Knowing how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid is an essential skill for getting down to grilling. With all the awareness about natural ways of preparing food by using charcoal, it would be a shame to stop now. That’s why so many grilling enthusiasts are now eschewing lighter fluid and moving on to other options.
Too many of us know just the lighter fluid way of getting the grill going. Pile the charcoal in, douse it in lighter fluid, and throw in a lighted match. However, once you know how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, you probably won’t go back!
The lighter fluid leaves a weird taste in your grilled food and it's also quite dangerous. Luckily, there are still several easy alternatives that can give you that authentic taste and experience.
Why It’s Better Not To Use Lighter Fluid
Before you learn how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, you should understand why this step is necessary. Those of us who are used to the fluid process might feel frustrated, but lighter fluid actually harms your food.
First off, any fire that you start with lighter fluid will leave a nasty taste on the resulting food. You might be used to the taste by now, but the real deal will surprise you. When you spend so much on the perfect grill, the right equipment, and expensive steak, why compromise on taste?
What’s more, lighter fluid is dangerous and messy to handle. It also emits volatile compounds which can contribute to air pollution. Plus, some lighter fluids are much more expensive than the more natural means of starting a fire.
What Are The Alternatives?
If you don’t know how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, there’s no need to worry. The alternatives are plentiful and easy enough to learn. If you’re ready to experience the true taste of grilled food and opt for a more eco-friendly option, there’s a lot to learn.
The alternatives on hand include charcoal chimney starters, newspapers, dry twigs, fatwood, and an electric charcoal starter. Each of these might take a bit more time, energy, and alertness than lighter fluid. However, they’re better for your food, your health, and the environment.
What’s also great about these options is that they’re usually something you can use over and over again. The electric lighter and chimney starter are both options like these. Of course, you can always get dry starters like twigs and newspapers at a moment's notice.
Here's How To Light A Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid
If you’re still confused about how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, we’ve outlined the methods below. You can glance through them and feel free to try out the ones that strike your fancy.
You may have to invest in some equipment, but that won’t break the bank:
Using Dry Twigs
Dry twigs are an excellent alternative. You’ll need a few items for the dry twig method. These include the dry twigs themselves, some matches, some newspaper, and a bucket.
First of all, you need to fill the bucket with water in case of a fire emergency. You should also remember that this is an important step whenever you’re handling fire.
The next step in how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid is to wad up some sheets of newspaper. The wads should be loose balls, not tight. The number of the balls will depend on the size of the grill, with five being enough for the small ones.
Put the newspaper balls inside your grill, at the very bottom. If you’re using a fire pit, put the balls in a round pile.
Next, you’ll have to gather some small and dry twigs. Don’t get the green ones or any that are wet, as these won’t burn easily. Each twig should only be a quarter to a half-inch in diameter.
You can test the dryness of a twig by trying to snap it in half. If it breaks easily, it’s the right amount of dry. If it bends or resists breaking in any way, you might want to keep looking.
Once you have your twigs on hand, put them on top of the newspaper balls. There’s no need to cover the newspaper completely. You'll need some spaces in between in order to get a crackling fire as quickly as possible.
We feel that it’s best to collect a very large supply of twigs in one go. That way, you can have a supply on hand in case the fire goes out or the flames need stoking.
Using A Chimney Starter
The next lesson on how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid is through the use of a chimney starter. To be more specific, it’s known as a charcoal chimney starter. It’s a metal cylinder, with a grate at one end.
The grate of this cylinder will allow you to light our barbeque grill without hurting yourself. You fill up the cylinder or tube inside with charcoal and start a fire below it.
You may accomplish the latter with some newspaper balls as mentioned above. When the flames climb upward, you'll find that the stacked fuel catches aflame very easily.
In order to use the chimney properly, you have to first pack it with charcoal. If you’re aiming for a high temperature in a short amount of time, fill it right up to the brim. If you want a low, slow heating process, half of the chimney will be enough.
You should make sure to completely open up the air vents at the bottom of the grill. If you omit this step, your fire won’t get the oxygen it needs.
Put a few balls of newspaper underneath the chimney in the grill. Some manufacturers might recommend using a few chimneys at a time. However, one is usually enough, especially if you’re using a small grilling model.
The chimney will take about 15 to 20 minutes for lighting coal and making it hot enough for cooking. When this is done, you should pour in the charcoal. For this step, it’s always best to use heavy, heat-resistant gloves.
Finally, you can put on your cooking grate and then close down the lid to heat things up. It will only require around 5 or 10 minutes to get the temperature you need to start cooking.
Using An Electric Charcoal Starter
An electric charcoal starter might also go by the name of “charcoal iron.” It’s a great piece of equipment for lighting up your charcoal in a quick manner. You might want to get one of these if you want to start your grilling in about 10 minutes.
This item is different from a charcoal chimney in that it doesn’t require the use of newspaper balls. In fact, it doesn’t require matches either. You just need a nearby power outlet for your source, and that’s it.
The first step here is to pile up some charcoal briquettes or charcoal pieces inside the grill. These should be in a flat position.
The next step is to place the electric start on the charcoal layers. Next, pile up more of the charcoal around the iron.
First, spread some charcoal briquettes in the barbecue. They should be flat on the charcoal grate. You might even pile some on top.
After this, plug the charcoal starter in. You’ll soon see the charcoal around the starter turning red in color. It might also release some ash and the center will start glowing red. This process could take from 8 to 15 minutes.
Once you notice this change, unplug the iron and move it to safety. Make sure you only hold it by the handle.
As long as the iron is hot, place it in a safe place where no one will accidentally touch it. You should also place it away from flammable chemicals and materials. Since the start is electrical, it’s not recommended that you use water for the cooling process. Once it is cooled, you can store it in a safe place.
Fatwood is a kind of wood that’s highly combustible. It can easily burst into flame with just the help of a match. The texture of this wood is so rough that it can burn whether dry or wet, so it’s very useful for starting a grill.
Once you get fatwood burning, its temperature gets very high. In fact, this is the old conventional method for lighting your smoker or grill. It’s safe, natural, and quick at the same time.
There are no additives or chemicals in fatwood either. If you want to learn how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, this is one of the best ways.
Sweet fatwood is ideal here, especially after you cut it into chunks and make a shavings pile. Add some chunks of other wood for better airflow and support. Put on your charcoal and light up the whole thing!
Fatwood does tend to smoke a bit, though, so keep your distance in the beginning.
Whichever Method You Choose, Prepare Your Charcoal Grill First
Now that you know how to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, you should follow your grill’s instructions first. You need to know how to clean and prepare the grill before the next use. That way, you’ll have clean smoke that won’t leave a weird taste.
Before following any method of lighting a grill, you should have a good supply of charcoal on hand. One layer is enough for steaks and burgers while whole roasts and birds will need two.
You should also keep in mind that the charcoal needs to light up and heat properly. Therefore, it’s wise to allow for enough preheating time before you put the first item on the grate.
Let’s Practice Safe and Healthy Grilling
So how do you usually light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid?
We hope we’ve convinced you to try out some healthier alternatives. Many grillers go for the chimney option, as it’s quick, easy, consistent, and doesn’t create a mess. But which one of the methods above seems the best to you?
Do you have a favorite grilling tool or a personal lighting method? Comment and let us know!