Many people reach for a certain product when planning on starting charcoal for a tasty grilled meal. That product is lighter fluid. That's about to change.
It’s been around for a long time and has been a standard for generations. However, while still popular, using lighter fluid is losing popularity with many grilling and outdoor cooking enthusiasts.
Why would something that works, and does its job with little effort, start losing popularity if it works well? That’s simple – many consumers are looking for alternatives to using a flammable chemical that could have left a toxic residue on grilled food. At the very least, some people find that lighter fluid leaves an aftertaste.
If you like grilled foods because of the flavor – such as that smoked, fresh cooked taste that grilling offers – then avoiding a chemical aftertaste from a petroleum product makes sense! You want to make tasty grilled dishes that you, your family, and your friends will enjoy - dishes with smoked flavors and not liquid fuel!
Now, you may be asking – what is the best lighter fluid alternative? How do I start my charcoal? What can I use instead of lighter fluid? No worries, great grilling can still take place over a bed of hot coals without using a dated method that has so many negatives.
What Can I Use Instead of Lighter Fluid?
Thankfully there are plenty of options for using lighter fluid. But first, just what is lighter fluid? We already mentioned two reasons above as to why grilling and BBQ enthusiasts are moving away from charcoal – those being possible toxic residue and the aftertaste of the lighter fluid infused into the finished grilled food.
Without being too technical, most brands of lighter fluid are made of refined petroleum similar to kerosene – or a “lighter” grade of kerosene and are generally methanol or alcohol-based. The official name is Isoparaffinic Hydrocarbon. Who wants to add the flavor kerosene, even a “lighter” grade to their food? Not me!
That’s where alternatives that are not petrochemical-based come into play starting with an option that should be avoided – alcohol. Yes, some people may avoid lighter fluid and reach for some form of alcohol. Aside from everything we’ve covered above, using any type of liquid refined fuel should be avoided. Forget taste – consider safety!
Don’t be a news story about somebody being injured while trying to use a substitute liquid fuel to light your charcoal! Now, onto the best bbq lighter fluid substitute.
A final note on lighter fluid, I try to avoid “quick lighting” charcoal briquettes as they have lighter fluid as one of the ingredients. Yes, they will light fast due to the added fuel, but the lingering issues from above still apply. And, in my opinion, the aftertaste will be worse than using straight fluid squirted onto your charcoal. The reason is that since it is a built-in ingredient the fluid is part of the entire briquette and some may be present during the entire burn.
Newspaper, Alcohol, Cardboard Crate, Chimney Starter
One of those is simply using a fuel source such as paper! You can start with small shreds of paper or newspaper and build a small fire such as wilderness campers might use twigs and sticks. As the paper burns, you add more, and eventually, add a few pieces of charcoal to get things going. Again, as if you were building a campfire.
Additionally, you can use a larger amount of newspaper when taking advantage of a charcoal chimney. The way a charcoal chimney works is by utilizing the way heat travels naturally – heat rises. Okay, the term “heat rises” is a gateway to the larger topic of heat transference and thermodynamics. No need to cover that here other than to say “heat rises” and that heated air helps start charcoal.
The way a charcoal chimney works is that the bottom of the chimney is stuffed lightly with newspaper. The upper chamber, divided from the lower by a shelf with holes or a grate, is then filled with charcoal. Light the paper on the bottom and the hot air flows upward which starts to light the charcoal. The “heat rises” phrase comes into play as the hotter the coals get, the more heated air moves through the bottom towards the top. After several minutes, you should have charcoal that’s ready to cook over.
Some people use the cardboard crate method of lighting charcoal. Like the paper only and the chimney method, there is no need for using lighter fluid. The cardboard crate method can be done in several ways. One is perfect for use with charcoal briquettes. Simply grab an empty egg carton, cardboard not Styrofoam, and place a briquette in each space where the eggs would have been. Then, light the cardboard carton.
