I like the BBQ chimneys (Alan Robertson turned me on to them quite a long time ago), I like that they start up well without needing lighter fluid. You put newspaper in the bottom, and charcoal above, and light the paper.
I like to light the paper with matches because it feels more like making a fire… But if there’s much wind, or even without it can be annoying to deal with the matches. So a few months ago I decided to try some of those really long lighters.
After trying a few, I’m fairly disappointed in them. They’re probably all suitable for lighting a gas grill, but if I thought that matches were inconvenient then these lighters have been something worse. I searched around the Internet figuring that there would be something better, but I really didn’t find anything that was clearly better.
I did find this $80 electric gadget that is a cigarette lighter at the end, and a fan up in the handle, blowing down and around the lighter. You touch the lighter element to a briquette for something around 15 seconds, then pull back a little bit and let the fan take it from there. It looks neat, but $80 seems a little steep and you lose some of the advantages of the chimney such as being able to pour the lighted coals where you want them.
Today I tried something a little different for getting the paper in the chimney started: my mapp gas plumbing torch. This has a push-button start, and seems like it would start even in winds far worse than I’d want to be BBQing in. It puts out enough flame that the paper just bursts into flames. While I’ve only used it once so far, the early results are encouraging.
Plus, unlike the lighters, the safety on this is easy to operate. It has a turn dial for off/on, and when in the on position you pull in the dial like a trigger to ignite and start the flow of gas. Release it and it turns off. Unlike the annoying child-proof lighters, this is easy to run. Of course, we don’t have children, and our cats have no interest in fire, so our situation is particularly compatible with this solution.
Of course, if you don’t already have a mapp gas torch, this is probably a fairly expensive solution. For me it was free, because I already spent the $60-ish on the torch. Of course, the other way to look at it is that if you don’t have a mapp gas torch, you need one. :-) I use mine for home plumbing jobs, so it was an easy decision for me.