The other week when reviewing lower-impact charcoal for grillin’, I mentioned a crucial part of making your backyard BBQ more eco-friendly is doing away with lighter fluid and opting for a chimney starter.

Here’s the thing: however convenient, lighter fluid, in addition to giving grillable edibles an icky after taste, is a toxic, VOC-emitting petroleum distillate that can significantly add to the air pollution that you’re already generating by going the charcoal route (gas/propane grills are the cleanest option). It’s nasty, noxious stuff that's responsible for the release of about 14,500 tons of VOCs each year in the US. It should be avoided.

Chimney starters, or charcoal chimneys, despite requiring more work than simply dousing charcoal in polluting petrochemicals, are the most common lighter fluid substitutes. All that these cylindrical steel gizmos require are balled-up newspapers, a match, and a bit of patience and caution (see how to use one here).

Below are a couple of chimney starters on the market worth looking into if you’re a dedicated charcoal user. And since we’re going the lighter fluid-free route, I’ve thrown in a couple of eye-catching match options/ alternatives in the event that you’re a phillumenist looking to spice up your patio with something more than a box of generic safety matches. 

Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue SR8041 Ultimate Chimney Starter with Handle @ ($29.99)

Char-Broil Chimney Charcoal Starter w/bamboo handle @ Aubuchon Hardware ($17.49)

Weber 87866 Chimney Starter @ ($14.95)

Char-Broil 2984810 Electric Charcoal Starter Wand @ ($15.99)

Wooden Matches Block of 100 @ Fitzu ($48)

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

All up in your grill: Lucky strike
Don't want to serve your BBQ guests grilled salmon with a lighter fluid glaze? Opt for a chimney starter and a box o' matches.