How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? Did you know that there are many ways to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid, which is harmful to the environment? In this blog post, I am going to show you how!
Charcoal grills can release harmful toxins into the environment and cause respiratory problems in people who use them. Lighter fluid also has a strong smell that can be unpleasant for some people. Fortunately, there are a few different products on the market that allow consumers who don’t want to use lighter fluids as an alternative way of starting their grill. These include: -A chimney starter-which uses heat from an open flame or stovetop burner to light your briquettes -An electric starter-which plugs directly into an outlet or extension cord and…
Lighter Fluid: What It Is And Why We Avoid It
What is lighter fluid?
Lighter fluid is a flammable liquid that is soaked into or sprayed onto fire starting material to accelerate flame development. It works by providing a free source of fuel for the combustion reaction and does so by releasing easily ignitable vapors at room temperature. This process of turning a liquid fuel into a gas occurs through evaporation, an endothermic reaction in which the liquid absorbs heat from its surroundings and transforms into vapor without itself reaching high temperatures.
Flammability [or ease with which it will burn] depends on several properties:
The flash point . This is the temperature below which, when given an ignition source, there exists enough vapor pressure in flammable liquid mixture to ignite above the surface of the liquid [ i.e. some will not burn and it won’t explode if given a spark ] .
The flash point is an indication of how easy or difficult it would be to ignite the fuel [the lower the flashpoint, the easier it is to start on fire].
Materials with low flash points such as ethers , acetone , and ethyl nitrite sold under trade names such as “butyl cellosolve” [and others] are particularly dangerous. The explosive limits of a mixture of flammable gas in air indicate at what concentrations from vapors, mists, dusts, or sprays a flammable or explosive mixture in air will exist at various atmospheric temperatures.
Mixtures below their explosive limits are too lean to burn while those above will burn at a very slow rate.
To determine the degree of danger involved in working with these materials, it is necessary to know both the lower explosive limit and the upper explosive limit of any mixture. A gas below its lower explosive limit is too lean to burn; one above that limit burns slowly, if at all. The flash point indicates how easy or difficult it would be to ignite the fuel. Materials are most dangerous when they have relatively low flash points and high vapour concentrations. Explosive limits indicate at what concentration mixtures become flammable or explosive even though their flash points may indicate safety.
Why We Avoid It?
The flammable fluid in many charcoal grills is easily accessible, highly concentrated, cheap, readily available everywhere, and seemingly harmless – thus making it the fuel of choice for most people. Unfortunately for them, this substance is also dangerous to inhale, emits harmful chemicals when burned at high temperatures resulting in the formation of potentially carcinogenic compounds (e.g., benzene), relatively inefficient with regard to caloric energy output vs input required to produce it, can damage equipment by corrosion or other means if not disposed of correctly , and contributes to deforestation .
When faced with these facts almost everyone agrees that lighter fluid should be avoided . But really what’s so bad about it?
Let’s take a look:
– Breathe vapors of toxic chemicals in the air
– Contributes to deforestation through production and release into environment
– Leaves harmful residues on food if used to start fire
– Corrodes metal components or removes protective coatings, e.g., stainless steel tanks, brass fittings
– Inefficient (1 fluid ounce for every 10 charcoal briquettes when using standard lighter fluids)
– Releases carcinogenic compounds when burned
– Dangerous (Child safety cap, not meant to be opened by human hand)
Different ways to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid
How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? Did you know that there are actually several right ways to light your charcoal grill? While it might seem like an easier way to just dump lighter fluid on the coals and set them ablaze, doing so leads to excess flavor in your food that will eventually leave you with a headache. This method produces carcinogens that will linger in the air for hours after the fire has been extinguished. It is not only bad for your health but can cause irreversible damage to nearby plants and pets as well. If you would rather avoid these unpleasant consequences by lighting your BBQ pit the right way, follow these steps instead.
The Charcoal Chimney Method
Do you want to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? I used to think that the only way to do this was through one of those fire starters you can buy in stores, but it turns out there are better, cheaper, and more effective ways.
