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How to Light a Charcoal Grill Without Lighter Fluid or Chimney

Have you been planning on grilling only to realize that you’re out of charcoal fluid and your charcoal chimney has rusted out! Plus, the charcoal you have is not the instant light variety?


No worries, great grilling can still take place over a bed of hot coals. Here’s all you need to know about lighting charcoal without charcoal fluid or a charcoal chimney. Let’s talk fire starters and start with some suggestions on going bare bones while ending with a tip that covers the ultimate charcoal starter!


Don’t Go Big!

The most important thing to remember is to start small when using these first few suggestions. Work on getting one, two, or three pieces of charcoal going, and then add additional pieces as heat increases.


Oiled Paper Donut

Grab some uncoated paper such as a paper grocery bag, or even the inner liner of the bag your charcoal came in. Roll it with a loose twist, and form a donut shape.  Next, drizzle the paper donut with cooking oil - canola, olive, etc. Place one or two pieces of charcoal onto the center and light the donut. Add a few pieces at a time as the first ones start to turn grey and begin to burn.

You can also add some dry twigs or small sticks to your donut! Make sure they are completely dry.


Kitchen Garbage

If you happen to cook some bacon or sausage for breakfast then use the paper towels used to drain the grease as fuel for lighting charcoal. You could also use kitchen wax paper or even the waxed paper wrapper from your drive-through breakfast sandwich.

Paper

This will burn quicker than regular paper so you may want to combine it with the donut suggestion above. In case you don’t have enough.


Pine Cones

If you’ve done some work in the yard and have a few pine cones in the brush pile then just grab a few of those. Pine cones are Mother Nature’s fire starters. Just make sure they are dry and not green. 

Pinecone

You can also drizzle them with cooking oil, and even step on them to flatten them slightly. Place a few pieces on and lean on the pinecone after lighting.


Recycled Can Chimney

A chimney is the best way to go and here’s why. The sides of the chimney hold in the heat which moves upwards to the charcoal because the bottom of the can is vented. Heat rises so when that heat funnel is concentrated it lights charcoal more efficiently. Plus, once a few pieces are going, the heat flow keeps going so more and more charcoal starts to burn.

Use a discarded can from beans, corn, or whatever! Larger is better but small cans will work for a few pieces. Cut the bottom of the can off and then rinse, clean, and dry. Next, use a can opener to add a few holes to the bottom of the can for airflow.

Place paper in the bottom, place on the grill grate, then add charcoal and light the fuel – paper or pine cones. The can will get hot so use tongs to move and turn. And there's no need of lighter fluid or an expensive chimney.


Paper Milk and Juice Carton Chimney

Some people have success making a chimney using paper milk or orange juice cartons.

 Milk carton

Follow the same instructions as you would with a can. Just be careful to monitor closely as the hot charcoal will tumble as the carton burns away.


Looft Lighter – Charcoal Ready in 60 Seconds!

Or, skip all of the above including the charcoal fluid and charcoal chimney, and start grilling in about 60 seconds by using a Looft Lighter! The point and heat devices use a fan-blown super heated air to ignite your choice of cooking fuel ranging from lump charcoal to briquettes and even chunks of wood.

Looft lighters come in two versions – battery operated and one the plus in any standard outlet. Just get your charcoal arranged, point your Looft Lighter, and press the button. The great thing is that the tip listed above about starting small can be skipped!

Looft lighters work on a whole stack of charcoal instead of waiting for one piece to get going while adding on additional pieces. That cuts down prep time which means you’re ready to grill quicker! Once your chosen fuel is lit, turn off the Looft Lighter, and use tongs to move hot charcoal into position for cooking.

You should always use tongs to avoid being burned and monitor to avoid causing a fire. Now that you have your charcoal going, you can enjoy your grilled meal with friends or family.