Weber Chimney Starter – How to Use & Review

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Weber Chimney Starter – How to Use & Review

In addition to reviewing the Weber chimney starter, I will mention a few tips and tricks (that I think are valuable anyways) on how to get the most of it! I bought this Weber Portable Chimney Starter (Amazon Link) together with the Smokey Joe Premium I have reviewed on this website. And I have to say that it makes barbecuing with coals or briquettes so much easier and convenient, because you can always get a nice consistent batch of hot coals in no time! If you’re wondering if you need a chimney starter… I’d ask do you barbecue with coals? If yes, then… Well yes you should be using one!

This version of the chimney starter is called ‘portable’ because it’s smaller than the full-sized version of the Weber Chimney Starter (Amazon Link). The smaller one is perfect size for small and compact barbecues like the Smokey Joe Premium. This portable chimney starter makes for easy measuring of coals as well, as I can just pour the starter full and I know I have a good amount for my Smokey Joe!



Check out the latest price and full product description on Amazon:
Weber Portable Chimney Starter (Amazon Link)


Weber Chimney Starter How to Use: The Short Version

I know I have the tendency to go on about topics for too long, so I’ll just write this as shortly as possible, and then deep in to this wonderful topic a bit more:

  1. Fill chimney starter with good quality coal or briquettes
  2. Light two lighter cubes on the bottom grate of your barbecue and place the chimney starter securely on top
  3. When the coals are nice and hot and covered in ash (usually after 15-20 minutes), start barbecuing!

Or as Weber puts it:

… But of course you don’t need to use their branded lighter cubes or their coal. I personally think Weber’s accessories like briquettes and lighter cubes are a bit overpriced (even if very good). There are dozens of other barbecue accessories that are as good as Weber’s pricey stuff – just keep that in mind!


Weber Chimney Starter How to Use: The Long Version

I’d like to elaborate a bit more on how I think you can get the most of your chimney starter, and also use it as safely as possible!

It’s all about airflow…

In order for the chimney starter to work perfectly, you need to always think airflow. For example I’ve tried and failed with cheap sub-par charcoals that have consisted of such tiny little chunks, that when you fill the chimney starter up there is not enough room for the air to flow. The way the chimney starter works after the initial ignition is almost like a miniature wind tunnel, that just gets more windier as the coals get hotter and the air flows through it faster. In other words the air needs to be able to flow in, flow through, and flow out of the chimney for it to work!

My current favourite coal is the Supagrill Lumpwood Charcoal (Amazon Link) that currently is available as an add-on item on Amazon Prime.

And as it’s mostly about airflow, make sure you have all air vents open and the bottom grate free of lumps and chunks as it will make sure the air can circulate on the bottom of the barbecue:

And remember, nice big chunks for good airflow in the chimney:

As an example on how NOT TO use the chimney starter: I once used poor quality charcoal that only had very small fragments of coal, and when I tried to light the thing up it would take ages to get going as hardly any air was travelling through the chimney… So I put two extra lighter cubes on the bottom and because the airflow was so bad, the flames actually decided to spread out from the sides, rather than go up and start the coals… And that melted the handle a bit (So, keep the coals big and chunky!):

… And safety!

Always take proper precautions and prepare your barbecuing area accordingly before reaching for the matches/lighter. And once you have the furnace going; never leave your barbecue or the chimney starter unattended!

Safety Checklist:

  • Make sure barbecue is in a safe & airy location and is not wonky or wobbly, tighten screws etc accordingly
  • Always prepare an area where you can put hot things down, like the chimney starter after it’s being used
  • Make sure you have something to put out a fire with in worst case scenario. I bought a Fireblitz Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher (Amazon Link) and a Fire Blanket by TopChef (Amazon Link) that are always nearby. Just as a sidenote: For me it makes the most sense to have a fire extinguisher that is suitable for all fires (A/B/C classes of fires)
  • Make sure you have good quality heat-resistant gloves. I really like these Extreme Heat Resistant Gloves (Amazon Link) I bought from (Amazon again, surprise!). Because having an actual ‘glove’ vs. a mitten makes handling everything so much more natural and easier, and therefore safer. Try cooking in the kitchen by keeping your fingers together as if they were in a mitten, that seems a bit stupid doesn’t it? Don’t use mittens! Use proper gloves! The gloves I linked also are not only heat resistant to 500°C, but also have these rubber-like strips on them, making sure you can grip everything securely!
  • Use long full-metal tongs: I like these KitchenCraft Stainless Steel Tongs (Amazon Link) quite a bit as they’re so simple and cheap, but I can use them for anything from spreading the coals to lifting the grates (and cooking of course)!
  • And once more, never leave the barbecue or the chimney starter unattended! It’s a lot easier to rectify a potential disaster when you’re there if something would go wrong, vs. if you pop out to the shops and come back home to find out your fire is out of control and it’s too late

