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Best Electric Charcoal Starter? 6 Healthier Alternatives

BEST OVERALL

Looft Air Ligher 2
Looft Air Lighter 2
4.7/5

BEST CHEAPER

Looft Lighter 1
Looftlighter 1
4.5/5

BEST CORDLESS

Looft Lighter X
Looftlighter X
4.3/5

BEST BUDGET

HomeRight Electro-Torch Fire Starter
HomeRight Torch
4.3/5

BEST BASIC

Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter
Char-Broil Starter
4/5

BEST ELEMENT

Stanbroil Electric Charcoal Starter
Stanbroil Starter
4.3/5

Since you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably like us in our dislike of using anything unnatural in our barbecue. Not only are chemical laden fire starters bad for your food and health, they’re not great for certain types of barbecues either, particularly kamados.

Luckily, technology has advanced and you don’t need to pour lighter fluid on your charcoal anymore. You don’t even need a flame or to buy pressurized gas refills.

When you’re looking for the best electric charcoal starter you’ll find two main types.

The first is your standard element on a stick that heats up and ignites the charcoal on touch. These are usually a more budget-friendly choice.

The second is a wand that blows super-heated air to get your coals going. They’re more expensive but work faster and generally cool down quickly for an even safer alternative.

In this review, we’ll cover both types of electric fire starters. Lets get going.

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How We Tested the Best Electric Charcoal Starter

Here at Burning Brisket, we cook a lot of barbecue. We never use lighter fluid to get our charcoal going, always opt for a more natural firestarter, but really prefer an electric charcoal starter because there’s absolutely nothing you need but heat to light those coals.

So, over the years we’ve used a lot of brands and models out there from cheap, no-name brands to top of the line ones.

In this review you’ll find a round-up of our favorite electric charcoal starters.

Not everything we’ve ever used made the cut for these recommendations. But, what’s here was picked for the following features:

The whole point of an electric fire starter is to get the charcoal burning hot, and to do it easily. So, all of the best electric charcoal starters recommended here actually work and don’t take an hour to do it.

You want quality in an electric product not only so that it doesn’t fall apart on you after six months but also to give you confidence in it’s safety.

We paid attention to how easy various electric charcoal starters were to use, how long the power cords were, and if they had a stand built-in to give you somewhere easy to sit them down while they cool.

We would and do use all of the products recommended here because if it’s not good enough for us, it’s not good enough for you.

Table of Contents

The Best Electric Charcoal Starters: Our Top Choices

They’re easier to use, will save you lots of time, and are healthier for you and your family too. Grab any of these tried and tested electric charcoal starters for a guaranteed win.

BEST OVERALL

Looft Air Lighter 2

4.7/5

Looftligher are the original and simply the best when it comes to electric charcoal starters. There’s simply nothing that compares in terms of quality and power. And this, the Looft Air Ligher 2 is our favorite in their range.

Yes, it’s still got a cord that you need to plug in. But, this baby is strong enough to heat air up to 1400°F (760°C) to literally get that charcoal going well in a few minutes.

Simply turn the Looft Air Lighter on, press the heat button, hold it to where it’s touching the charcoal and keep it there until you see sparks. Then, move the Air Lighter back a couple of inches and after 2 minutes the unit will automatically switch to blower mode. This will turn the heat off but continue to give enough air to the coals to get them going well.

Using the Looft Air Lighter 2 to light the Ooni Karu 16 Pizza Oven

It’s perfect for kamados, the Masterbuilt Digital, the Ooni Karu Pizza Oven, and other charocal grills where you’re lighting the charcoal in place. But is equally as good for regular charcoal grills, fire pits, and your indoor fireplace too.

Top quality with the most power, cordless is convenient but this thing works the best.

Pros
Cons
CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE

Looft Lighter 1

4.5/5

If you like the look of the Looft Air Lighter 2 but want something a bit cheaper, the older version, the Looftlighter 1 is still being sold, and it’s still really great.

Now, it’s not quite as powerful as the newer Air Lighter. But, we’re talking 1200°F in 60 seconds instead of 1400F. That gets our lump charcoal properly going in just under 5 minutes.

