3 Ways on How to Start a Charcoal Grill without Lighter Fluid

We’ve grown accustomed to using the gas grill, so starting a charcoal grill appears to be difficult. By simply following the basic procedures and techniques below, you’ll eventually realize that it’s far superior to any alternatives or those easy-to-use gadgets. Yes! It’s possible.

 A charcoal grill is for someone who appreciates grilling in its totality as opposed to just cooking food. Barbecues can be ruined by the flavour of lighter fluid, which also leaves chemicals on the meat and grill that may not be suitable for significant amounts of ingestion. Fortunately, there are a number of approaches that only need some easy-to-find materials then you get started!

How to Start a Charcoal Grill without Lighter Fluid (3 Different Methods)

Here are the methods on how to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid:

Use a Chimney Starter

METHOD 1. Use a Chimney Starter

The quickest way to always have a strong fire. To properly fire your charcoal briquets, use chimney starters that combine paper, or anything that can be used to build a fire, with heat flow. After 15-20 minutes, you may safely pour briquets onto your grill and start cooking.

1. Place some lightly rolled paper in the bottom of the chimney starter.

Depending on the size of the starting, 2 to 4 pieces of paper should be enough. Simply crumple it into loose balls rather than rolling it up firmly so that heated air may fill in the gaps. Your charcoals will eventually be lit by them.

  • Place the paper on the grill’s charcoal grate and drop the chimney on top of it if your chimney lacks a solid bottom.

2. Charcoal briquets should completely fill the top of the starter.

Fill the chimney starter completely with charcoal, using at least a handful of it. From the bottom, you must have access to the paper.

3. Set the paper on your grill and light it multiple times from the bottom up.

The paper will soon heat up, and when it burns, the hot air will light the lower coals on fire. As hot air is drawn down the chimney’s bottom and through the coals after the paper burns out, the coals will start to light one another.

  •  As the coals heat up, put the chimney on a stable, flame-resistant surface because it will heat up quickly. A brick deck is ideal, as is the grill, which is already set for you to add your coals (though it will potentially leave burn marks in the area)

4. When the top pieces are gray-coated, pour the coals onto the grill.

It normally just takes ten to fifteen minutes. You can start grilling as soon as you dump the coals. The majority of chimneys must be carefully turned upside down over the grill to be emptied, however more expensive models may feature a release switch that allows the coals to be discharged from the bottom. Instead of dropping the coals in the middle and then trying to move them, dump them where you want them. If the coals are repeatedly picked up and moved, they may split apart and lose heat.

  •  Add a couple handfuls of charcoal if you want to grill for longer than 30 minutes or even an hour, so that the fire will be ready when you need it.

5. For a bigger fire, make sure the vents are open.

Open vents allow more air and oxygen to reach the fire, which speeds up its growth. When you’re ready to cook anything you want to grill, keep the lid opened while setting up the coals, then close it to smoke the meat or cook it more slowly.

Start a fire with a paper

METHOD 2. Start a fire with a paper

1. Four or five crumpled paper (used or scratch) pages are placed in the central grill.

Create a small pile of paper in the centre of the charcoal grate. The paper from the bag of charcoal can also be used. Paper burns easily, and the charcoal will catch on fire thanks to the paper’s flame.

  • Soak half of the used paper in vegetable, canola, or olive oil if you are having a hard time starting your flames with just paper. The paper will burn more slowly as a result of the oil, which may give the charcoal more time to ignite. Despite being far from ideal, many people support this DIY approach as a safer, more natural alternative to lighter fluid.

2. On top of your paper, place a few short, dry sticks or small woods.

Paper has a lower flame point than kindling, which helps light the charcoal. Kindling is little wood bits used to start a fire. Make a small nest out of your paper by placing a handful of kindling on top of it and all around it. The kindling will be lit by the paper, and the briquets will be lit by the kindling and paper combined.

  • The sticks are dry enough to use if they break readily in your hands and make a loud cracking sound.
  • Keep an extra handful of twigs handy in case the fire requires more fuel.
  • Use extra paper if you don’t have any stick around. However, you might need to keep adding it to the fire until the briquets ignite, so keep a few pieces close by.

3. Scatter 3–4 pieces of charcoal on top of the pile.

These will start the flame that will burn the remaining charcoal. They should be placed near the middle and supported by the sticks. You want some flames to remain under the briquets as the paper below crumbles.

