4 Best Lighter Fluid Substitutes to Get Your Coals Raging

Using lighter fluid is a quick and easy way to ignite your charcoal grill. But what should you do if your fuel supply has run out? Here are the best lighter fluid alternatives to get you out of trouble.

best lighter fluid substitutes

Lighting a charcoal grill can be tough work, and can be made all the harder if you don’t have any lighter fluid to hand.

While I would always suggest trying to light your charcoal grill with something like a chimney starter, I accept that sometimes speed and convenience is of the essence. Which is why lighter fluid can be a great backup to have.

But what do you do if you’re out of fuel?

Here are a list of easy alternatives or store bought options that you can use today.

coal embers in charcoal chimney

Charcoal chimney

A charcoal chimney is always my go-to method of grill ignition.

It removes the need of using any chemicals on your grill, and will keep the smells and flavors coming from your coals cleaner than lighter fluid.

Check out my full guide how to use a charcoal chimney here.

If you don’t have one then I strongly recommend getting one. It’s one of the best investments you could make for your charcoal grill.

charcoal chimney lit on grill


If you’re unable to get a charcoal chimney then trusty old newspaper is a great (albeit not ideal) fallback option.

Shield the grill from any possible interference (wind, rain, etc) and open your grill’s vents fully and clean out any ash or dirt that’s collected at the bottom of you grill’s chamber.

Good and stable airflow is key to the success of your grill, and this will be especially true with using a more fragile ignition method like newspaper. We need as much oxygen as possible coming into the grill, and closed grates or residual ash get in the way of this.

Scrunch four or five sheets up into balls and place them under the grates of your grill. Aim to place them near the center of your grill chamber.

Place your coals on top of the paper balls, ensuring that some of the paper is visible.

Paper can burn very quickly which might not give your coals enough time to catch fire. If you encounter this problem, try soaking half of each paper ball in vegetable oil. The oil will help slow down the rate at which your paper burns, giving the charcoal more time to get going.

Here’s another pointer: If you’re having trouble is to place small, dry sticks of kindling on top of each ball of newspaper. Kindling has a higher flaming point than paper, which will make it much easier to light your coals.

No need to light the kindling directly: The paper will take care of that. They will then start up the coals at the same time.

lighter fluid charcoal
Lighter fluid might be easy to use, but it can ruin the aromas and flavors of your grilled food


Any spirit with high alcohol content will do, but whiskey is as close to authentic BBQ grilling as you can get with this method.

It also has a relatively high sugar content which is great because sugar in itself can aid charcoal lighting. Sugar decomposes quickly when exposed to flames, but releases a fire-friendly chemical as it does so. This will help ignite charcoal.

Use it with wadded up paper towels. Douse the towels in whiskey and then place them in between the coals before then lighting.

I recommend using extreme caution with this (source), so don’t light the paper directly with a lighter as the whiskey will flare up extremely quickly. Instead, carefully drop a lit match in or scrunched up newspaper.

Cardboard egg crate

I feel like egg crates come in handy for so many situations, so it’s almost no surprise to see them on this list too.

Take the bottom half of the crate and remove the lid. Place the coals in the bottom half of the crate and light each corner of the crate. This will allow the cardboard to burn slowly around the coals and ignite them.

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