It’s no secret that lighter fluid isn’t the best thing to use when it comes to starting up charcoal grills for a nice charcoal barbecue.
For one, lighter fluid is essentially a mild type of kerosene. And we can all agree that kerosene is the last thing that we’d want our food exposed to before we ingest it.
The thing is that the harmful chemicals in the lighter don’t burn off with the fire. This means that it can easily spread to our food during the cook, and it can cause some serious damage to our overall health.
It can also have an effect on the taste and smell of your food.
So, what’s the solution to this? Is there such a thing as a lighter fluid substitute?
And the answer is ‘yes’! Of course! There are quite a few light fluid alternatives that you can try out, that won’t be detrimental to your health nor ruin the taste of the food you cook.
1. Have You Tried Using a 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 might be the most excellent substitute that we’ll introduce to you today. It’s also very simple and easy to use too. The first thing that you’ll want to do is to fill the top of the chimney starter with your unlit charcoal briquettes.
The charcoal grate is what divides the contraption into two parts. So you won’t have to worry about the pyramid of charcoal slipping out from the bottom.
After that, you’ll want to scrunch up some paper into balls and stuff them under the bottom part of the tool.
After that, you’ll want to light the paper with a common household lighter. The paper will ignite 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.
2. You Can Use Alcohol as a Substitute Too
We all know how flammable alcohol can be. That’s why it’s a great substitute for lighter fluid. The most popular form of alcohol that people tend to use when starting up their charcoal grill is whiskey.
This is because it’s made from barley and is known to contain components of glucose. While there’s talk of sugar being combustible, the amount found in whiskey is too minuscule for this. However, its presence will still help facilitate a good burn.
While whiskey is a great choice because of its a high-proof alcohol, any liquid that has some form of alcohol content should work too. For example, mineral spirits, isopropyl alcohol, and even alcohol for cleaning will also work. Of course, the strong the better. So, 190-200-proof alcohol would be very effective.
The method for using alcohol as an alternative consists of …
- Filling the bottom half of the grill with charcoal.
- Soaking some paper towels in alcohol and placing those on top of the coals.
- Lighting up a piece of paper or a match and tossing it into the grill.
You don’t want to directly light the alcohol-soaked paper towel because it’s extremely flammable. And the alcohol flames can be capable of causing some pretty nasty burns.
3. Scrunch Up Some Newspaper
Yes, newspaper is a perfectly acceptable substitute. However, it’s not the greatest one out of our list. While it’s a very cheap solution, it doesn’t exactly work the best. With that being said, it will work but there’s a certain method that you’ll have to rely on.
First of all, you should crumple up a few sheets of newspaper. Once you’ve formed about six newspaper balls, you’ll want to place them into the empty charcoal grill. Next, you should cover the newspaper layer with a reasonable amount of charcoal. Lastly, you’ll want to light up a folded sheet of paper and place it into the grill so that it burns the newspaper.
It’s also important to note that in this case, the more oxygen the better. So be sure to leave the bottom vents of the grill open and that there’s enough airflow going through.
4. Animal Fat or Cooking Oils Also Work
This substitute works just like the alcohol solution. Start by filling up the body of your grill with charcoal. Next, soak some paper towels in whatever cooking oil you have on hand. Then you’ll want to place them on top and amongst the coal pieces. Following on from that, fold up a piece of paper, light it, and throw it into the mix.
This method works better than the normal newspaper method because the oils ensure a longer burn. This means that there’s a higher chance that more charcoal pieces will be lit in the process.
On the other hand, the newspaper method might call for many tries or lots of sheets because it’s likely that the fire will go out too soon. This is because newspaper burns rather quickly.
5. Have Any Egg Cartons Lying Around?
If you’re looking for another cheap option, then egg cartons work surprisingly well. Of course, we’re talking about the cardboard ones that you throw out every single week.
It’s also super simple to use as a starter. First off, you’ll want to situate the carton on top of the unlit charcoal pieces in the grill.
Next, just fill up the hollows of the carton with a few more coal pieces. After that, you’ll just want to light up a match and use that to set fire to the corners of the egg carton.
It will then burn all around the coal pieces, and you’ll soon be able to cover the whole thing with grill grates and get cooking!
6. Last But Not Least — the Electric Fire Starter
If you’re not a fan of light a match and you like things done as quickly as possible, then this last suggestion is for you.
An electric fire starter will have your charcoal lit in under a minute! All you have to do is plug it into an outlet, press a button and it essentially works like a large butane torch.
After that, you just need to aim it at a section of the charcoals, and soon the whole grill will be lit in almost no time.
The only real downside of this product is that it requires electricity. This means that it’s great for backyard barbecue sessions, but you won’t be able to use it if you’re having an impromptu BBQ in the wilderness.
Well, that’s it for our list of lighter fluid alternatives. There are so many ways to get your charcoal grill up and burning without resorting to using harmful chemicals.
All of the suggestions we’ve introduced to you are also guaranteed to not have a nasty effect on the taste or smell of your food.
Just be sure to try each one of them out to find the right method for you. And if you have a different substitute that you use, be sure to let us know!
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!
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