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This week our friends over at Wired and Gizmodo mentioned Hammacher Schlemmer’s new $80 “60 second charcoal starter.” Tool Talk listeners know that we’ve adopted a cheaper but just as effective way of gettin’ the grill goin’ around the Toolmonger shop: a Bernz-o-Matic MAPP gas torch.

We originally picked up the torch to sweat some copper pipe, but after a great peanut-butter-meets-chocolate moment one Friday when we couldn’t find a lighter, we’ve used it exclusively to light the grill. And grilling at least once a week — we love our Friday steaks down here in Texas — we’ve been using it for over a year on the original gas bottle. But hey, even if you grill a lot more than we do, a replacement bottle is just $8 at your local big box.

Of course, you’ll want to be careful. You can burn yourself (and everything else) with it. And watch out: it scared the crap out of a Yankee guest a couple of weeks ago — though he did enjoy his steak.

Bernz-o-Matic Trigger Start Torch Kit [Lowe’s]


10 Responses to Hammacher Schlemmer: $80 / Toolmonger: $42

  1. Charcoal guy says:

    I have been starting charcoal with my MAPP torch for over a year now myself. It works just great — I just give four brief blasts into the charcoal, and ten minutes later I have a great fire. This is a practical alternative to an electric starter if there’s not an outlet close to your grill, and it seems a better choice than this expensive starter. An added plus is the satisfying roar of the torch when it’s in use. 🙂

  2. Fred says:

    As a scoutmaster for many years, I can attest to the efficacy of an alternative. This is a chimney starter that can be found at stores or through boy scout outlets. You put a few pieces of crumpled newspaper in the bottom (under the trap door) and tehn pile the coals in the top. If you want a quick start – just add 3-4 mattch lite coals at the bottom (optional). Light the newspaper wuith a match and wait until all the coals in the chimney are glowing before lifting up and allowing the coals to dump out of the bottom.

    On another matter – Hammacher Sclemmer was an old time hardware store – purveyor of tools in New York City. When the ceased operation – their name was apparently bought out by folks who wanted to sell foreign goods under a old Americam Imprimatur. The same is true for Hoffritz (used to sell high grade Freanch and German cuttlery in New York) – now the name is imprinted on Chinese- made goods. Farberware (used to make pots and pans in the Bronx NY) now the name is on goods of asian origin. I suspect that in many cases (Slaymaker is another name) the brand name may be the thing of most value when a company is up for sale – or goes bankrupt.

  3. Kelley Nelson says:

    It sounds like most of you are talking about lighting briquets. MAPP works great on lump charcoal as well.

    Some lump charcoal can throw off sparks when you light with the torch though, so be careful.

  4. ToolFreak says:

    Seems like overkill when theres the ready-to-light charcoal, not to mention good ol’ lighter fluid and a grill lighter for just a few bucks.

  5. ferdinand says:

    At our shop we use the chimney lighter that Fred mentioned. However, impatience and sometimes forgetting to start the charcoal in time for lunch usually leads to the simple solution of a blow-off nozzle. Once the chimney gets the first few bits going at the bottom of the chimney, we pull the trigger on a blow-off nozzle ever so slightly (not the full 150psi, which would blow hot ashes and sparks everywhere) to get a steady stream of air blowing down the chimney. Within about 2 minutes, the miniature forge / jet engine action makes all the charcoal white hot. Add beer and brats to taste, sit back, and enjoy.

  6. BadBob says:

    I used a torch for years. It worked well. I picked up a two burner cast iron stove for about ten dollars. It didn’t work to good for what I bough it for so one day when the torch was out of gas I fired it uo and put my chimney on it, I’ve been using this method for more than ten years. It will light any charcoal even wet.

    I never liked using news paper. It’s messy, makes lots of smelly smoke, and you have to deal with the ash from the paper.

  7. PutnamEco says:

    how to light a grill in 2 seconds


    or you could just bleed some oxygen off your cutting torch.

  8. Bill says:

    About 20 years ago I worked nights as a paramedic for a commercial ambulance company (think mother juggs and speed, without the juggs unfortunately). Knowing that at any moment you might have to do a run, getting the charcoal going quickly could make the difference between a good burger and going hungry. Well, being an ambulance company we had access to plenty good-ol pure o2. A little o2 tubing, add a metal tip run into the bottom of the grill, and off she goes! The 1st couple tries we “exciting”, large pure white flames, little smoke, and charcoal burning like ice cubes melting on a hot skillet. But boy did that fire get hot quick. Not for the faint of heart, definitly NOT recommended today for safety reasons, but heck, 20 years ago we were all young stupid and bullet proof.

  9. TL says:

    Dad always started the BBQ with a propane torch while I was growing up. Until I was about 10 I thought that was it’s original purpose. He chose that method because Mom always claimed to be able to taste lighter fluid in her food.

  10. Platobiker says:

    As a Barbecue aficionado( that means “fanatic”…) I have used a MAPP torch for many years- The chimney is a good too….but for the love of Good Meat please… use wood or lump charcoal….if you are willing to spend good money on good food do yourself a favor and cook it right…and never allow lighter fluid /kerosene /diesel/ gasoline near a grill….and while I’m on my high horse…a gas grill or barbecue defeats the entire point…

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