to ensure your safety and the longevity of your electric starter.

A steel handle won’t melt when near high heat, as opposed to an aluminum handle, which can not only melt, but heat up and potentially cause a burn.  

Types of Charcoal Starters

There are two main types of electric charcoal starters you’ll encounter: a hot air blower and a hot coil.

Hot Air Blower

Hot air blowers do exactly what they say: they blow super high temperature air, which can have your charcoal ignited very quickly. By far the biggest upside of using a hot air blower versus a hot coil starter is speed.

A hot air blower produces extremely hot air igniting your charcoal. A popular hot air blower starter is the HomeRight Electro Light C900046.

The hot air can reach upwards 1256 degrees. When looking for a hot air blower type starter, make sure that it has a high temperature threshold to guarantee ignition, even in cold weather. 

Hot Coil

Hot coil charcoal electric starters are very common. They use a hot coil attached to a handle to ignite the charcoal.

You plug in the tool and put the coil in your bed of charcoal where it will heat up and spark your grill.

Hot coils take more time to ignite; sometimes up to fifteen minutes depending on how many watts the element is.

If you’re interested in a hot coil starter, you’ll be adding a small chunk of time onto your cooking agenda just to heat the grill.

A hot coil type starter needs to have a high wattage coil in order to assure that your charcoal will ignite, so look for about 600 watts.

With a hot coil starter, you also want to make sure it has a heat resistant handle. Hot coil starters sit in your charcoal while the coil heats to ignite the coals, and unless the handle is heat resistant, you be looking at a nasty burn.  

Both hot coils and hot air blowers require an outlet. When shopping for an electric charcoal starter, cord length is going to be vitally important.

If you’re at home, access to an outlet might not be a problem, but as soon as you get to a park or campground, you may need to rely on extension cords to power your starter.

Willy's Top Picks - Best Electric Charcoal Starters

Review of the Best Electric Charcoal Starters

Let's take a look at some of our favorite electric charcoal starters. When reviewing each model, we're going to cover it's main features, then dive into some essential pros and cons to be aware of. 

1. Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter

The Char-Broil electric starter features a metal 550 watt 120 volt element that heats up in as fast as five minutes. The element is made of metal so it won’t shatter or easily break.

The starter measures 17.5-inches long, making it a great length to heat the entirety of your coals while keeping your hand a safe distance from the hot element. 

Weighing in at only 11.2 ounces, this electric starter can be easily transported to any park or campground. You can also obtain a manufacturer warranty, just ask customer service!

Pros

  • No fumes
  • Lightweight
  • Heats quickly
  • Durable/long life
  • No lighter fluid taste
  • Metal element won’t shatter

Cons

  • Shot cord
  • Cord can easily melt if not managed well

Bottom Line

The Char-Broil electric charcoal starter will get your coals lit quickly and efficiently. You’ll never need to use matches or lighter fluid with this, so your food won’t smell or have any lingering tastes. But, you’ll almost certainly need an extension cord to be able to use it anywhere other than your patio.

2. GrillPro 33666 Electric Charcoal Starter

The GrillPro 33666 Electric Charcoal Starter is another hot coil option for lighting your charcoal grill.

Its metal element is 110 volts, and the entire instrument measures 21-inches long. The GrillPro is a little lighter than the Char-Broil at only 8 ounces. Like the Char-Broil, the GrillPro heats quickly: in about seven to fifteen minutes.

As with most hot coil starters, this does not require lighter fluid or newspaper. The GrillPro is ideal for breezy areas because the contained element poses no risk in wind.

It uses a cord for power, so make sure you’re near an outlet or you have an appropriate length of extension cord.

The GrillPro’s 21-inch length makes it ideal for a deeper grill, or for a safer distance from the piping hot element.

Be careful when leaving the GrillPro unattended or else it might melt any nearby plastic. However, this wind resistant, hot coil electric starter is a great option for any charcoal grill.

Pros

  • Long rod
  • Affordable
  • Pollution free
  • Wind Resistant
  • Pollution free
  • Heat charcoal quickly

Cons

  • Short cord
  • Easily melts nearby plastic

Bottom Line

The GrillPro is very similar to the Char-Broil, but it is more affordable. It will ignite your charcoal quickly, but if used frequently, may not last more than one or two seasons. Just as with the Char-Broil, the cord is on the short side, so a nearby outlet or extension cord is a must.