The most popular method is called the chimney starter. This uses newspaper or other combustible material at the bottom of the container to let air get in when needed and also preheat your coals so they will light more easily and produce less smoke than normal. This same concept applies for grilling with wood chips. After lighting your coals, just pour them into your grill and cook away!
The only real downside of using this method is having ashes all over your grill when you are done cooking. The solution to this is very simple; use aluminum foil in the bottom of your grill before lighting your charcoal chimney! When you are done, just pick up the aluminum foil with all the ashes still on it and throw them away (after shaking off any excess into the garbage can).
Using a chimney starter is much better than using lighter fluid because it allows air to enter through the bottom while letting flame come out of the top. This means that there will be less smoke when starting your fire so you won’t choke or cough as much while grilling. You also don’t have to worry about fumes getting in contact with food because they’ll never even get started, so there will always be that perfect grilled taste without the added chemicals.
When purchasing a chimney starter, make sure to get one with wire mesh on the bottom (not just metal bars). I used one like this before and it worked well for years even though I’ve accidentally melted holes in it because of lighter fluid catching fire inside the container. I found mine at Walmart for five bucks, but they can also be bought online or at other stores; just make sure you don’t pay more than ten dollars!
How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? If you already have a charcoal grill or smoker, congratulations! You now know how to start your fire without lighter fluid so you can stop polluting our world and enjoying better-tasting food.
Fire Lighter or Fire Starter Method
Start A Charcoal Grill All the time, people use lighter fluid to start a charcoal grill. I strongly recommend using an unconventional method to light your coals instead of lighter fluid. The reason for this is that lighter fluid leaves petroleum residue on your food which can affect its taste and flavor. Another reason not to use lighter fluid is that it produces lots of smoke which can be very irritating to eyes and lungs.
How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? Fire lighter or fire starter method is the easiest way to light a charcoal grill. It doesn’t produce much odor and it lights up quickly.
2.2.1 Fill charcoal chimney with charcoal (use coals that are ready for cooking).
2.2.2 Set grill on hot side of charcoal grate. Make sure there is no heat source underneath the grill grate. If any part of this setup has an indirect heat source, then you must use another method to light your coals (see articles about lighting methods ). The goal of using the fire starter method is to start without having to wait for the coal to catch fire – once the coal catches fire, you will not be able to spread it out evenly throughout the pile
2.2.3 Place newspaper in the bottom of the grill under the cooking grates.
2.2.4 Hold one edge of the paper on the stove, light it with a match or lighter and quickly place it into charcoal chimney. The newspaper will easily catch fire if you let it burn for half a minute first.
2.2.5 Don’t walk away! The goal here is to light your coals within five minutes, so stay close by. After about 30 seconds, make sure that there are small flames coming out of the top of the chimney – if not, then use an alternate method to ignite your coals (see articles about lighting methods). If there are flames but they aren’t very strong at this point, wait another minute or two before placing more kindling underneath the chimney.
2.2.6 When the coals are glowing red, pour them out onto the charcoal grate – spread them evenly throughout the grill by raking them with a garden hoe or fireplace poker.
2.2.7 Wait for 15-20 minutes before grilling to let your coals turn grey in color. White-hot coals cannot provide proper searing heat . If you want to roast meats, start by using fast cooking techniques (i.e., indirect cooking). Every additional fifteen minutes of waiting time will help improve your fire’s efficiency, so plan ahead!
2.2.8 Use slow cooking techniques for foods that take longer than an hour to cook. The food will taste better because there won’t be much charring on the surface.
The Looftlighter Method
This is my preferred method for lighting a lump charcoal grill.
I’ve found it to be ridiculously fast, reliable, and fun! The Looftlighter was developed in Europe by the same people who make The Chimney Starter . It’s basically a forced air blower that forces clean filtered air into the center of your burning charcoal. You can buy one at Amazon or another retailer of small hand-held gasoline powered outdoor appliances . I’m sure you could rig up something similar using a shop vac if desired, but why bother?