There’s no automatic ignition. But, we don’t find this a particularly sore point. You simply turn it on, place the tip so it’s touching your charcoal or kindling, press the button down and it’ll start blowing air at it. Once it’s sparking, keep your finger on the trigger and pull the tip back a little to keep the air flowing until it’s really established.

You’ve got the same good long 9.8 foot power cord. And, there’s a built-in stand so you can simply sit the Looftlighter 1 down while it cools off.

Reliable, high-quality and really effective, the Looftlighter 1 definitely isn’t second best.

Pros
Cons
BEST CORDLESS

Looft Lighter X

3.8/5

Given the choice, even though it’s inconvenient having to run a power cord outside, we would choose one of the corded Looftlighters over the cordless version.

On the surface, this thing looks great. And, if you’re using it to light something easier like a wood fire, it is awesome. But, we feel that the power is lacking a little when it comes to really getting charcoal going.

You can do it with this. But, you’ll chomp through the battery doing it. We tend to recharge the Looftlighter X after lighting just one charcoal fire because if we don’t it usually won’t do another lot on a single battery.

But, it’s really easy to use. With automatic ignition like the Looft Air Lighter 2, you simply press the button and hold the X to your charcoal. It’ll change to blow mode after 2 minutes and the charcoal will be ready to cook with a while after that.

For anyone who really wants cordless, or needs it because having power in the backyard, out camping, or tailgating just isn’t an option, the Looftlighter X is the best there is when it comes to a battery powered electric charcoal starter.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET

HomeRight Electro-Torch Fire Starter

4.3/5

If you’re looking for a cheaper Looftlighter that still performs pretty well, the HomeRight Electro-Torch Fire Starter is our favorite.

It’s got one of those rocker-style switches that give you two different temperature options. When you’re lighting charcoal, you’ll want the hotter that gets up to an impressive 1500°F.

It’s not as fancy as the more expensive options. But, the build quality is still very respectable and it lights lump in a similar 5 minute time frame. There’s also a built-in stand to sit it on while it’s cooling down too.

With a 2 year warranty at a great price, it’s a no-brainer for a budget electric charcoal starter choice. We rate it.

Pros
Cons
BEST BASIC

Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter

4/5

Great for anyone looking for a really really cheap electric fire starter. Or, those who just prefer it old school, check out the good old Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter.

Instead of superheated air, it’s your standard heating element. Simply hold it to your charcoal and it’ll heat it up and get it burning with no flame, gas or chemicals needed.

You’ll still need access to power. But, it’s very reliable and totally unbeatable for the price.

Depending on which type of charcoal we’re using, we found it took about 10 minutes to get the coals going well enough to smoke or grill.

But, the straight style of this Char-Broil electric starter means that it’s hard to get into a kamado to light the charcoal in there. Not a problem if you’re using a different type of charcoal grill or smoker where you’ve got easy access to the charcoal. But, I wouldn’t recommend it for using on a kamado for this reason.

The power cord is also really short so you’ll most probably need to run an extension cord. And, at this price, the quality isn’t great. Expect to replace it straight away if/when you notice any breaking or fraying.

Pros
Cons
BEST ELEMENT

Stanbroil Electric Charcoal Starter

4.3/5

For the old school, heating element style electric charcoal starter that does work in a kamado or other similarly shaped grill or smoker, we like the Stanbroil 600W Electric Charcoal Starter.

Instead of the straight design of the Char-Broil one, the longer element is angled from the handle so that it can sit down deep in your smoker.

We found the wide, waved heating element really effective for getting enough charcoal going without having to move the wand around. And, it’s powerful enough to get the charcoal going in under 10 minutes, depending on if you’re using lump or briquettes.

The quality is alright but still not crash hot. And, it’d be nice if the power cord was longer. But, overall, it’s a decent electric charcoal starter that’s very affordable too.

Pros
Cons

What is an Electric Charcoal Starter?

An electric charcoal starter is a device designed to easily ignite charcoal for grilling or barbecuing without having to use lighter fluid, fire starters, a match or a lighter.

There’s two different types of electric charcoal starters that both work in different ways to do the same job.

The first type of electric charcoal starter uses an internal heating element with a fan to blow very hot air onto the charcoal. This superheated air quickly ignites the charcoal, starting the burning process.

The second and more basic type is your old school electric heating element that transfers so much heat to the charcoal when touched that the fuel lights and starts burning. 

