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How to Use an Electric Charcoal Starter

By Corey M. Mackenzie

An electric charcoal starter provides an alternative to matches or gas lighters. It is a simple device with a handle on one end and a loop of metal, which is the heating element, on the other. These starters start coals a little more slowly than if you use a flame, but you won’t have to deal with flammable lighter fluids and the accompanying smell, as well as the taste these chemical fluids sometimes impart to food.

Place one layer of charcoal in the barbecue grill. The coals should be close together, near the center of the grill.

Put the heating rod of the electric charcoal starter at the center of the pile. Place a second layer of charcoal over the starter and the surrounding coals.

Plug in the charcoal starter. If the outlet is at a distance, use an extension cord. Make sure to use only a cord recommended for outdoor use. Lay out the cord in a way that does not pose any kind of trip hazard, which could yank the hot starter, or even hot coals, out of the grill, with potentially dangerous results.

Keep the barbecue lid up so you can observe the coals as they start to heat. Depending on the starter, it will take several minutes for the coals to be well-lit.

Unplug the heater when coals are glowing red and developing some white ash. Carefully remove the heater by the handle and place on a non-flammable surface to cool. Make sure it is out of reach of pets, children or anyone else nearby until it has fully cooled down.


Things You Will Need

  • Electric charcoal starter
  • Barbecue grill
  • Charcoal
  • Extension cord


  • Wipe off the electric starter with a soft cloth after it has cooled. Don't use water on this device. Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding any cleaning that may be necessary.