A charcoal grill can produce amazing flavor but can be even better if you don’t use lighter fluid. Using a charcoal grill without lighter fluid might seem a bit daunting at first– after all, some charcoals even have it built in!
However, it is not as difficult as you might think and is worth the very small amount of effort that it takes.
Don’t sweat it though, if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to light a grill without all the traditional means to do so, well, it is.
There are a few key safety hints to take into account, but also a few great ideas to make sure your evening isn’t ruined and your food as delicious (and safely cooked) as possible!
Best part is, it does not take a lot of practice to master this technique. Call your friends and family over and get the food prepped, because you will be eating it in no time!
Can You Start a Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid?
The simple answer is, yes you can! Of course, there are rules and guidelines you should stick to. You should always make sure you’re fire safety compliant at all times, but you needn’t worry otherwise.
Not everyone who has regular barbecues, or cooks outside likes this kind of fluid. Some grilling aficionados see it as their enemy. They say that it taints the food, or that you can taste it in every bite of the first few burgers, chops, or sausages that come off the coals.
Not only that, but the odor can linger too, on your clothes, hair, and even into your home. Who wants that? Outdoor living should be fun, enjoyable, and relaxed – not filled with smoke and dread!
There are some really simple alternatives to try if you don’t like the above option and they’re all easy to get right the first time if you follow the instructions.
You’ll be enjoying delicious grilled food in no time at all, and best of all? You know you can do it without using anything you hate!
5 Easy Ways To Start a Charcoal Grill Without Using Lighter Fluid
It can be easy, and effort-free to light a grill or barbecue without using anything out of the ordinary. It’s fair to say that there are some pretty random and weird alternatives out there online, which should be avoided.
Stick to tried and tested methods and items that you can either buy in easily or might already have in your garage or shed at home. That way you’ll get the best (and safest) experience possible.
1 ) With a Chimney Starter
This is such an easy way to get a grill started. A chimney starter is basically an open-ended metal cage that has a grate inside it – usually near the bottom.
The reason it’s known as a chimney is that the charcoal is lit from the very bottom, all the way up to the top.
All you need to do here is place the right amount of charcoal in the top of the cylinder and then light a little fire under the grate. You can use screwed up newspaper for this.
Once you’ve got the coals as hot as they need to be, you carefully place them into the smoker.
Here, you might need to add in more coals depending on how hot you need them to be for whatever meal you’re creating, and then start to cook your food!
It goes without saying, but always wear heat-protective gloves when handling a chimney starter and make sure you’re not wearing sliders or other types of open shoes, too. Always keep your hands, legs, and feet covered!
2 ) With a Blow Torch
This isn’t as scary as it sounds and using a blowtorch can produce a very effective burn that cooks food safely and evenly. It’s also a super quick starter too.
Don’t be put off by something that’s seen as a heavy duty tool. It’s speedy, effective, and can help you produce some of the best barbecued food you’ll taste.
It’s easy to use and many blow torches offer squeeze handles which offer an extra layer of ‘control’ over the amount of flame your produce.
To use this method, make sure your grill is filled with charcoal, and then use your blowtorch to carefully target roughly three or four spots on the coals. Do this for a minute or so, on each spot you’ve picked.
The next stage is to make sure that the charcoal receives enough oxygen supply to get it going.
Once that’s happened, tightly clamp on a lid and watch and wait whilst the temperature reaches the right level to cook whatever foods you’re planning to eat. This way of lighting ensures that you’ll get a really even cook, it might be a tad slower, but the food will be just as delicious.
3 ) Using Lighter Cubes
Whilst many people say they can detect the taste of lighter fluid in their food after it’s been used to grill, lighter cubes offer a better alternative to getting a barbecue started, without the additional smell and taste factor. They’re very quick and simple to use too.
To use lighter cubes to get your charcoal grill going is easy! All you need to do is make sure that there’s a tidy pyramid of charcoal which is constructed in the bottom of the grate.
Into the center of this, you need to place a couple of lighter cubes. Take care when lighting them. In fact, it’s often better to have longer matches or a safety lighter to ignite them.
Stand back now and wait for the charcoal to light itself fully. It’s simple enough to tell when that’s happened as the coals will be covered in a layer of ash that is white in color.
An important safety tip to note is that if you’re using lighter cubes they’ve got to be completely burned out before you attempt to cook anything on the grill.
Ideally one should not cook anything at all for the first 10 minutes . The next stage is then to arrange your charcoal and begin to cook your food according to how long or short a time it needs.
4 ) Electric Starters
Electric starters are one of the fastest, most reliable ways to start a grill. Most models are made with a long handle and a long oval or rectangular-shaped burner coil. The long handle makes it safe to use.
You begin by creating a base of charcoal; usually one to two layers thick, forming a short pyramid.
Next, place the starter on top of the coals, making sure to touch as many as possible. Place more coals on top of the electric starter until you have the pyramid higher.
Once you have your pyramid built, simply turn the electric starter on and wait. It will take 5-10 minutes for the coals to ignite, and at that time, you want to very gently remove the starter from the grill.
Please be sure to remember to place the handle in an area that will not get too hot. In addition, using a silicone oven mitt that was manufactured for high heat usage is also a good idea.
There are some models of starters called Looftlighters. These are barrel-shaped and work by pushing air through the hot tube, and can take about 60 seconds to light your pyramid of charcoal. However, this style is markedly more expensive than the traditional starter–but as a bonus, there is a built-in bottle opener!
Also, note that both of these methods require electricity, so they may not be an option for certain situations like primitive camping.
5 ) Using Old Newspapers
Using old things for a new purpose is always a good thing. So save up those old newspapers to use as fuel for your next day of grilling. Combine it in a charcoal chimney and you have got an easy, efficient way to start the grill.
Start by wadding up several pieces of the newspaper and put the wadded-up paper in the bottom of the chimney. Add in the charcoal, filling it to the top with charcoal. This creates maximum heat.
Set the chimney in the bottom of your grill, and then carefully use a match or long-reach lighter to ignite the newspaper. Once you see ash forming on the top pieces of charcoal, you are ready to release the coals into the grill.
Simply use the handles to release– but be careful of hot ash and embers that can fly around. It is a hazard whenever you use charcoal to cook.
This method will have you looking like a pro, and your chimney can also be used to start fires in fire pits or rings as well. Just replace your charcoal with small pieces of wood and let the sparks fly.
Be aware, however, that this method works best on traditional grills. The handle can be harder to use on grills that are more narrowly or deep shaped.
Better Fires, Better Food
All of these methods of starting charcoals burning will produce good food without the chemicals. There are also different types of natural charcoal that are readily available at most stores.
Lighter fluid should be avoided because it leaves a petroleum byproduct on your food. According to Drs. Oz and Roizen, lighter fluid can also release a carcinogen as it burns.
Plus, it certainly does not help the flavor of the food! Charcoal is definitely a fun way to cook your food, and the flavor cannot be matched by gas or propane grills.
There is nothing like a thick, juicy piece of meat cooked over the flames to start your appetite and make you the host for many gatherings this summer!