First off, the obligatory glamour shot:
The Looftlighter Method
STEP 1. Open all vents on your grill, put the cooking grate in place, set your chimney starter on the grate, and dump your lit charcoal on the top of the chimney.
Most grilled food is cooked at temperatures between 225°F (107°C) and 600°F (316°C). For those times when you need a rapid heat-up, such as when you’re cooking something really thick like pork loin or a big pot of water for pasta, this method works great. I used it to quickly bring 2 gallons (7.6 L) of cold tap water up to 165°F (74°C), which is my target temperature for poaching salmon fillets:
STEP 2. While all that’s going on, get yourself a small stick or pencil.
STEP 3. Unfold The Looftlighter and position it towards the bottom vent of your grill. If your grill isn’t very wide, just set it on top if that’s more convenient.
STEP 4. Insert the stick into the end of The Looftlighter nozzle, then quickly but carefully open the lid of your grill to position the nozzle over the lit charcoal in your chimney starter. When you’re ready, pull out the pencil. A hot flame should shoot out from The Looftlighter nozzle immediately!
STEP 5. With one hand on The Looftlighter nozzle and one hand grasping something near where you’ll be standing (like a rock or a table leg), squeeze the trigger for about 5 seconds, release for 1 second, then squeeze for about 5 seconds again. Repeat this cycle three or four times until you see a small bright orange spot forming on top of the charcoal, then get ready to step back!
STEP 6. After another couple seconds, your charcoal should all ignite at once with a big whoosh sound and bright flame. Let it burn for 10 to 20 seconds without touching anything before closing the lid.
STEP 7. When you’re finished cooking, just turn off The Looftlighter and let it cool down before placing it somewhere safe until next time you grill!
Paper, Kindling, Charcoal Method
Starting a charcoal grill is simple. It requires only three things: paper, kindling, and charcoal. There are a variety of ways to set up a fire for grilling, but all of them follow this basic formula.
How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? Start by crumpling one or two sheets of newspaper into tight balls. You can also use pieces from the Sunday funnies, shopping circulars, old mail—anything thin and absorbent will work as paper. The thinner it is, though, the more you’ll have to rely on your match book or lighter fluid to get the process started.
If you’re using lighter fluid (which we recommend against), squirt some onto the paper. This will allow you to light the fire with fewer matches or a single lighter, though it does mean you’ll have to wait before you can cook until all of the fluid evaporates.
Next, pile some kindling on top of the crumpled newspaper. One or two small twigs should do—anything thicker than your pinky is overkill for this step. The thinner they are, however, the less flex they’ll have in the heat (which means they may snap instead of bending), so err on the side of slimness. Place them carefully atop one another like an obtuse triangle; don’t worry if it’s not perfect because you’re about to throw off its balance anyway.
Now, place a few larger pieces of kindling across the tip of the triangle. The base should be propped up on top of your paper; we like to use three or four thin pieces that we twist into a starburst pattern (see below). This part is important: lay them in such a way that you end up with an obtuse angle at the bottom and stable support for your cooking grate at the top. You can stack them side-by-side if you’d like, but leave some space between them so air can flow freely throughout the grill.
Finally, set some charcoal on top of your kindling. A single chimney full should do nicely—the standard amount for most grills. If your kindling has a gap between it and the charcoal, don’t worry—you’ll be adding more to fill that space soon enough. Light the paper through its tip with a lighter or matches and stand back as it burns.
Once the paper has burned out, you should have a small pile of hot coals ready to cook on. We recommend waiting until they’re ash-white before cooking, but if that’s too long for you then feel free to use them now. Just keep in mind that any drippings from uncooked burgers or steaks will produce flare-ups later once those drips hit their still-flaming charcoal—a sure way to set off your smoke detector (or anger your apartment manager).
To add more charcoal, carefully lift the pile of your kindling with tongs as much as possible and pour in a chimney-full. Again, wait until the coals are ash-white before cooking over them. Once you’ve added all of your charcoal, adjust your vent settings (if applicable; see our article Charcoal Grills: Know Your Vents ) to stabilize the temperature and enjoy!