4. Light the paper many times.

  1. To start a nice, bright fire, light many corners of the paper with a match or a fire starter. Kindling should begin to catch in the paper’s large, leaping flames as you watch.
  2.  If the paper is about to fade out but the stick hasn’t quite grabbed it, loosely crumple up a few more pieces and place them on the edges, close to the sticks.

5. Get the charcoal smoking.

If the pieces are smoking and the briquets have gray or white ash around the edges, keep going. Although it takes a while, this technique will finally ignite a fire. Keep the paper and kindling fire going until there is some ash on the pieces’ outsides.

6. As you continue to build the fire, gradually add additional charcoal.

You can start adding more pieces one at a time once the first several briquettes have started to burn. If you notice white or gray ash forming on the edges of the squares, you should be good to go that’s it!  A strong charcoal fire does not resemble a wood fire. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll witness huge licking flames.

  • Gradually add briquettes until there is a significant accumulation in the middle of the grill. For the time being, just the inner briquettes will be hot. The centre of your pile should be emitting smoke. You’ll require a varying number of briquettes depending on the size of your grill.

7. Wait until the coals are mostly covered in white or gray ash before distributing them for cooking.

The pile will be heated to the point of burning brilliant red inside. You can now start cooking. If the fire has diminished, add any additional briquettes.

Use Electric Charcoal Starter

METHOD 3. Use Electric Charcoal Starter

Alternative to matches and gas lighters include electronic charcoal starters. It’s a straightforward tool with a handle and the heating element in the form of a metal loop on one end. Here’s how you can use them.

  1. In the grill, arrange your charcoal pieces in a small pile. Lay your electric starter across the layer of charcoal so that it is flat.
  2. Now, surround and stack additional charcoal briquettes or pieces on top of the charcoal starter’s heating element.
  3. Plug your charcoal starter, use an extension if needed.
  4. Maintain power and heat in accordance with the guidelines provided by the manufacturer. When the coals are suitably hot, the heating iron will glow red and appears ash gray at daytime and red at night.
  5. Before carefully removing your electric charcoal starter from your charcoal pile, turn off the power and disconnect it. When pulling the starter from the pile, be cautious because all the metal parts are extremely hot.
  6. Have a suitable location where the heated starter can rest. Make sure it can’t be easily stepped, not close to flammable materials and not close to children or pets. Since it is an electrical item, it’s never advisable to use water to cool the device down.
  7. Approximately ten minutes, your charcoal will be hot enough to begin cooking. With a handheld blower, you can increase the airflow a little bit to hasten the process.

How to Keep a Strong Fire in Your Charcoal Grill

1. Keep your coals close together to ensure a strong, hot fire.

Coals that are tightly packed together will retain heat and burn hotter. However, they also require some airflow to burn efficiently, so avoid placing them too closely together in a line.

  • Even Grilling uses two layers of briquettes to completely cover the grill’s bottom. The entire grill can reach a constant, level temperature since there are no empty places and everything is added evenly.
  • Two-Zone Grilling allows you to keep half of the space unoccupied while warming or indirect cooking meals. Make sure there are 2-3 layers of briquettes on the “hot half” of the grill before piling the other half of the charcoals into an even mound.

2. To keep your grill burning, continually add more coals.

If the coals are red, glowing, and covered with white, they will be hot enough to start fresh charcoal burning. Add the remaining charcoal when you only have about half of it left. The new coals may need to cool for 5–10 minutes before you can start cooking again.

3. For the most heat, keep the top and bottom vents open.

The fire will burn hotter as you add more air to it. The more oxygen you give fire, the hotter your charcoal fire will get since fire needs oxygen to burn. Close one or both of the vents partially to regulate the temperature, usually the upper vent.

4. For more flavour and a hotter fire, think about adding hardwood.

Apple wood chunks enhance the flavour of your barbecue, and the wood should catch rapidly on the hot coals. A combination of charcoal and wood or wood chips is frequently the best approach to build a fire, even though wood burns faster and hotter than charcoal briquettes.

5. Excess briquettes should be sealed.

Use a clip to secure the top of the bag if you’re not using the extra portion of charcoal. The charcoal’s compounds may dissipate, making it much harder to burn them the following time, specifically without flammable liquid.


We sometimes crave for a very natural manner of cooking, that’s why it is crucial to understand the fundamentals of how to begin -from starting a fire to cooking- in steps. Compared to gas grills, charcoal grills have several benefits. They offer complete temperature control, better zone cooking for precise grilling and smoking, and they give your food that real flavour and aroma that a gas grill just can’t match. Furthermore, finding a place to refill your gas cans is harder than finding a store that sells charcoal especially in remote areas.

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