How to Light a Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid (5 Simple Methods)

When it comes to lighting up your charcoal grill, it’s no secret that lighter fluid isn’t the best thing to use.

For starters, lighter fluid is essentially a less lethal form of kerosene.

And we can all agree that kerosene is the last thing we want our food to come into contact with before we eat it!

Who wants to taste the unpleasant flavor of lighter fluid while they’re eating perfectly grilled or smoked meat?

So let’s find out the best ways to avoid using it!

Why Is Using Lighter Fluid a Bad Idea?

The problem is that the hazardous chemicals in lighter fluid do not burn away with the fire once the lump charcoal is lit.

This means that it can easily spread to our food during the cooking process. Which can cause serious harm to our overall health.

If the health risks aren’t enough of a deterrent, you should also be aware that it harms the taste and smell of your food.

We’re sure that you’ve also realized that lighter fluid tends to leave your foods with a mild chemical taste.

What Are Some Other Methods?

The good news is that using this harmful liquid isn’t the only way method of lighting charcoal pieces.

There are many other tools and substances that you can use to have those hot coals burning red.

There are some cheap options and effective solutions out there. (Seriously, some of these methods just include the simple solution of lighting up crumpled paper towels!) Continue reading further to find out all about it.

Charcoal Chimney Starter

A charcoal chimney starter is a very useful, yet inexpensive tool that a lot of pitmasters use to start up their charcoal grills.

It’s very easy and simple to use. And it might be the most excellent way to light charcoal that we’ll introduce to you today. 
The first thing that you’ll want to do is to fill the top of the charcoal chimney with charcoal briquettes.

The charcoal grate is what splits the contraption into two parts. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about the pieces of charcoal slipping out at the bottom. 
Next, you’ll want to scrunch up some sheets of newspaper into balls and stuff them under the bottom part of the tool. You can even tear up brown paper bags and use that. 
After that, you’ll want to light the pieces of newspaper with any old household lighter. The lit piece of newspaper will heat the charcoal pieces.

And in about 15 minutes you should have a bunch of lit coals that are just ready to go into your charcoal-type grill. 

Invest in a Looftlighter

A Looftlighter essentially looks like a stick lighter and it does produce any flames or use any gas.

Instead, it superheats the air in its cylinder and this is what lights all of your fresh charcoal pieces.
Just make sure that there’s a layer of charcoal briquettes in the body of your grill.

Then plug the Looftlighter into an electrical outlet. And hover the end of the charcoal lighter over the coals, and in no time at all, you’ll be left with perfectly hot charcoal.
The only downside about Looftlighters is their price tag.

They’ll easily set you back about a hundred dollars. But it’s worth it if you’re serious about being a charcoal grill pitmaster. It can save you heaps of time, and make using your charcoal grill a breeze.

The Classic Newspaper or Kindling Method

That’s right. Just ordinary newspaper. While it’s not the best solution we have, it’s a cheap solution that never fails to work.

All you’ve got to do is make newspaper balls. You’ll want to make about five or six of those.

Next, just toss them into the charcoal grill body then pour a nice charcoal pile on top of the newspaper balls.

After that, you’ll just want to finish by lighting up a few pieces of paper and place them into the grill.

You want to make sure that these lay on top of the layer of charcoal, but are also in contact with the newspaper balls underneath everything.

It’s also important to note that oxygen is your best friend in this situation. The flame needs enough airflow to burn nicely.

So be sure to leave the bottom vents of the grill open and that there’s enough airflow going through.

There’s Always the Electric Charcoal Starter

If you’re not a fan of lighting things up manually, and you’re a fan of getting things done fast, then this last alternative is for you.

An electric fire starter will have your charcoal lit so quickly! 
All you have to do is plug it into an electrical outlet, flick a switch, and it will function similarly to a large fire torch.

After that, simply aim it at a section of the charcoals, and the entire grill will be lit in no time.
The only significant disadvantage of this product is that it requires electricity.

This means it’s great for backyard barbecues, but you won’t be able to rely on it for a spontaneous BBQ session in the wilderness.

So there you have it. You don’t need to use lighter fluid into get your charcoal hot!

There are so many other alternatives that you can pick! And they range from free options like newspapers to pricier solutions like a Looftlighter.

Either way, it’s important to remember that you should always put health and safety first.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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