Of course, there are numerous other methods for getting a fire going: using flammable liquids like rubbing alcohol , adding oil-soaked sawdust , or preheating with lighter fluid . These can work well under certain circumstances—for example we wouldn’t recommend the latter method if it’s raining out—but they’re definitely not the safest or most reliable methods.
The Electric Charcoal Starter
Many of these questions have been posed to me or answered by other Internet users before, so I have compiled a list of the most commonly asked electric charcoal starter questions.
Q: What is an electric charcoal starter (ECS)? A: It’s a small box that plugs into any standard outlet and uses infrared heat to provide enough energy for your charcoal to light. Heat rises, and the hot air escapes through holes in the top of the device which can be covered by mesh screen if you would like to put out your coals (for example, when you’re done cooking.) Often times this device will include a grease tray or plate that catches drippings from meat overhanging off the edge of your grates during cooking; however it’s not strictly necessary for the device to operate.
Q: How do I use an electric charcoal starter? A: You simply take a handful of your briquettes and place them inside the device, plug it into an outlet near your cooking area (not in the same space as anything flammable like propane tanks or grills,) wait about 15 minutes for it to heat up, and you’ll see the coals beginning to turn grey and ash over. At this point put on your gloves and begin adding your lit coals; be sure not to dump them all in at once because they will produce much more heat than necessary, scorching whatever is under them (this can take some practice.) Leave enough room between pieces of charcoal for air flow, but not too much space that the coals begin to fall through.
Q: How does an electric charcoal starter work? A: The ECS works via a series of infrared light bulbs, which produce heat when electricity is run through them. These bulbs are what provide enough energy for the briquettes to light up.
Q: Are there any drawbacks or concerns I should be aware of when using an electric charcoal starter? A: As with any electrical appliance, it has a cord and 15 amp circuit requirement so you will need a power source nearby your cooking area that’s not going to overload if multiple appliances are being used at once (for example, two ovens and a hotplate.) You also need to have adequate ventilation since some smoke and odors may linger in your kitchen, so be sure to open some windows and/or fans if you can.
Q: Is it better than using a charcoal chimney? A: This is an often-debated topic among grill enthusiasts, however both devices have their benefits and drawbacks depending on the situation. The primary advantage of using an ECS is that it’s hands-free which allows you more freedom during cooking; most people use their lit coals towards the end of grilling or smoking when they require very little monitoring and attention. Chimneys, on the other hand, require much less running costs (no electricity) but must be monitored throughout the process since it’s up to you to control airflow for proper lighting; this is typically done by opening and closing the top of the device.
Q: Is it better than using a charcoal chimney starter? A: This also is an often-debated topic, and many people will argue that they don’t see much difference between the two methods. Again, both have their pros and cons depending on your specific situation. One advantage I’ve found with electric starters as opposed to chimneys is that you can leave them plugged in after lighting so they continue to provide heat as needed throughout cooking; this way you can shut off or unplug your ECS once lit without worrying about starting from scratch later on if temperatures drop below your ideal range.
Q: How do I clean my electric charcoal starter? A: It’s best to unplug and let the device fully cool before moving forward with any clean-up process, as seen above you’ll find a grease pan/tray that can be removed and emptied. The rest of the electric charcoal starter should wipe down easily using soap and water; however it’s best to avoid using harsh chemicals or soaps which can damage your device over time.
>> Learn how to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid – The Serious Eats Guide to Charcoal Grilling
How To Start A Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid – Conclusion
If you’ve decided to make the switch from lighter fluid, here are some tips for starting your charcoal grill without it. Remember that with any of these methods, patience is key; give yourself plenty of time and don’t get too anxious about the fuel burning before the meat starts cooking. How to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid? The best way to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid is by using an electric starter like this one or even better, use fire starters like this one. You may also consider buying a gas-powered smoker that has more consistent heat control than most grills do so you can avoid flare ups when lighting your coals in order to cook food properly on low temperatures over longer periods of time. Which method have you used successfully?