Weber Chimney Starter – How to Use Video:

Besides setting up the chimney starter and positioning your barbecue properly, the next most important step, or the ‘moment of truth’ is emptying the chimney starter. I like to give the barbecue a couple of solid knocks with the chimney starter so most of the small loose bits of coal and ash fall already into the barbecue, and you don’t cause as much of a splash when dumping the contents of the chimney starter into the barbecue!

After the knocks you just turn the chimney starter around and pour the contents into the middle of the barbecue in one decisive move, after which you put it down to a heat-resistant surface you have ready nearby. Don’t try and use the chimney starter to spread around the coals, use metal tongs instead! You want this phase to go as smoothly as possible, considering the potential fire hazards. Additionally; you could momentarily close the two air vents on the bottom of the barbecue, to reduce the chance of anything escaping from the vents when pouring the hot contents in.

I’d just like to mention I’m well aware that my positioning for the barbecue isn’t the safest in the world on this very tiny balcony, but that’s why I always have a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket at hand! I’m using proper gloves and metal tongs, so I have as safe and as full a control as possible of the potential hazards. And I do have to say using this premium barbecue by Weber feels a lot safer as it is very sturdy, and has safety-improving features and design… in contrast; if you were to use a cheap barbecue this would be a lot more dangerous.

And finally, you know you’re ready to cook when the top coals start to get an ashy coat:



Check out the latest price and full product description on Amazon:
Weber Portable Chimney Starter (Amazon Link)


To sum everything up:

Weber Chimney Starter How to Use & Tips:

  • Consider safety and take care of everything accordingly before lighting the barbecue/chimney starter
  • Place your barbecue on a safe platform and make sure it’s standing solid before firing the chimney up
  • Use only 2 lighter cubes with the chimney starter
  • Place the chimney starter on the bottom of the barbecue, not on the top grate
  • Clean all the old ashes and coals from the barbecue to improve the airflow
  • Use good quality coal that comes in larger chunks, so the airflow will be sufficient in the chimney
  • Don’t leave a live fire unattended, ever!

Weber Chimney Starter Review

There’s not that much to talk about other than how well it’s made and designed.

Build Quality

As previously noted, the handle can melt indeed from direct flames, but that is not to Weber’s fault. Otherwise it’s a very solid construction and it just looks and feels like another well-built product by Weber.

Design

The design is as good as it can get for such a simple contraption. The only time it won’t work is you fill it up so that the air doesn’t flow, or if the coals or briquettes are wet, etc – so it essentially works like a train’s toilet (a Finnish saying). But it’s not just the design in terms of functionality, it’s safety too!

As an example on how well the design works, I used an IR thermometer to measure the different locations of the chimney starter:
Handle 90°C
Heat Shield 170°C
Body 500°C

Now of course the handle will be quite warm or hot to the touch, but not that hot considering how hot the actual coals and the body of the chimney starter can get! With even a half-decent pair of barbecue or oven gloves you won’t feel the heat a bit and I think it’s very important – so you can focus on handling the chimney starter safely and not have to end up rushing anything because it’s too hot!

Do I think you should get one?

If you barbecue with coals more than once a summer (or winter, nothing wrong with barbecuing in winter!), then a definite yes! It makes the whole process just so much easier! The chimney starter essentially allows you to focus more on cooking, not struggling with the ignition phase of it.  No more unevenly hot coals!

But just remember, this Weber Portable Chimney starter is only suited for smaller and compact barbecues! You will have to opt-in for a bigger one if your barbecue is bigger as well.



Check out the latest price and full product description on Amazon:
Weber Portable Chimney Starter (Amazon Link)


Weber Chimney Starter Review

The Good!

  • Well designed and constructed
  • Makes barbecuing with charcoal so much easier

The Bad!

  • Can't fault Weber for this at all
Value
75 %
Build Quality
90 %
Functionality
95 %
Design & Safety
95 %
89%FINAL SCORE

Might seem like an unnecessary gadget for some, but I wouldn't barbecue without it!

A chimney starter like this is a must for anyone who likes to use charcoals or briquettes. There's absolutely no way around it. It's simple, well made and it works as long as you use it correctly. And it's safe to use as long as you take the appropriate precautions!

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