How To Start A Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid (5 Effective Methods)

It might be hard to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid. Don’t worry. This post will recommend some alternative ways to lit charcoal pieces.

With summer in its full swing, it is always the best time for family gatherings with giant char-grilled barbecue feasts outdoors. For some perfectly grilled barbecue meats, a portable charcoal grill is a must-have equipment. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to getting a charcoal grill fired up, it is common to see people use lighter fluid to build a charcoal fire. Although it may seem convenient to have a bottle of lighter fluid around, it should only be used as a last resort.

Suppose you plan to go out and about in nature and wish to organize a grilling party without using chemicals in the fire-making process. In that case, several eco-friendly options are available to choose from. Most of them are chemical-free and straightforward in terms of lighting up a charcoal fire. 

In cáe you need it, here is a detailed guide on how to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid.

Essential Know-How Before Starting A Charcoal Grill

Before you start to get your charcoal grill nice and hot, it is crucial to have a general understanding of what has usually been used for igniting a grill fire. 

Overview of lighter fluid

When it comes to lighter fluid, there are three common types which are butane (primarily used in handheld cigarette lighters), naphtha (known as a liquid hydrocarbon blend), and charcoal lighter fluid (used to ignite charcoal for grilling). Amongst three basic types, charcoal lighter fluid is the one we have focused our attention on.

Lighter fluid is a kind of chemical liquid used to lit up charcoal for grilling or cooking purposes. In addition, lighter fluid is also known as an aliphatic petroleum solvent which can have plenty of uses. Most commonly, people tend to use this solvent to kickstart the night campfires. Some people, however, prefer to make use of lighter fluid to burn off the gigantic rubbish piles. 

Reasons to avoid lighter fluid

Despite being made to work for different purposes, most manufacturers rarely recommend using lighter fluid to ignite charcoal grilling. The reason is pretty simple.

Overall, the lighter fluid is manufactured with a certain amount of explosive substance. Therefore, when you use this combustible fluid to light the charcoal fire, it could impact the flavor of the food being cooked upon the fires lit with it.


Although the substance will soon disperse into the atmosphere when you are about to put the food on the charcoal grill, it still imparts a slightly unpleasant flavor. This is known to prevent you from attempting a perfectly grilled barbecue feast.

Grilling amateurs who attempt to build a long-lasting blaze would be keen on adding a generous amount of lighter fluid when starting the fire. But, of course, there is no significant difference in flavor until they have tried food being grilled over natural charcoal fires. 

Therefore, most people would rarely consider going back trying the food grilled upon fires lit up with lighter fluid due to its unpleasant flavor found in the food.

What to prepare in advance

Before you get going with your grilling experience, it is worth paying attention to the list of questions regarding the charcoal grill. Doing so can help you prepare what is needed for a perfect grilled feast and prevent you from some grilling hassles. Below are the essential questions listed:

  • What food ingredient are you about to grill?
  • How much food have you planned to grill?
  • What is the temperature required to cook the food?
  • How long does it take to get the charcoal grill fired up?
  • How long do you want the charcoal fire to last?
  • Have you got a large bag of charcoal pieces to add midway through the cook?
  • Does your charcoal grill have to be cleaned before the grilling experience?

The answer to these questions is pretty much up to your upcoming grill. However, in terms of offering advice, it is recommended that all the excess ash should be dumped out before laying fresh charcoal pieces on the grill. This is because leftover ash can potentially block the vents, which would stop the charcoal grill from igniting nicely. 

Additionally, if you contemplate having a few grilling sessions per week, it is best to schedule a weekly cleaning. On the other hand, if you just grill once a month, just go for a monthly cleaning rather than a weekly one.

How to build a long-lasting fire

For a nicely burnt fire, you had better arrange the coals in a neat heap with the pieces stacked closed together. Usually, amateur grillers tend to dump the coal pieces in a big pile, forgetting to leave a small space for the coal pieces to communicate with one another.

As a result, the briquettes end up not having enough oxygen, so the flames can no longer spread amongst them.

Bear in mind that you must allow the charcoal pieces to be neatly arranged so that the flames can spread much faster. Alongside, the charcoal fire lasts longer. Hence, you spend more time enjoying your grilling.

How To Start A Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid (5 Methods)

Chimney Starter

To start igniting the charcoal using a chimney starter, you have to prepare the following tools:

  • Chimney starter 
  • A stick lighter or long matches 
  • Charcoal 
  • Vegetable oil 
  • Paper towels.

Chimney starters are pretty common nowadays, which are available at any store specializing in supplying grilling devices. The size of the chimney starter is similar to that of a coffee can. However, almost all chimney starters are filled with a series of circular holes along the sides to promote airflow.

To begin with, crumple up a few sheets of paper coated with vegetable oil. Then, place those paper sheets at the bottom of the chimney starters. Now is the time that you can fill up your chimney starter with your selected version of charcoal. Plain briquettes are highly recommended since they bring out the best flavor to food grilled over them.


When everything is neatly arranged, carefully light the oil-coated newspaper from the bottom of the chimney starter using a stick lighter or a long match. The paper will soon catch fire which helps spread around to ignite the charcoal quickly. 

Due to a rise in the amount of heat produced by the paper, the top of the chimney starter will finally catch fire.

