Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: August 25, 2022

If you are unfamiliar with lighting charcoal without lighter fluid or a charcoal chimney starter, it can be a frustrating undertaking and bring your manly qualities into question by any onlookers!

We have some alternative methods you can learn to save the day and your reputation.

Quick Summary

  • One of many ways to get the coals lit is a charcoal chimney starter or lighter fluid to start your charcoal fire.
  • It is worthwhile becoming familiar with alternative methods to light your fire without frustration should a chimney starter or lighter fluid not be available.
  • Use a long material with a long burn time, don't use synthetic materials such as plastic, and be careful with flammable liquids when lighting without a lighter fluid or chimney starter.

How To Light A Charcoal Fire Without the Chimney Starter

Burning charcoal

A chimney starter and lighter fluid are convenient and work well, but it is not the only way to get your charcoal briquettes lit to get your grill going!

Try some of these methods next time you light your charcoal grill so you can master other techniques to get the coals burning without lighter fluid or chimney starter.

1. Lighting Charcoal With Newspaper

The newspaper was probably the method your grandpa used to light his charcoal grill fire, but just because it is old-fashioned doesn't mean it is an obsolete method.

The greatest challenge with this method in our modern age is finding some newspaper since it can be more complicated than getting lighter fluid!

If you cannot lay your hands on newspaper, any paper that does not have a plastic coating will do. Even the charcoal bag will work if it is made from paper!

You can try the paper-only method, but generally, what works a little better is having a few pieces of dry twigs placed on top of the newspaper.

The twigs catch fire from the paper and burn a little longer than the paper alone.

  • Scrunch the newspaper into balls. The number of newspaper balls you need depends on the size of your grill. Generally, four tennis ball-sized scrunched-up newspaper balls will do the trick.
  • Stack the twigs. Stack some dry twigs in a pyramid shape around the newspaper balls.
  • Stack the charcoal. Stack the charcoal at the base of the twigs and up onto the twigs, as high up the twigs as they will stay balanced. Leave a little gap where you can light the newspaper.
  • Light the newspaper. Light each of the newspaper balls. The best method is using lighter fluid with a flexible gooseneck, but matches make an excellent alternative.

Once the newspaper balls ignite, the twigs will light and extend the flame's life to get the charcoal grill light without the chimney starter.

2. Lighting Charcoal With An Egg Carton

Egg carton

This alternative charcoal lighting method works very well as a fire starter. You will need a cardboard egg carton.

For a larger charcoal grill, you can use two egg cartons.

Open the egg carton and fill the spaces where the eggs would go with the charcoal.

Close the lid and place the box inside the grill. Stack additional charcoal around and on top of the egg carton.

Light the four corners of the egg carton. As the carton burns, the light charcoal inside will ignite and become the heart of the fire.

The light charcoal surrounding the carton will also ignite from the flames as it burns.

Another method to extend the egg carton's burn time is adding some bacon grease or lard on the inside of the lid.

3. Lighting Charcoal With Fire Lighter Cubes

Fire lighter cubes are another easy way to light a charcoal grill without the chimney starter or lighter fluid in a short time with minimal fuss.

These blocks are normally sold in a box containing 24 cubes, sealed in a foil or plastic bag.

The cubes are made from paraffin wax, and they burn for a substantial amount of time, giving the charcoal opportunity to light.

Take four fire lighter cubes out of the packaging, ensuring to reseal the bag. If the cubes are exposed to the air, the paraffin evaporates, becoming less effective.

Place the four cubes on the bottom of your grill and stack the charcoal around and on top of them. Leave enough space to light the cubes through the charcoal.

Use a match or a barbeque lighter fluid with a long nozzle to light the cubes. The cubes will burn for about 5-minutes, which is enough time for the surrounding charcoal to become lit.

4. Lighting A Charcoal Fire With Vegetable Oil

Oil being poured

This alternative method to light charcoal grills without lighter fluid or chimney starter uses a combination of kitchen paper towels and vegetable cooking oil.

The paper towel is great because it is absorbent and holds the cooking oil well.

Scrunch 4 or 5 pieces of paper towel into loose balls. Douse the balls with vegetable cooking oil and place the oil-soaked balls on the grill and surround them with light charcoal.

Drizzle a little oil over the charcoal nearest the paper towel as well.

Use a match or a barbeque lighter fluid to ignite the oil-soaked paper towel. The oil will burn for a few minutes, allowing the charcoal to ignite without the chimney starter.

5. Using Alcohol To Light Charcoal

Whiskey being poured on a glass

Alcohol can be used in combination with a kitchen paper towel or another absorbent material to light a charcoal grill without lighter fluid or chimney starter, such as a piece of cotton cloth or a cotton ball.

The alcohol used must be high-proof alcohol; otherwise, it will not light, and the flame will not burn long or hot enough to ignite the charcoal briquettes.

Whisky is good to use because of its high alcohol content, but many may find it sacrilegious to waste expensive whisky on such a task!

Vodka is another alcohol that works well as a fire starter without lighter fluid for charcoal briquettes.

If you don't want to raid your liquor cabinet or would rather drink your whisky while grilling a few pieces of meat, rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol can be used as a substitute to lighter fluid.

However, these alcohol types evaporate fast, so you need to work quickly when using these alternatives.

Scrunch up the kitchen paper towel into loose balls and soak them with the alcohol of your choice. It is best to have the charcoal pre-stacked and push the paper towels in between the charcoal.

Light the alcohol on the paper by lighting a match and tossing it onto the paper. Do not stand too close or get your hands too close.

The volatile alcohol fumes can create a fireball that could be dangerous.

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Conclusion

If your chimney starter has finally fallen apart, you may be at a bit of a loss on how to get your charcoal fire going. As a barbeque master, it always pays to have some alternative methods up your sleeve to amaze your friends and family!

Knowing how to light charcoal with these methods will even allow you to come to the rescue at a friend's house when there is no chimney starter.

Just ask before using your friend's 21-year old single-malt scotch to start the fire if you want to be invited to another barbeque!

For your charcoal needs, we compiled the best charcoal briquettes that still burn great even when you light a charcoal grill without a chimney starter.

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