10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now

From electric starters and firestarter briquettes to household lighter fluid alternatives, we cover everything you can use to start your grill.
Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: August 29, 2023
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The lighter fluid is the easiest way to get your charcoal grill burning and ready to make your meat. However, there are different lighter fluid substitutes for easily lighting your barbecue. These products give a better result than chemicals and are less harmful to health. The downside to fire starters is that they often smell and heat only a small area of the barbecue.

However, when you want other options asides from the lighter fluids, you have a wide range of possibilities. From the newspaper option to the cardboard egg crate, alcohol, rubbing alcohol, cooking oil or animal fat, sugar, and even heavily seasoned hot chips, in this post, we’ll see easier alternatives to lighting up your grill. Lighting a barbecue with these types of materials takes less than 15 minutes. So, come along!

Household Alternatives

Lighter fluid alternatives do not have to be commercial products. When you run out of fluid, you probably are also running out of time and want something you can use real quick. That’s why we’ve helped you gather household alternatives that work with and without fluids.


10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right NowIn the good old days, before the arrival of smartphones and online news, most families got information from the dailies and recycled copious amounts of paper at home. Using old newspapers is a smart way to light a charcoal barbecue.

The only problem with the newspaper is that it is dirty. After the newspaper is burnt, the light gray flies onto your patio, which is why many people switch to paraffin buckets or other methods.

Cardboard Egg Crate

Cardboard egg crates can also help your fire started. A 12-pack crate would do. Take the charcoal briquettes and set them into the egg slots. Once the slots are filled, fold the carton and light. However, ensure there are channels in the crate for air to pass, so it can light up.10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now

High-proof Alcohol

If you take liquor and still have some content at home, high-proof alcohol can also make a fire-starting fluid. High-proof alcohol needs to have a high content of alcohol. 190-200-proof alcohol or liquor with up to 95 to 100% ethanol is high-proof.10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now

Rubbing Alcohol

You can make use of rubbing alcohol to start charcoal. It’s highly effective and doesn’t create fumes. Rubbing alcohol makes a very fast flame it ignites very fast. So, you need to stand back as rubbing alcohol is highly flammable.10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now

Doritos Hot Chips

If you have heavily seasoned hot chips such as Doritos chips, these can make a fire. Doritos chips are flammable. They are made with cornstarch and coated with vegetable oil. However, they can only ignite at high temperatures.

Cooking Oil or Animal Fat

Let’s say you have a burning stove which you’re presently using to fry some meat in vegetable oil or any type of oil or fat. Then you’re looking for a way to start your charcoal grill. The hot cooking oil or fat can ignite on your coals easily.10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now


Under the right conditions, table sugars are also flammable enough to make a fire on your coals. Powdered sugar consists of carbohydrates. So, when it heats up, the molecules can ignite.10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now

Chimney Starter

The fireplace starter or chimney starter is an easy way to light charcoal. It is a metal cylinder with an open end and a grid installed inside. It is the same procedure no matter how much charcoal is used.  One of the most chosen starters of this type is the Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter. It can hold sufficient briquettes for a kettle grill that is up to 22-1/2 inches large.

How to Use10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right Now

Place a bottle at the bottom of your barbecue. Then wrap strips of newspaper around, gradually rising. Remember to tie your newspaper strip with a ¼ turn offset from the previous strip, do not hesitate to make several turns with your newspaper.

Then pour the charcoal around your bottle, being careful to press it against it.

Electric Starter

10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right NowAsides from being a grill lighter, this device also has many other uses in a home. The powerful electric arc it produces can also light candles, wood stoves, barbecues, or even kerosene lamps, all while keeping a safe distance thanks to its elongated neck.

One of the easiest to use according to charcoal grill owners is the Looft Lighter. It is an electric fire starter that can light up your briquettes in 60 seconds and it does not produce any chemical smell.

How to Use

Simply place your electric starter on the grill grate. Lay some charcoals on top and around. Next, heat the charcoals for the time suggested by the manufacturer. Then unplug and remove the starter from the briquettes.

Firestarter Briquettes

10 Lighter Fluid Substitutes You May Have at Hand Right NowFirestarter briquettes are tailor-made to meet the needs of barbecue lovers. The ignited charcoal briquettes will be hot enough for grilling in around 20 minutes. Here’s how to get the perfect grill.

How to Use

You can use fire-starter cubes to set the briquettes aflame in the Weber ignition chimney. Here’s how it works: place three fire-starter cubes on the hearth grate and light them. Then place the filled ignition chimney on it by placing its metal handle on the edge of the barbecue.

Expert tip: Firelighter cubes are a safe alternative to lighting fluids. They are odorless and have no impact on the taste of grilled food since used with an ignition chimney, they do not come into direct contact with the briquettes.

Final Thoughts

There are several techniques you can use to get a good barbecue start. In any case, whether you light your barbecue with a crate, newspaper, or any other lighter fluid substitute, the key point of lighting is the air supply. To cook well with a charcoal barbecue, you need beautiful glowing embers.

When you have started your barbecue, wait for the fuel to set embers: do not put your meat directly in the flames. It will surely be easier and safer for your hands to use large matches and special gloves.

When working near a firebox, wear heat-resistant gloves and closed-toed shoes. Coals may fall on the terrace, where it is possible to access it barefoot. After pouring charcoal into the grill, the fireplace will stay hot for a while.

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