Another way to use a cardboard box is to look for one that is taller than it is wide. Then, make a handmade version of a charcoal chimney. Put holes on the bottom for air flow, add some paper or twigs and sticks – loosely arranged on the bottom – then add charcoal. Light the bottom of the box and allow it to burn away while lighting the charcoal
I’ve even seen people use something as simple as a cardboard tube. That method seems to work better with lump-style charcoal. They make a skinny version of the charcoal chimney with small pieces of lump charcoal. Once those small pieces are gone, the tube has burned away, they add more charcoal onto the pile until they have what they need to start cooking.
Problem with These Alternatives
The general idea of all of these methods is to start with a small heat source and build it slowly until you have enough heat to start your charcoal. All, of course without using lighter fluid. Once the charcoal is started, the heat continues to build and rise which starts the remaining charcoal.
I’ve touched on some problems with the methods listed above. Of course the first would be the after taste of lighter fluid and possible toxins. Another problem would be that every method mentioned above requires perfectly dry scrap paper or fuel. And, the time involved could stretch your grill prep time to almost a half hour or more.
These methods take time but there is an alternative! What if you could supercharge the process while avoiding everything from paper and twigs to charcoal chimneys, egg cartons, and cardboard? There is a better, and faster, way to fire up your grill or BBQ while avoiding lighter fluid. Look no further than the Looft Lighter!
The Looft Lighter – The Best Alternative!
It’s time to push old-school ways aside when it comes to lighting your charcoal. All of the methods mentioned above have a downside. Lighter fluid may contain toxins that don’t entirely burn off – you don’t want that additive as part of your next grilled pork tenderloin. And the after-taste is well worth steering away from while finding the best bbq lighter fluid substitute.
As for using paper and twigs, a charcoal chimney, or a cardboard crate – all of those tend to start slow and take lots of time. It could range from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the method and other things. For instance… is your paper treated, or moist?
Enter the Looft Lighter! Thankfully, the wait is over, and lighting charcoal for your grill or BBQ is now as simply pressing a button and pointing!
Looft Lighters are possibly the easiest way to light charcoal! The “point and shoot” method mentioned above is as easy as it sounds. And, the wait time compared to building up a proper heat source from scraps of paper is mind-numbing.
The process is similar to using a charcoal chimney – but on steroids! A charcoal chimney starts slowly and slowly builds as things heat up and more heat is produced. This causes heated air to flow upwards causing the charcoal to burn… over several minutes.
Looft Lighters are the “chimney” with a start button that shoots a powerful, and superheated continuous blast of hot air towards your stack of charcoal. Hold the lighter in place – towards one spot – and when you start seeing sparks after a few minutes you know everything is going well.
As the charcoal begins to burn, you can then start to move the Looft Lighter backward. Now that one spot has started to burn, and as you move back, the heated airflow begins to expand the burn and add heated air to the process. That’s similar to a chimney – but much faster! We’re talking seconds or a minute or so to 8-10 minutes.
Continue the process of pointing the Looft Lighter at the burning charcoal while moving back and soon your whole pile of charcoal will be ready for grilling! You’ve gone from a process that could take close to 30 minutes to one that has you ready to grill in only a few.
What is even more impressive is that Looft lighters come in two versions. The first one is perfect for home use and comes as a plug-in version. Then, there is the battery-operated version that is a wonderful addition to your camping and traveling needs. Imagining using your Looft Lighter to fire up your grill at your favorite tailgate event! You’ll be the envy of all tailgate chefs!
Truthfully, both versions work perfectly for home use and while on the road. Today, there are many campsites – especially those setup for RV and Travel Trailer camping – that have electricity available. And, more and more vehicle manufactures have options for using items that need to be “plugged into” an outlet to be used.
With the Looft Lighter, there is no more need to worry about the possibility of ruining the flavor of your food with charcoal fluid and you will have found the best bbq lighter fluid substitute. And, the time has been reduced when using methods ranging from paper to a charcoal chimney, or a cardboard crate loaded with lump charcoal or briquettes. The Looft Lighter means that there is no more long wait – you’re grilling in minutes