When it comes to hookah supplies, your coals are probably the most important thing apart from the Shisha. However, your coals can also ruin the flavor of a perfectly good bowl. Because of this, more and more, hookah smokers are shifting toward the use of natural coals.
This shift makes a lot of sense when you think about the inherent qualities of both natural and self-lighting coals. Self-lighting coals are treated with flammable chemicals, and none of those chemicals taste particularly good. In the end, it is a choice of quality versus convenience. Given this kind of a choice, we will recommend quality over convenience every time.
We have established that natural coals are better, so let’s talk about their one failing. Natural coals have to be heated on a burner of some kind before they are placed in the hookah. This adds an extra step to the smoking process, but it isn’t a particularly difficult one. Since your burner is the source for the heat that will be used to smoke your shisha, it is also quite important. Let’s take a look at five of the best burners that we could find, and then discuss some of the things that make for a good hookah coal burner.
Safe and Easy
|VENYN The Original Charcoal Burner & Starter for Hookah|
The Simpler Option
|Boosey Electric Coal Charcoal Starter Burner|
The Bargain Option
|IMUSA USA GAU-80305 Electric Single Burner|
Best Multi-Purpose Burner
|AHADU AHCS-101 Electric Charcoal Burner/Starter|
Tough And Simple
|Courant Electric Burner, Single Buffet Countertop Hotplate|
This is one of the “double-pot” burners, and it offers all the bells and whistles that a product like this could have. In many ways, its best quality is the thick porcelain enamel that covers its entire surface. Porcelain can withstand temperatures that are much higher than anything you are likely to need.
We like the walled chamber in which the coals are heated, as it makes this device a little safer. Not only that, but it directs the heat upward so that it isn’t unpleasant to sit next to this burner on a hot day. There is nothing complicated about this burner, as it simply plugs into the wall and has one knob for temperature adjustment.
On the downside, this product is the most expensive on our list. However, the margin isn’t very large, so that is a very forgivable flaw. A slightly bigger flaw is the fact that this model has detachable tongs. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that the tongs are meant to serve as the handle when attached. Although it’s not a good idea to move this burner during operation, it might be necessary at some point, and this handle could drop the whole thing if you squeeze it in the wrong way.
At first glance, this product looks a lot like the first one. However, it is a little cheaper and simpler in its design. This is a stripped-down version that is obviously meant to do only that which is needed. It’s probably not a good idea to use this one for your backyard grill briquettes, as it is too small to heat more than one or two.
This product has a really good handle. We say that because the handle doesn’t heat up very much during operation. Thus, the designers have done a good job of diffusing that heat in another direction. All parts of this device appear to be made of sufficiently thick steel to hold up over time. The enameled porcelain coating reinforces this impression.
However, this one might not be as durable as it seems. When we look at reviews for this product, most of them are quite positive. However, all of the negative reviews had one complaint in common: a lack of durability. Some said that the heating element melted or that the top plate suffered heat corrosion, while others said that it just stopped working within a couple of months.
Even with these reported durability issues, most users still seem to find this product effective. It is light and compact, and a great bare-bones option for the hookah novice. Just handle it with a little more care, and it should be fine.
If you want a cheap burner, this isn’t a bad choice. At about half the price of most other burners on our list, this one is easy on the wallet. However, it is a very basic model that doesn’t offer a whole lot other than basic functionality.
First of all, corrosion protection for this model is not sufficient. There is a stainless steel tray underneath the coils, but its coating (like the tray itself) is somewhat thin. There is also a drip tray underneath the burner, so that grease and liquids can be removed. Obviously, this part is not important for a hookah smoker.
Temperature adjustment is available, but not very precise. Still, it should be good enough for our purposes. The Imusa burner is easy to use, and even easier to transport. In spite of its stripped-down nature, this model does get some points in the portability department for its slim profile and feather-light construction.
However, burners of this type have one major disadvantage when compared to “double-pot” burners. This disadvantage is the fact that they use a lot more power. Most of the double-pot models on our list pull anywhere between 500 and 700 watts. The Imusa burner requires 1100, meaning that it will make a bigger difference on the electric bill.
Of all the items on our list, the Ahadu seems to be the one with the most precise design. This is reflected in the price, as the Ahadu is also one of the pricier burners on our list. However, it has the potential to pay for itself over time.
This burner only pulls about 500 watts, which is about as low as you are going to get. This is plenty enough to heat your coals, but not enough to raise your electric bill or endanger your safety in any significant way. According to most reviews, this model can heat a bowl of coals within 3-5 minutes, just like any other good burner.
The only real complaint we can find with this product lies in the handle. The rubber grip is comfortable and does a good job of resisting the heat, but the handle itself is just too weak. It is made from thin, uncoated metal, and is disengaged upon squeezing. Thus, you have to be very careful when moving this thing, as the handle can fail easily. I would recommend that you either discard the handle and use a potholder, or improvise a better handle from whatever materials are available.
This is kind of like the stronger older brother of the Imusa burner. It works in much the same way but seems to be improved in every category. Naturally, the price will reflect this increase, but it’s still a relatively inexpensive device.
Like all stove-top style burners, this one is very versatile. It’s a good choice for those who want a burner for both cooking and smoking. For instance, if you take a camping trip, you might wish to enjoy a home-grilled meal followed by a nice relaxing hookah session.
