Buyer’s Guide: Fire Starters
Light the grill or fireplace fast with a single flammable pellet or package! We guarantee you'll warm up fast to any of these top-rated fire starters.
While a toasty fire is a welcome addition to any chilly evening. Less welcome is the hassle of wrestling with wet wood or crumpled-up newspapers to get the first flames going—and the wait time that follows. You’ll eventually get something more than a smoking, smoldering pile of timber, but wouldn’t it be better to go right to a roaring blaze? That’s where fire starters come in.
Originally marketed and sold to the specialty camping, hunting, and fishing crowd, commercial fire starters are now a must-have accessory for anyone with a fireplace, wood stove, fire pit, chiminea, hibachi, food smoker, or even a trusty old-fashioned charcoal grill. Sure, you could fashion your own homemade fire starters from used dryer lint, cardboard egg cartons, and candle wax, but commercial fire starters are fairly inexpensive and much less of a hassle than making your own. And since fire starters are readily available, there’s really no reason not to keep a case or two on hand to be ready whenever you need get the grill going or want to relax in the warm glow of the firelight.
Not all fire starters are created equal. Before you buy in bulk, mind these considerations—and product recommendations—to make sure you get the best burn for your buck.
Fire starters are handy to have around, but the last thing you want is a large box that rivals your stack of firewood detracting from the attractive environment you’ve created around your fireplace. Fortunately, some of the best-reviewed fire starters are lightweight and compact, ranging from 3 to 6 inches in length, since most were originally developed to be tucked into a hiker’s backpack. Typically sold in cases of 12 or 24, these pocket-sized pouches, pods, or cubes can be stored in plain site in a basket or tucked out of sight.
Look for lengthy burn time.
Highly flammable, fire starters are meant to speed through the painstaking process of starting a fire with wet wood, charcoal, or even coal alone by providing a persistent flame that can then catch on nearby kindling. To do so, the fire starter has to burn long enough to actually get the fire established. The best fire starter burns from 10 to 30 minutes, ensuring that you achieve a robust blaze.
The nose knows.
A big barrier to the adoption of early, camping-oriented fire starters for home use was the smell. Older fire starters were impregnated with flame-inducing chemicals that smelled awful. Today’s best fire starters are nearly odorless—a big plus for using fire starters as an alternative to lighter fluid when starting the grill or food smoker.
Pick what’s best for the planet.
You’re not the only one who benefits from abandoning fire starters that utilize noxious chemicals. The best fire starter burns clean thanks to environmentally-friendly flammable materials, be it wood waste (sawdust or shavings), non-toxic wax, recycled paper, waste textile fibers—or, for fireplace purists, all-natural fatwood. Fortunately, you won’t have to look too hard: Nearly all commercial fire starters have no byproducts or waste, because the paper packaging burns up right along with the fire starter. Plus, using fire starters typically results in faster and more complete ignition, thereby reducing emissions of particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
Brightest of the Bunch
We’ve done the dirty work for you and scouted the market for the handy nuggets, cubes, and packages worth stashing by the grill or fireplace. Keep reading for which options have been reviewed as the best fire starter in the business by consumers who have tried them all—as well as where you can stock up.
BEST FOR HOMES: Light-a-Fire by Vision Home Products
These remarkable all-natural fire starters are easy and safe to use—and effective, too. Only one pod from the bucket supply of 30 is needed to instantly light a grill, campfire, or fireplace, and each pod burns for 15 minutes to ensure your fire roars. Made from wood shavings and food-grade wax, the Light-a-Fire pods are totally odorless, non-toxic, and environmentally safe.
BEST FOR CAMPING: QuickFire Instant Fire Starters
These innovative compressed oil pouches are 100 percent waterproof with an infinite shelf life. Come time to use them, the packaging material itself acts as a wick. Light a corner and the pack burns for 10 minutes in your outdoor fireplace, grill, campfire or fire pit—all without odor or toxicity.
ALSO CONSIDER: Lightning Nuggets
Forget about newspaper and kindling. Just one small nugget from the batch of 50 is all it takes to light a fire in your grill, your fire pit, or your fireplace. Each Lightning Nugget burns for 15 minutes, thanks to a blend of all-natural, recycled, and non-toxic flammable materials.
ALSO CCONSIDER: Pine Mountain ExtremeStart Firestarter
This multipurpose fire starter ignites firewood or charcoal fast and burns for 20 minutes—long enough that you only need to use one. Each pocket-sized log generates a clean burn that’s odorless and perfect for tailgating, campfires, or a quiet evening in the living room. Simply light the paper wrapper. That’s it!
ALSO CONSIDER: Duraflame Firestart Firelighters
Well known for manufacturing colorful fire logs, Duraflame also enjoys a solid reputation for its individually wrapped, dummy-proof fire starters. Made from a blend of wax and renewable, recycled biomass fiber, Duraflame Firestart Firelighters ignite easily with a single match and burn up to a whopping 30 minutes. They work so well, in fact, you can split them in two and use only half to get the evening’s fire started.