It is easy to tell whether the charcoal pieces have already ignited by looking at the edges of the chimney starter. If those edges start to turn gray, the charcoal pieces are fired up.

If the flame could not work its way through the entire pile, you can restart the process by adding another layer of paper coated with vegetable oil.
How to light a charcoal grill by using a chimney starter

Within 15 minutes since you have ignited the charcoal fire, the top of the charcoal pieces should be covered in a thin layer of light silver ash. Once they are already nicely coated with a thin film of ash, they are good to go!

The best part of this is that you can grill as much food as you can, and the food would not carry a chemical aftertaste when going into your mouth. All the chemical tastes produced by the lighter fluid can leave behind, allowing the natural flavor to thrive.

Match-light Briquettes

Unlike lighter fluid, these briquettes are much more eco-friendly as they are infused with a small amount of lighter fluid, which helps amateur grillers tackle their fire grilling problems. 

The match-light briquettes still contain a bit of the flammable fluid. However, the liquid would not end up flavoring your excellent grilled food. Instead, the infusion of lighter fluid into the charcoals helps ignite the grill much faster but still maintains the food’s natural flavor.


This option can relieve beginners who struggle to light a charcoal grill without using lighter fluid. In addition, anyone who tends to overuse lighter fluid when grilling can take this great option into account since it is rendered being a much safer alternative to lighter fluid.

Keep in mind that the briquettes are flavored with lighter fluid, so you might be expected to pay extra for a whole bag. However, the lighting efficiency is much better compared to plain charcoal with no lighter fluid infused.

Electric Charcoal Starters

As the name suggests, electric charcoal starters are devices that can heat the charcoal by forcing a flow of superhot air into your grill. They are great for lighting charcoal grills in your garden without referring to the chemical liquid. 

This wand-style device is armed with a heating component at one end, usually glued into a loop. It is energy-efficient and considered to be a handy tool for igniting charcoals. However, electric charcoal starters are not the best choice since they can only work when there is a supply of outside power.


When using an electric starter to kickstart the charcoal fires, you must first gather the charcoal pieces and put them in the grill. You then put the starter on the top of the pile; therefore, the heating component of the starter can touch the charcoals.

Before plugging the starter, remember to arrange a few briquettes or pieces of lump charcoal onto the heating element. When the heating element starts to work, the heat is bumped into the grill, which makes the charcoals change their color.

After around five minutes, the charcoals should be visibly hot, and the smoke starts to appear. Then, you can unplug the starter and carefully lift it off the pile when all the charcoal pieces are nice and smokingly hot. 

Once you’ve removed the starter from the coals, they should be covered with a thin film of ash. This is where your grilling experience begins.

Hot-air Charcoal Starters

Another way to ignite the charcoal grill without overusing lighter fluid is hot-air charcoal starters. This device is new on the list of grilling supplies and might be challenging to find. However, it is well worth searching and giving it a try. 

This brand-new device is designed to lit the charcoal by injecting a flow of superheated air into the grill. It is also easy to use, especially for any grilling amateurs.

Like any fire-igniting device, the first step is to get the grill packed with charcoal pieces. When the charcoal are put in, spot a place where two charcoal pieces are touching. 

You can start to plug the starter in and put the tip of it to your located spot. To contact the two charcoal pieces, press the button on the starter to allow the smoke to turn up. Once the smoke appears, continue to inject hot air into the coals for roughly sixty seconds until the coals begin to catch fire. 

When the flame works out its way through the entire pile, the grill is ready for you to cook.


Firestarter Briquettes

Firestarter briquettes are known to be the combustible pieces that help speed up the grilling process. They are available at almost all stores that sell hardware items or home-improvement products. Nowadays, even megastores have them displayed on the shelf. 

Unlike lighter fluid, these firestarter charcoal pieces would not leave any chemical odors on the food grilled over them. Therefore, they are preferred by many people when using to ignite the charcoal grill for barbecue.


To start the charcoal with firestarter briquettes, you need to get your grill clean and free from old ash. First, you place the plain charcoal pieces on your chosen grill. After adding the charcoal pieces, open up the grill’s vents to promote air circulation.

Next, it is time to bury the firestarter briquette at the top layer of the file. It is essential to check whether the fresh charcoals entirely cover the firestarter pieces. To light the charcoal pieces, you carefully use a stick light or any similar sort to create fire, allowing the firestarter briquettes to contact other charcoal pieces.

Then, put the lid on the grill and allow the firestarter briquettes to do their job. After around 10 minutes, you had better check if the briquettes are burning completely. Make sure the final result is a grill packed with nicely lit coals.

Continuing to let the briquettes burn away. Before removing the grill’s lid entirely, slightly crack the top to enable the smoke to escape. If necessary, you can put on your heat proof gloves to rearrange the pile to ensure it is neatly arranged. 

Before the cooking process, wait for an extra five minutes after the lid is removed. You can then apply a thin film of oil and start cooking as you usually do.

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That’s the end of our complete guide on how to start a charcoal grill without using lighter fluid. 

If you’ve been a constant fan of barbecued feast who struggles to handle the grill fire when the summer season is underway, you must give this entire post a careful read. It promises to cheer you up with several safer alternative options for lighting up charcoal without any harmful chemicals and additives involved.

From now on, you should feel a sense of relief about lighting a charcoal grill—just grill with a burst of enjoyment since we are here to sort your grilling hassles out.

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