Like all stove-top style burners, this one also pulls a lot of power. At 1000 watts, this thing is a hungry pig that will require plenty of energy to feed. However, it is very reassuring to see that the Impecca includes a safety cut-off switch.
The body of the device is made of cast iron, making it very hard to destroy. While this does add a little bit of weight, the slim profile and sleek design help to keep the weight at a reasonable level. Since iron is more vulnerable to rusting than steel, there will be a need to keep this one as dry as possible.
The simplicity of this design also makes the device easier to clean. No disassembly is needed for a routine cleaning, which means that you can just take a rag or some paper towels and wipe the whole thing off. The iron body also allows you to spray this thing down with oven cleaner for an easier job.
By now, you should have some idea about what kind of charcoal burner you want to buy. However, don’t go grabbing your wallets just yet. There are still a few more things that you need to know before you select your hookah coal burner.
Safety Should Always Come First
Any way you slice it, a burner like this is a fire hazard. Obviously, there is a question of degree, but there is no way to remove the risk. Therefore, you should always consider safety as one of the key components of a good hookah coal burner.
For one thing, try to buy one with an emergency cutoff. This is just a device that can tell when the burner is pulling too much power. When it detects this condition, it will shut itself off to prevent an overload and/or a fire. Some models will also come with a “wobble switch” cutoff that automatically turns off the burner if the device is jostled or turned.
You also get a little extra safety from burners with walls. Old-school hot plates are perfectly suitable for the task, but they present a greater risk of fire because there isn’t much to prevent the coals from rolling off. A red-hot piece of coal is probably one of the all-time quickest ways to ruin your carpet, so bear that in mind.
Look For A Convenient Size
The heating surface of your burner should be large enough to accommodate the number of coals that you usually heat at one time. When buying a coal burner, think about how many coals you are likely to use with each session. If you normally smoke solo, this won’t be too big of a concern, as most models will be large enough to suit your needs. But, as we all know, hookah smoking is often a social activity. Those who like to hang out at hookah bars or throw hookah parties will probably want a bigger burner to save time.
When you are heating your coals, you don’t need the kind of fine temperature control that cooking often requires. That being said, you want to make sure that you can exercise proper control. You might think that there’s nothing to it and that you can just throw the coals on the burner and turn the knob all the way.
If you do this, your coals will indeed heat up quickly, but they will also lose some of their mass in the process. Remember, you aren’t trying to burn the coals any more than necessary. You just want them red-hot. In this way, you can maximize the amount of time that you get from each coal. Of course, this also means that you spend a little less money on coals.
Of course, if you don’t turn the burner to a high enough setting, your coals will take forever to get that nice red glow that you want. This means frustration on the part of you and any guests you might have. Finding the right temperature to cook your coals is an inexact science that is learned through trial and error, but good temperature control is essential if you want to get it right.
Total Wattage Used
Have you ever wondered which appliances use the most electricity? It’s not hard to find that information, so many of you may already know the answer. Heating and cooling are the two biggest consumers of electricity, with heat being the more expensive of the two.
Now, look at some of the other big consumers of electricity. You will see ovens, dryers, and water heaters to be some of the biggest offenders. What do all these devices have in common? A heating element. Any appliance with a heating element is going to raise your electric bill in a significant way.
For this reason, you should always try to select a burner that runs at fairly low wattage. A hookah burner won’t use nearly as much power as a full-size stovetop, but they are not power-efficient by any means.
Look For A Tough Model
A hookah coal burner has to tolerate lots of heat, and it has to do so on a regular basis. This means that the quality of the steel is of paramount importance to the longevity of the device. Have you ever bought a backyard grill made of thin steel? It didn’t last very long, did it?
The coating of steel is also very important. Steel that is thickly enameled stands a much better chance against the ravages of time, heat and corrosion. Enameled steel is able to resist extremely high temperatures in a way that uncoated steels cannot match. and is clearly the best choice for a burner.
Most enamel coatings are ceramic-based, and those used for high-heat applications like this are probably going to be made from high-temperature ceramics. That’s very good, because of the fact that heat accelerates corrosion in ferrous metals.
This is a minor concern, which is why we have left it until the end. Some hookah coal burners are advertised as being multi-functional devices. In most cases, this adds up to a product that can heat food and drink just as well as it heats coals. Obviously, all burners are multi-functional devices by their very nature, but there is a question of how well-suited they are.
As you can see, most burners either look like doubled cooking pots or standard hot plates. For cooking, the standard hot plate offers more multi-functionality because it is large enough to a full-size skillet/pot to be placed on top. With the “cooking pot” design, the walls of the top pot will prevent most cooking vessels from being used. However, most of these will include a metal cover that can be placed on top of the burning coals so that their heat can heat a small food item or a cup of coffee/tea.
Having examined all of these products, we must now attempt to choose the best all-around option for most of our readers. Obviously, everyone has different habits and different requirements, but there are still some generalizations to be made. Overall, we must give the prize to the Ahadu burner.
The Ahadu burner excels in both safety and efficiency and suffers from only one flaw: a relatively weak handle. Apart from this, we had a hard time finding anything about which to complain. Most customers seem to report the same.
Further, we would say that the “double-pot” burners are probably better for hookah smokers, though they offer considerably less multi-functionality. If all you want is a device to heat your natural hookah coals, don’t bother with devices that are mainly intended for cooking.
We sincerely hope that our work has been helpful and that you will have no problems in selecting a fine hookah burner that will serve you well for years to come.