How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid

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By Maria Turner • Last Updated: May 10, 2023 is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid

Charcoal is no doubt the best when it comes to grilling food. However, lighting it may not be an easy task. That takes us to the use of lighter fluid, and other ways that one can use to accelerate the lighting of charcoal. Well, lighter fluid works, best but some concerns have been raised about it. In fact, many people are looking for information about alternatives that can be used.

If you are among them, then you have come to the right place. This article gives you all the information you need to know about lighter fluid and the other alternatives that you can use when lighting your charcoal.

What Is a Lighter Fluid Made Out Of?

While lighter fluid is commonly used in homes to accelerate the ignition of charcoal, many users do not know what it is made out. Knowing what your lighter fluid is made will not only help you to understand how to handle it but will also give you hints of possible effects of using it if any. It would help if you always strive to make sure that you understand what you are using to accelerate the lighting of charcoal.

Charcoal lighter fluid is made of either petroleum or alcohol. Petroleum products often used in the making of this fluid are mineral spirits.

On the other hand, alcoholic products used are mainly ethanol and methanol. Just like other highly flammable products, petroleum-based charcoal lighters are regulated and even restricted in some places. The reason for their regulation is mostly because they have the potential of causing photochemical smog. You should find out if regulations in your area allow their use.

Most importantly, beware of potential hazards that may arise if you misuse the fluid.

The Reason Why Some People Avoid Using Lighter Fluid

Lighter fluid is beneficial when lighting charcoal, but for a couple of reasons, some people are avoiding it altogether. Some have completely stopped using it, and they will never use it again.

So what is so strange about the use of lighter fluid? Is there anything to be worried about if you like using it? Well, these are some of the answers that this article seeks to provide. Here are some of the leading reasons why some people avoid lighter fluid:

Unpleasant Taste

If you like grilling food when friends visit you then you might get disappointed someday if the lighter fluid is what you use to light your charcoal.

In most cases, soaking the charcoal in the liquid leaves an unpleasant smell in your grilled food especially if you use a lot of it. You should, therefore, beware of this as some people are already avoiding lighter fluid due to the unpleasant smell left in food.

Exposure to and Ingestion of Lighter Fluid is Harmful

As already hinted, lighter fluid is made of petroleum products, and some of them are harmful to your health if they find their way to your food. Exposure to such chemicals or accidental ingestion can lead to serious health problems. For instance, victims risk suffering cancer if they continually use it, and the compounds of the fluid keep getting into their food.

Some people also do not like using lighter fluid for other reasons such as its high price among others. However, the leading causes are usually the two discussed above. So what is the way forward if the use of lighter fluid can be harmful to one’s health? Well, there are a couple of alternatives that you can use if you are a fun of grilling food.

How Do You Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid (The Alternative Ways)

To start with, charcoal lighting fluid might not always be there for you to use it. You might find yourself in a situation where you want to light your charcoal, but your fluid is not there. Maybe you used it all the last time you were lighting, or you misplaced it, and you can’t trace it easily.

So what will you use at such times? Apart from that, there are instances when people avoid using lighting fluid for safety reasons as already explained. As a reminder, lighter fluid is poisonous if mishandled. It won’t poison your food, but it is harmful to your health if you accidentally swallow it.

Fortunately, lighter fluid is not the only thing you can use to accelerate the lighting of your charcoal, and you might also want to avoid it for safety reasons. Therefore, there needs to be an alternative for you.

How many options do you know? You need to not only understand them but also have mastery of how each alternative works. In so doing, you save yourself the embarrassment that might arise in case you do not have access to charcoal lighting fluid. Here are a couple of alternative methods you can use to light your charcoal without using lighter fluid:

1. Start and Build Small Fire at the Base of the Grill the Add Charcoal

One of the methods that you can use to light your charcoal without lighter fluid is to build a small fire at the base of the grill, then add charcoal to it. However, the first question that anyone would ask about this method is what you will use to build the small fire?

Well, there are a couple of ways to do it. One of the easiest techniques is to crumble up pieces of old mail or newspaper and place them at the central part of the grill. Paper or related materials light easily, and the chances are that you also have lots of them at home that you no longer use. So, give them a new use when lighter fluid is unavailable. Once you’ve started the fire, add the charcoal on top.

You need to be extra careful when adding, so you don’t put off the fire. If you do it gently, then this is the easiest of all alternative methods of lighting charcoal without lighter fluid. The most important thing to note is that papers that have a strong smell when burnt should be avoided. You might transfer the scent to your burger especially if you start grilling before the papers are fully burned.

2. Use a Charcoal Chimney

Charcoal chimneys are also another option you can use as an alternative to the use of lighter fluids when lighting your charcoal. Moreover, it is also one of the best choices if you are looking to save money. You will find them in stores at relatively affordable prices.

Some even sell as cheap as $11, and they work nicely if you know how to use them. They also last longer if you get good ones. That means you won’t have to keep buying new ones often. Have you ever used one? Here is how to use a charcoal chimney:

  1. The chimney has two parts, the lower and upper portions. Fill up the lower part with papers or any material you that lights easily then fill the top part with charcoal. A grate separates the two parts.
  2. Light the papers at the lower part and fan them to light the lower coals. Do so until the papers are completely burned to ashes.
  3. You will have perfect coals after a couple of minutes usually between 10 and 15. You can then drop the coals to your grill then go on with your grilling.

One last thing to note about this alternative is that chimneys come in different types. You can thus choose one that will meet your needs. All that said, this alternative works best, and you can opt for it if you do not want to use lighter fluid to light your charcoal.

3. Use Charcoal That Is Infused With Lighter Fluid

You have probably heard about fluid-infused briquettes or charcoal already infused with fluid as it is commonly referred to as by some people.

This is also another alternative though it is not much different from buying lighter fluid and using it. The trick is that they already have the fluid, and hence there is no need to get additional fluid to use when lighting it.

In most cases, fluid-infused briquettes will force you to spend a little bit more amount than you would have spent with the usual stuff.

The extra amount of money is worth since they are very efficient when it comes to lighting. But as a precaution, avoid exposing them to air since they will dry up, and light will be a bit difficult. Therefore, make sure that you close the remaining briquettes tightly if you buy a lot or won’t use all of it at once.


Now you know the secret. Those are the three alternatives that you can consider if you are no longer interested in using lighter fluid.

The choice of any of these methods is purely a matter of personal preference, and maybe what is readily available to you at any given time. The absence of charcoal fluid should not be a reason for you not to grill. So master these options and try them out occasionally to see which one works best for you.