How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid Made Simple

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 24, 2021

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Outdoor grilling is fun, especially during the spring season when the weather is pleasant.

However, running out of lighter fluid could spoil the overall experience, especially if you have already invited friends to come over.

During situations like this, coals are often used. But this could cover your food with gray ash.

Also, you could smell a hint of chemicals on the food that you are cooking, plus the distinct odor coming from the lighter fluid.

Thankfully, there are ways how to light charcoal without lighter fluid.


How Do You Start a Fire without Lighter Fluid?

There are ways to get a fire going if you run out of lighter fluid. Just use some household supply.

  1. Pile charcoal in the grill or where you set the fire
  2. Soaked the paper towel or rag in cooking oil(leftover oil can use it here don’t waste the new one)
  3. Throw it on the coals and wrap around it
  4. Light the fire on the paper towel or rug
  5. Let them burn all it takes around 4 -5 minutes and done

How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid?

The easiest way to light a fire is to make use of a chimney starter. If this is the first time that you’ve heard of the chimney starter, then you’re probably curious as to how this thing works.

  1. Load up space at the bottom of the chimney with some paperstuffed-crumpled-paper-under-the-chimney
  2. Load up space at the top of chimney with charcoalput-charcoal-in-chimney
  3. Light the newspaper bottom the chimney.
  4. Let them burn about 10 – 15 minuteshow-to-light-charcoal-without-lighter-fluid
  5. After that Boom!! it doneput-burning-charcoal-in-the-grill

The fire that the paper produces will ignite the coals and you can now be ready to grill your meat.
Once the coals are covered with ash, you can get started with using your charcoal grill. The coals will usually be concentrated vertically in a small space, which is why using the chimney starter is truly effective. It’s capable of lighting enough coals that are good for heating a 22-inch kettle in just 15-20 minutes only! This method is much better than the lighter fluid and you won’t have to deal with any chemical smell that could potentially affect the taste of your food.

What Can be Used As a Substitute for Lighter Fluid?

If you prefer to use other alternatives or if you run out of lighter fluid, here are some of the best alternatives:

  1. Electric Metal Lighter
    For this lighter, the metal part is either in an oval or horseshoe shape. As the name suggests, this lighter is heated with electricity. Simply place it below a pile of wood chunks or charcoal and plug it to an electric outlet. Once the chunks have started to fire up or gray ashes are already appearing, you can remove the lighter.
  2. Metal Chimney
    This thing looks just like a flour sifter and with plenty of holes for ventilation. It’s placed directly into the grill and covered with a pile of crumpled paper. After you fill the chimney with paper, place the charcoal right above it. When you light up the paper with a match, heat will be produced and will go upward, which is when the charcoal starts burning.

Using lighter fluid to heat up charcoal grills is faster and more efficient. It works by dousing the charcoal with fluid, which you will then light up with a match. But the problem with heating up the charcoal with lighter fluid is that it tends to produce a somewhat explosive flame, which could be potentially dangerous.

Do You Need Lighter Fluid for Charcoal Grill?

If you got no metal chimney or electric metal lighter to use for your charcoal grill, you could simply use the lighter fluid to fire up your girl. But for your safety, make sure you learn the proper steps. Use a ¼ cup of lighter fluid for each pound of charcoal. Leave the liquid on the coal for up to 30 seconds and then carefully light the charcoal with a long match.

Can You Use Zippo Lighter Fluid on Charcoal?

You shouldn’t use a Zippo lighter because it will explode as there’s no open flame.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.