How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid

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Video how to start a campfire without lighter fluid

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and that means charcoal grilling is in full force. Just imagine veggies, fish, and various meats beautifully seared. It’s enough to make our mouths water!

If you plan on getting out the charcoal grill this summer or want to build a charcoal fire pit in your backyard, you may be wondering how to light charcoal without lighter fluid.

In this helpful guide, we’ll go over a few different ways for starting charcoal without lighter fluid. Some methods are definitely more effective and efficient than others but you can find the option that works best for you. Once you know how to light charcoal naturally (and easily) you can get back time for what really matters most.

Why To Not Light Your Grill with Lighter Fluid

Before we jump into how to light charcoal without lighter fluid, we need to discuss why you might not want to use charcoal lighter fluid to light charcoal grills.

The very obvious reason as to why you might not want to use charcoal lighter fluid is because its a toxic chemical. Not only can it be dangerous to keep around the house or cook with, but it can leave a chemical taste on food that is less than enjoyable. Bonfire lighter fluid also doesn’t need to be used for lighting a fire pit. There’s plenty other natural ways to light a fire.

Now that that’s out of the way – let’s discuss the various ways to go about lighting your grill without pouring on lighter fluid.

5 Methods to Light Your Charcoal Grill without Lighter Fluid

The Charcoal Chimney Method

A charcoal chimney is one of the most popular methods for lighting charcoal. It’s a favorite amongst grillers because it’s clean and cheap, works well, and is relatively quick compared to lighting the coal from inside your grill.

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If you aren’t familiar with what a chimney starter is, it’s a metal tube with a handle on one side, a metal grate near the bottom, and some holes for ventilation. It’s designed to hold your charcoal or briquettes when you ignite them from the bottom. Because it is ‘self-fanning,’ you can get light and hot coals in a short amount of time.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Place two sheets of bunched up newspaper in the bottom of the chimney. Avoid packing it too tight as this can restrict air-flow.
  2. Pour in the lump charcoal or briquettes on the top. For maximum heat in your grill, fill the chimney to the top. For slow cooking, only fill it halfway.
  3. Place the chimney in the bottom of the grill and light the newspaper. Let it all catch fire.
  4. Once the coals are covered with gray ash on top, you can carefully dump your coals into the grill and evenly spread them out.

A charcoal chimney starter is inexpensive and involves absolutely no nasty chemicals or electricity. However it’s important to keep in mind that this method can take about 20-30 minutes to light up charcoal.

Using a Fire Lighter or Fire Starter Method

This is another cost-effective way to light your charcoal grill without lighter fluid. Firelighters or fire starters use paraffin wax or vegetable oil, compressed cardboard or wax coated wood shavings to ignite the charcoal.

Unlike lighter fluid, which has a long history of health dangers, the fire starter method does the work without any chemical taste. This is because paraffin wax is non-toxic and doesn’t leave any odor or residue.

The fire starter method is also relatively inexpensive, but most people tend to use it along with another method like a chimney starter or torch. Without those, a fire starter on its own can only really last 10 to 15 minutes.

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Not sure how to use a charcoal grill? Find out here.

Paper, Kindling, Charcoal Method

If you’re really stuck, you can always go the old-fashioned route and light charcoal using paper and kindling. This is the most natural way to light charcoal briquettes out there! Most people have access to newspaper or dry twigs for kindling so that part is easy. The tricky part is having the patience and fire-building skills to actually light the fire. The process can be slow and difficult, but it is doable!

To light charcoal using the paper and kindling method, follow these steps:

  1. Create a base for your fire by putting down a layer of lump charcoal or briquettes. Remember to remove your grill grate to do this!
  2. Get 4-5 pages of wadded up newspaper and make a small pile in the middle of the grill.
  3. Add kindling to the newspaper in a criss-cross pattern. Small, dry pieces of wood, like twigs work best. The drier the kindling, the easier it will be to light.
  4. Place your charcoal over the starter and light the newspaper. Let it catch fire.
  5. Once some of the charcoal lights and starts to ash over, add more to build up your fire. You can also move the unlit twigs around so that they light too.

It’s definitely a more labor-intensive method and doesn’t always give you the results you’re looking for. While the inconsistency may turn you away, if you do succeed, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you lit your charcoal grill without lighter fluid or starters. And that’s impressive!

Learn how to reuse and relight your charcoal here.

Using an Electric Charcoal Starter

If you want to light a charcoal grill again without chemicals, an electric charcoal starter can work.. This tool is similar to an electric stove burner element but it’s bent in a “U” shape and has a handle. Here’s how to light charcoal without lighter fluid using an electric charcoal starter:

  1. Place the burner element in the base of the grill with the handle sticking out.
  2. Mound the charcoal on top
  3. Make sure it’s plugged in
  4. Once the coals start to glow, unplug the burner and remove it
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Unlike using paper and kindling to light your charcoal grill, this method takes just a few minutes.

Paper Products Found at Home

Another way to light charcoal without using lighter fluid is by putting down crumpled up newspaper or paper towels and piling charcoal on top.

Gather up all your old mailers, ads, and other paper sources together. Then, stuff them in the bottom of the charcoal chimney. You can also wad it up, drizzle them a little bit of cooking oil and create a charcoal pile on top.

This method, however, can be hit or miss. Without the chimney to concentrate that heat, the paper can burn out before the charcoal really gets hot.

The Easiest, Fastest Method: The RocketFire™ Torch

For the fastest and easiest way to light a fire without lighter fluid, look no further than the RocketFire Torch. It requires absolutely no matches, kindling, or liquids and has the ability to light wood or charcoal in just a matter of seconds.

Its Tri-Flame Cone Tip offers even flame distribution which allows it to light faster and more consistently than ever before. Plus, its stainless steel tip spreads flames further than any other firestarter by creating a 60-degree tri-flame spread. You can even remove the tip for the 10” flame for a sous vide finish. It’s the perfect addition to your summer BBQ and leaves your food tasting delicious with absolutely no chemical taste.

Try it for yourself this summer.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>