As loyal readers (ha!) may remember, I was recently mulling barbecue options. Well, the gas/charcoal hybrid Weber Performer that was “calling my name” turned out to be too large for our modest deck. The one I next set my heart on, a ceramic-walled “Kamado-style” cooker, was apparently sold out across the land. So I went with the Char-Griller Pro, which was considerably cheaper than either option, boasts cast-iron grilling grates and looks like something you’d see chugging away outside a Smoky Mountain shack, with an old dog sleeping next to it. Perfect.
As with any charcoal grill, the one major problem is lighting the coal. The Performer ingeniously solves this by using a small propane burner to ignite the charcoal. (The usual tactic is to soak the coals in lighter fluid and try not to lose your eyebrows. If you don’t let the fluid burn off completely, your burgers can end up with subtle notes of petroleum.)
Enter the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter, a simple metal cylinder with a heat-proof handle, it holds charcoal in the top portion and a few sheets of newspaper in the bottom. Place it on your grill, light the paper, get yourself a beer and in 20 minutes you’ve got hot coals ready to be dumped into the ’queue, no lighter fluid required. Yes, that is why I said it’s "the one BBQ accessory you can’t live without"; hey, I’m a guy.
Above is an in-action picture of my chimney starter, which I picked up from Nella Food Equipment in Toronto for about 20 bucks. There are videos in excess of two decades old online of people using these things. If they existed before the internet and they’re on the internet? Gotta be a safe investment.