By Bob Livingston
September 29, 2015
Filed under Gear Reviews
Bison Airlighter makes short work of igniting charcoal and wood with the use of a super-hot torch and forced air
Traditionalists will argue that the best way to grill food is over charcoal. Charcoal brings out a distinct flavor that makes grilling meats and vegetables so popular, but a traditional barbecue has its drawbacks for motorhome owners. Charcoal has to be contained so it doesn’t make a mess in the storage compartment and you need a way to start the coals. For most people, that means carrying along starter fluid or a starter chimney.
Plastic containers take care of messy charcoal, but it’s easy to make a strong case against using starter fluid. Beyond the obvious care necessary when storing fluid, it’s not environmentally friendly and can impart a foul taste on the food if not used correctly. A starter chimney has always been our first choice for lighting coals, but the bulky canister has been mothballed and replaced with a Bison Airlighter.
The Airlighter is a butane igniter on steroids. It’s a relatively new product that was designed to light coals and wood safely and fast. Built around an ergonomic, adjustable handle, the metal tube terminates at a point where a flame, reaching 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit, starts by pressing a button. Of course, you have to get through the child safety lock, but in this case, the buttons are large enough for even an adult to handle.
Once the coals are ignited, which takes seconds, the internal fan is used to encourage the fire to burn much hotter. Within minutes, the coals are ready to cook over. There’s no mess or fluid to deal with, and the blowing air cools down the tube so the device is easy to handle without the risk of getting burned. For nighttime visibility, there’s even a light built into the housing that illuminates the coals or wood.
We’ve used a starter chimney for years and it also works well, but it takes much longer. Our biggest gripe with the chimney is the use of paper stuffed in the bottom to ignite the coals. Once burned, it’s hard to contain the ashes from the paper, especially if it’s windy. The Airlighter eliminates this problem, and it stores in much less space.
Lighting coals or a wood fire could not be easier. The adjustable handle rotates in multiple positions and can even provide a pistol-type grip. Our first test was to get a wood fire started in a ring. Within a couple minutes, the fire was going; the blowing air plays a big role in bringing the fire to life. Lighting coals in a barbecue met with equal success. Honestly, we didn’t think it would work as well as it did. And we got a kick out of the built-in bottle opener — some things never change.
Butane fuels the flame, and the company markets chef-grade gas that it claims will not clog the microscopic jets. The butane sells for $6.95 and can refill the Airlighter three to four times. Although the company recommends its own butane (not supplied with Airlighter), it will not void the warranty if other high-quality butane is used. The flame is designed to burn for 15 minutes on a refill, which will go a long way considering how quickly it lights coals and wood.
The fan motor is run by an internal battery, which is charged with a USB cable. Fan run time is around 30 minutes per recharge.
The Airlighter feels durable and is finished nicely, which is probably why the company backs the product for 2 years, with registration. It is not inexpensive at $79.95, but you have to get your head wrapped around the fact that it’s not an ordinary igniter — and it makes using charcoal much more palatable.
The Bison Co. | 845-258-9903 | www.airlighter.com