3. Kamado Joe KJ-ES Electric Starter For Charcoal Grills

The Kamando Joe Electric Starter for Charcoal Grills is another excellent hot-coil option for your grill. However, this electric starter comes with a unique coil design: it’s angled to make it easier and safer to handle when hot.

The Kamando Joe measures 15-inches long and weighs 1.39 pounds. The coil is 110 volts and 600 watts, and will heat up your charcoal grill in minutes.

The cord measures 72-inches (6 feet), making it plenty long for any patio barbecue. The coil itself measures 5.5 by 3.5-inches for a wider shape.

With a coil that hot, it can burn out after a few uses, but it’s hard to beat that six foot cord. With a cord that long, you can really have the freedom to grill anywhere (within reason), without having to be weighed down by a cumbersome extension cord.

Pros

  • Long cord
  • Angled coil
  • Lightweight
  • High wattage
  • Heats quickly

Cons

  • Higher cost
  • Easily overheats
  • Shorter element

Bottom Line

The Kamando Joe stands out because of its unique waved coil pattern. This coil works best with Kamando style grills, but will of course work with any model.

With a 600 watt coil, the Kamando heats very quickly and will leave you with sparked coals within five to ten minutes.

4. HomeRight Electro Light C900046 Fire Starter

The HomeRight Electro Light Fire Starter is an electric hot air blower style starter. It's 21.1-inches long, 2.4 pounds, and 120 volts. This electric charcoal starter boasts the longest cord we’ve looked at so far: ten feet.

The HomeRight starter comes with a two-year warranty and can be used for a variety of functions such as lighting a charcoal grill, wood-burning stove, and campfire.

The HomeRight blows super-heated air into the charcoal totally eliminating any chemical taste from your food.

An added safety feature of the HomeRight is its thermal safety switch, which shuts the starter off automatically when it overheats, and automatically resets it after it cools down.

Pros

  • 10 foot cord
  • Multi-functional
  • Two-year warranty 
  • Thermal safety switch
  • No chemical fumes/taste

Cons

  • Cumbersome
  • Sticky ignition button
  • 10-15 minute ignition time

Bottom Line

The HomeRight is the most versatile electric charcoal starter we’ve seen so far, working for not only your charcoal grill but wood burning stove as well. Its two-year warranty provides some peace of mind, but takes a significantly longer time to ignite charcoal than the hot coil options.

5. Grillmark Standard Style Electric Charcoal Starter

The Grillmark Standard Style Electric Charcoal Starter is an angled hot coil starter with a 120 volt, 600 watt element.

The Grillmark measures 25-inches long and weighs only one pound, making it one of the longest, but also one of the lightest charcoal lighting tools we’ve featured.

It has a steel stand that will withstand the intense heat emitted from the element, so the handle won’t melt. No lighter fluid or chemicals, so no odor or strange tastes in your cooking.

The Grillmark’s deep angled design makes it ideal for a kettle style charcoal grill. Your hands will stay protected, but you’ll still be able to get the element deep in the charcoal.

Pros

  • Angled
  • Lightweight
  • Long frame
  • Steel handle
  • Chemical free

Cons

  • Short cord
  • Higher price
  • No warranty
  • Works best on “egg” style kettles

Bottom Line

The Grillmark is designed to work with egg style kettles, and may not transfer to more flat grills. The cord is extremely short, and you will almost definitely need an extension cord to use it anywhere, even at home.

There isn’t a warranty available with the Grillmark, but it’s a long-lasting and durable design. The long element is perfect for getting into tight spaces and the steel handle won’t melt.

Conclusion

Electric charcoal starters are ideal when working with charcoal grills – they eliminate a need for lighter fluid that can cause that horrible odor that permeates the air, and sometimes, your food.

The multi-functional HomeRight blower would be ideal for anyone wanting an electric starter that can do more than just light grills, but for a more straightforward option, the GrillPro seems best. But taking everything into consideration, don't forget our top pick: the Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter.

So whether you go with a hot coil starter, or a hot air blower, either design will enhance your grilling experience for you, and those around you.

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