FireJel™ Charcoal and Firewood Starter

The Product

This is an interesting new product which Down Under Enterprises has brought to market. It is a clean burning charcoal and fireplace starter product made from corn alcohol that comes in a little plastic tub which burns up with the starter gel. The tub is placed beneath the charcoal grate of your grill, or the fire grate of your fireplace so that it lights the charcoal or wood from below. To the right you can click on the thumbnail to see their packaging.

The tubs are 3 inches in diameter and about 1 inch in height. The tub has a shrink-wrap seal over a removable plastic top which is not burned. You should open the lid with care as the gel is relatively fluid.

Using The Product To Start Your Grill

In this photo you can see that we have placed a tub of the starter in the bottom of a Weber Smokey Joe kettle cooker. The tub with gel has been placed in the bottom of the cooker, beneath the charcoal grate.

Here we have added 2 pounds of Kingsford charcoal on top of the charcoal grate and above the tub of starter. In this photo, we have just ignited the starter and there is a small flame peeking out from below the charcoal.

This photo shows the charcoal 15 minutes after lighting the gel. The gel itself burned out in about 10 minutes and 30 seconds. The fire is roaring away and the coals are ready to be spread.

Here are the coals spread out and the fire is ready for cooking. This photo was taken 20 minutes after igniting the gel.

The Tub

What about this tub which burns with the gel? It is food grade 100% pure polypropylene. It is a simple hydrocarbon polymer, chemically similar to parafin wax (hydrogen plus carbon and free of any chlorine). In a series of tests that the manufacturer had conducted by a lab certified for the State Of California it showed that the tub and gel burned very cleanly, releasing a non-detectable level of volatile organic compounds. As you can see in the photo, we dumped the gel out of one of the tubs, ignited the residual gel and let the tub burn. There was no smell when the tub burned and no detectable smoke.

When the tub of gel was burned in the cooker, it burned almost completely. A few drops of the melted tub did drip into the ash pan below the cooker, so you need to make sure that you either have an ash pan or that there are no openings in the bottom of the cooker to allow the plastic to drip through.

Notice a particularly nice safety feature of this product. The gel comes in a tub, not a bottle. Since the tub contains adequate product for a single use, you won't be tempted to squirt more gel onto the fire. Since it is in a tub and not a bottle, it won't explode like products like Green Heat can.

The Gel

The gel is alcohol based, made from corn, and as you can see, red in color. It has a faint smell of cinammon mouthwash to us. You can smell the alcohol also, of course. The gel is relatively fluid, about the consistency of maple syrup.

Here are a couple of photos of the gel burning. No smoke, no soot. Just clean-burning alcohol.

The Cost

FireJel sells in boxes of 3. The cost per tub is about 99 cents per tub.

Compared to Other Types of Starters

In the following comparisons, we started 2 pounds of Kingsford briquettes using each type of starter. We were most interested in effectiveness, but we also observed the general process of starting the charcoal.

Compared to Starter Fluid

We bought (shudder!) some starter fluid in order to compare FireJel to the ever-popular fluid. We then used both products to start Kingsford briquettes in a Weber Smokey Joe kettle cooker. How do they compare? Well, for smell there is no comparison. The fluid has that nasty pervasive petroleum smell. The gel, as we stated, has a faint smell of cinammon mouthwash to us. There is virtually no smell as the gel burns, while starter fluid smells horrid until it has all completely burned away.

Safety? With starter fluid, you need to be sure you don't squirt the fluid onto a burning fire. Flare ups and potentially exploding bottles could result. Also, when used as directed, the starter fluid will burn with a huge flame, so you need to be careful that you are away from anything flammable and that no one gets near the fire while it is starting. The gel has none of these problems. Since it is under the charcoal, there are no roaring flames to worry about. Since the gel comes in premeasured tubs, there is no temptation to add more gel to a fire which isn't starting as quickly as you would like.

Another safety issue is that starter fluid is toxic when ingested and has accounted for many poisonings over the decades. FireJel gel is made from alcohol and has a bitter taste that makes it nearly impossible to swallow. The toxicity level is similar to an alcoholic beverage.

Performance? In our test, the charcoal was ready to use in 18.5 minutes compared to 20 minutes with the gel.

Cost? When applied in the amount recommended on the label, the starter fluid we purchased cost 60 cents to start a fire consisting of four pounds of charcoal. Of course, briquettes can be notoriously hard to start and if you apply more starter fluid than the recommended amount, your per-fire cost will rise. For example, if you use 6 ounces of fluid to start your fire instead of the recommended 4, the fluid we purchased would cost 90 cents per fire. The gel, as stated earlier, costs 99 cents for a tub that will start four pounds of charcoal.

Compared to (Shudder!) Kingsford Match Light

Another flavor of the starter fluid comparison is Match Light, Kingsford briquettes soaked in lighter fluid. We found Match Light at a local Lowe's for 66 cents per pound. The regular Kingsford briquettes cost 44 cents a pound at Lowe's. So you are paying 22 cents per pound extra to have them soak the briquettes in lighter fluid. Remembering that FireJel says it can light 4 pounds of briquettes with one tub, you are paying 88 cents for the nasty lighter fluid in Match Light for one fire, versus 99 cents for a tub of clean burning FireJel.

Compared to Weber Starter Cubes

Weber Starter Cubes compare more favorably with FireJel. These cubes have very little smell when burning and very little smoke. They also come premeasured cubes which means there is no bottle or temptation to squirt more starter onto a burning fire. Also like the FireJel, Weber Starter Cubes don't produce huge flames as they do their work since they are nestled down in the charcoal.