Once the charcoal is adequately lit from either of these starters, you can unplug the starter and it’ll keep burning for you to grill or smoke on.

How Do You Start a Charcoal Grill With An Electric Starter?

To use a blower-style electric starter like the Looftlighter, most will have similar steps:

  1. Turn the electric starter on
  2. Touch the tip to the charcoal
  3. Pull away when it begins to spark or glow
  4. Continue pointing it at the same point until the charcoal is well lit

Check out the following video which shows the Looftlighter in action.

All of the Looftlighters and the HomeRight Electro-Torch work in the same way.

Why Use an Electric Charcoal Starter?

We almost always use an electric fire starter to light charcoal or real wood fires because of these advantages:

Most fire starters and all lighter fluids are full of nasty chemicals that we don’t want anywhere around the food that we feed to our kids. And, since you’re here, I’m guessing you don’t either.

An electric charcoal starter gives you a way to easily light charcoal with nothing but heat and there’s nothing more pure than that.

Using a good quality electric charcoal starter is the fastest way to get a charcoal fire lit well.

There’s no need to wait and see if you’ve put enough lighters in there to get the coals going well. Simply hold the heat to the charcoal until it’s glowing hot and ready to use.

When you’re lighting charcoal with a lighter and fire starters you really need a charcoal chimney to hold the coals close and get them burning really well.

Because an electric charcoal starter provides so much heat, plenty to get them going well, you don’t need a charcoal chimney to light it.

But, more than the advantage of not needing to buy and store another tool, this means you can light your charcoal directly in your barbecue.

This is especially awesome for kamado style cookers that benefit from the charcoal heating up in the ceramic firebox itself to give it some protection against cracking from the sudden heat change when you pour a chimney full of hot charcoal in there.

Many electric charcoal starters are durable and designed for repeated use. This makes them a cost-effective option in the long run compared to single-use products like regular fire starters.

FAQS About the Best Electric Charcoal Starter

Our go-to fire starter for charcoal is the Looft Air Lighter 2.

It’s really powerful, very easy to use, and the best quality build. The Looft Air Lighter 2 will get your charcoal going properly in just a few minutes. Yes, it’s a little annoying you need power to plug it’s cord in. But, by having a cord you’ve got more power for a more effective product.

To light lump charcoal, we always use our Looft Air Lighter 2.

This thing is unbeatable when it comes to quality, effectiveness, and is not a bad price either.

Yes, we’d like if it was cordless. But, the corded Looft Air Lighter 2 has more power and we like the fact that we never have to worry about charging the battery. It just always works.

A good quality electric charcoal starter can get quality charcoal going in anywhere between 1 to 3 mintues. But, this is based on it being a good, powerful starter like the ones tested and recommended in this review.

An average electric charcoal starter with a less powerful heater will take longer.

The old school electric element charcoal starters also take longer. Expect your charcoal to get going in between 5 – 10 minutes depending on how much heat that particular model puts out.

Always leave the lid open when trying to get your charcoal going.

Fire needs oxygen to burn properly so maximizing this by having the lid up will help your charcoal to burn well, faster.

If you want a way to start your charcoal easily and quickly WITHOUT needing to use lighter fluid or fire starters, an electric charcoal starter is absolutely worth it.

The ones we’ve recommended above all work really well. And, once you’ve bought it, there’s no ongoing cost like there is with consumable fire starters.

Both lighter fluid and a charcoal starter will get your coals nice and hot for grilling or smoking. But, using a charcoal starter is much better for your health!

Lighter fluid and a lot of fire starters are full of chemicals that ignite quickly. But, residue from the starter often stays on the charcoal which you’re then exposing your food to. Ingesting it isn’t a risk I want to take for my family and it’s not one that I can recommend to you either.

Read more about lighter fluid vs an electric charcoal starter on Looft’s website.

Kate Brown, the founder and voice behind Burning Brisket, is not your typical pitmaster or restaurateur. Her expertise in barbecue grew from a humble desire to cook exceptional meals for her family. From overcoming burnt brisket mishaps to establishing her boutique cattle ranch, Kate shares her passion to help 'ordinary' individuals cook extraordinary barbecue, believing that simplicity often yields the best flavors. Kate is commited to making great barbecue accessible to all with the right resources and some tasty practice.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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