So I recently had a discussion on Facebook with different Big Green Egg (BGE) owners on which devices they prefer to use when cooking. Specifically, which device provided the best way to light a BGE and to do it quickly. Everyone has their own personal preference, but here’s a short list of methods you can use to get started. I personally am now a fan of the heat gun method for the lowest price
While reviewing this list, the question always comes up on why speed is important to lighting a BGE. It’s all about the average backyard cooker that just put in 8-10 hours at work and 1-2 hours of drive time to make it back home. They want the grilling experience of cooking on a BGE, but want the start-up time of a gas grill.
I go through one of these each year. The average cost for one is around $10-$20 at your local construction, farm or grocery stores.
Pros: Easy to light. Just plug in and walk away for 10 min. Remove from the heat once you see the lump charcoal in flames. At $10, this is cheaper then using parafin wax starters.
Cons: Durability is only 1-2 years and requires access to an electrical outlet. This will happen when the starter fails. Also, this item is considered seasonal by most companies, so if you break one in the Fall, you’ll probably be looking online for a replacement or trying one of the other options in this list.
Propane or Map-Pro Torch
This one is interesting because a lot of people swear by this method due to the speed in which you can start up an egg using an open flame torch. Personally, I don’t see the cost of buying propane justifiable, unless you don’t have an electrical outlet close by. Just like I don’t know why people mix the lighting squares with the propane torch, because that’s only adding additional cost to what you are already paying for in propane.
Pros: Buying a self-lighting torch allows you to use one hand to start the torch. Start-up time is around 5 minutes. No electrical outlet required.
Cons: Ongoing cost of propane bottles and trips to the hardware store, plus the $30-$70 cost for the torch itself. Costs differ based on intensity of the torch
Charcoal Lighting Squares
Here’s a method that everyone has tried once or twice while owning a charcoal grill.
Pros: Easy to light with a match or lighter, and easy to carry with you if you are taking your egg out to a campsite, tailgate party, etc.
Cons: Requires multiple squares to light the egg quickly. 2 for medium, and 3-4 for a large or XL. This makes the squares costly when a box can run $3-$5 on average. Plus, some brands use chemicals in the squares to aid in lighting fires, so you have a longer wait time before cooking, to ensure the chemicals have burned off.
I would only consider this one if I didn’t have any of the other techniques on hand. The most common methods are to roll up a newspaper and place it on the cast iron grate under the lump charcoal, or to use a napkin dipped in oil.
Pros: Low cost. That’s about it.
Cons: Messy. Newspaper leaves too much ash in the grill, and you have to wait for the smell to burn off. The napkin method is extremely messy when it comes to working with the oil.
A friend recently told me about this one when I asked him if he knew of any other methods, as I was considering one of those expensive $70 BBQ branded lighters as a replacement to the electric starter method. For less than $23 on the Wagner HT1000, you really couldn’t ask for a better deal or a faster method. I personally went for the slightly higher model (HT3500) to have a wide range of heat methods for home projects, but I tested the same temp of the HT1000 on my heat gun to ensure the lower end unit would work just fine.
Pros: Start a fire in under 2 minutes. The overall cost is inexpensive, with some owners claiming to have as much as 10 years of life out of a heat gun. Plus you are only paying for a brief amount of electricity on each grill day vs. purchasing propane, squares or buying a new electric starter every year.
Cons: Requires an electrical outlet nearby and this thing gets hot!. Always wear protective gloves and eye wear, and never get near the business end while the unit is on. Since there is a fan in the heat gun, sparks will blow around in the egg as you light it, so take precautions.