Using the cubes with briquettes requires a little bit of care in laying the fire since the cubes need some airflow through the briquettes to do their job well. Since the FireJel tub goes below the charcoal grate, less care is needed in building your fire.

Performance? We used 2 cubes in building our fire and determined that 3 would have been better. 2 cubes took 26 minutes to get the fire ready to cook (whereas the gel took 20). We feel that 3 cubes would have brought this time down to 18-20 minutes.

Cost? Well, for a four pound fire, at least 4, and maybe 5 cubes would be required to get the fire ready in 20 minutes. This works out to a cost of about 54-68 cents per fire, compared to 99 cents for the FireJel.

Compared to a Weber Chimney Starter

Chimney starters are great on one hand because all you need to start some charcoal is newspaper. On the other hand, the newspaper can leave a lot of ash flying around the place and you often need to move the starter full of red hot coals from where you started the charcoal to the cooker, which requires care. On yet another hand, you can use a chimney starter full of lump to create a fire that burns at about 1500 degrees for some killer seared tuna. On still another hand, a chimney starter is big and dirty to be carrying around for a picnic or trip to the beach. And on yet still another hand, you need to be careful with the very very hot chimney starter after you dump the charcoal out. So as you can see, a chimney starter has its pros and cons.

How long does it take to light? We took 2 pounds of Kingsford in a Weber Chimney starter and used 2 sheets of newpaper. After the newspaper burned out, we snuck a peak under the chimney and decided to try one more sheet. After 8 minutes, the core fire was pretty well established in the chimney. After 10 minutes we dumped the charcoal into our Weber Smokey Joe cooker. After 17 minutes the charcoal was ashed over and ready to cook.

As for cost, a Weber Chimney Starter costs $17.99 at Ace Hardware these days. You can certainly find them cheaper. But at that price, the break even point is about 18 cooks before you start saving money with a chimney starter.

What About Starting Lump Charcoal In A Ceramic Cooker?

Good question! Ceramic cookers don't exactly lend themselves to having a starter placed beneath the charcoal because there is nearly always old charcoal left in the cooker from the previous cook. However, as you can see in the photo at right, you can nestle one of these tubs down in the charcoal. We had left over lump down in the bottom of the cooker and fresh charcoal on top. All of the charcoal was Wicked Good Charcoal's Competition Blend, a relatively difficult lump charcoal to light.

This next photo shows how we then carefully placed a few pieces of lump over the tub. This does two things. First it provides charcoal above the flame to be ignited. Duh... Second, however, the charcoal above the flame traps heat in the little chamber you have formed allowing the lump charcoal beneath the tub to ignite also.

As you can see here, the flame is trapped in the chamber with only a small amount of flame coming out of the opening between the pieces of charcoal.

Finally, this photo shows a very well established fire in the lump charcoal after the FireJel had completely burned out.

We feel that a tub about half the size of these tubs would be sufficient to start lump charcoal since lump charcoal is easier to start than Kingsford briquettes. Perhaps Down Under could consider this, which would bring the cost per fire down for lump charcoal users. Typically, only one or two Weber starter cubes are needed to start a lump charcoal fire, for example, which costs 14 to 28 cents. A full tub is overkill and a half-tub would do the job and cost less.

In fact, we actually tried that. We took half a tub of the gel, nestled it down in a hole in the lump, stacked some lump over the top and then lit the gel. The gel burned out in about 6 minutes and the fire started easily. After 10 minutes there was a hot red burning core of fire, the cooker was at 230 degrees and at this point you could have let the fire build for a rip-roaring steak sear or start shutting down the vents for a lower temperature cook.

Using the Product to Start Firewood

FireJel can also be used to light firewood in your fireplace. We don't have a fireplace, but rather a Danish-made wood stove from Rais. As you can see in the photo at right, the stove has a vent in the bottom of the stove onto which we have placed the FireJel tub. We then carefully stacked the wood around and over the tub of FireJel.

We lit the FireJel with a long match and then closed the door of the woodstove. You can see in the photo at right, that the fire had no trouble getting started. We could have tried to show you 10 photos at various times while the fire started, but we won't. We can tell you that the FireJel started the fire much more quickly than the other two methods we use to start a fire in our woodstove. The first method (the slowest) is to stack up some small kindling, burn it down to coals and then add the firewood. The second method is to use packets of material that appear to be the same as Weber starter cubes to start the firewood. The FireJel worked much quicker than either of those two methods. We can only guess that it would also do a great job of starting firewood in a traditional fireplace by placing a tub underneath your fire grate.


Down Under is selling FireJel in boxes of 3 tubs, as seen in the photo to the right of their packages.


All in all, we are pretty impressed with this product. It may require a paradigm shift in some cooks' thinking, but if you look at the other types of starters, this product compares favorably with the other methods. It burns with no smell and no smoke. It is safer than some of the other methods and more effective than others. It compares favorably on price and is probably as convenient, if not more so, than the others.

Contact Information

If you are interested in this product, you should visit the FireJel website at There you will find contact information, a quick animation, a great video demonstrating the product, as well as a list of retailers and a place to order the product online.       Home       Search Our Site       Email The Whiz       Listen To Whizcast       Whizlog       Buy Whiz Gear       Privacy Policy       Kamado Grille
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