This is a close look at a burning set of charcoal under a grill.

Charcoal Lighter Fluid vs Kerosene

I know that this is a pretty specific topic. You most likely searched for this topic because no one randomly looks for a topic this specific.

There’s a lot to know about lighter fuel. Unfortunately, much of this information is relatively unknown to people, not because they’re useless but mainly because they’re trivial.

What Do You Need to Know About Lighter Fuels?

There are different kinds of lighter fuels, each with different advantages and disadvantages. The type of lighter you need depends on your intended use, of course.

Let’s talk about the types of lighter fluid.

Butane

Butane is one of the most commonly used forms of lighter fluid. It’s mostly found in outdoor grills and cigarette lighters. It is easily accessible in many stores which is why it is a popular choice by many outdoorsy people.

The commercial form of butane is n-butane which is used as a gasoline additive to increase the fuel’s volatility thereby increasing the engine’s performance.

Naphtha

This is a highly flammable lighter fluid. It is used as an alternative to butane.

It is known as benzene (C6H6). It is a highly flammable hydrocarbon mixture. Benzene has a sweet odor that is colorless until it reaches room temperature. It then turns into a shade of light yellow.

Kerosene

Another multi use lighter fluid is kerosene which is also known as paraffin, paraffin oil, or coal oil.

It is a great lighter fluid used in fuel lamps, lighting charcoal grills, burning wood, and sometimes even fuel for jet engines.

Kerosene accounts for roughly 25% of all petroleum products manufactured in the world using different distillation methods.

Starter Fluid

There is a natural lighter fluid that is called Smarter Starter Natural Charcoal Lighter Fluid that is quickly gaining popularity around the world. It is used as an alternative to kerosene for cooking with charcoal grills.

It burns safely and efficiently which makes it a great choice when cooking on grills outdoors.

Charcoal Lighter Fluid

Charcoal lighter fluid is a flammable fluid used to accelerate the ignition of charcoal when used in a BBQ grill.

If you’ve been grilling outdoors for quite some time now, you probably have a box of these in your garage. This could be either petroleum-based or alcohol-based.

The environmental impact of using charcoal lighter fluid is hard to gauge, though. It seems a lot safer than lighter fluid.

Are Charcoal Lighter Fluid And Lighter Fluid the Same?

Charcoal lighter fluid is the intended lighter fluid for grilling, as the name suggests. This fluid is sprayed directly into the charcoal to ensure that the fire would start evenly and instantly. 

Charcoal lighter fluid is just refined kerosene. But don’t make the mistake of equating charcoal lighter fluid to kerosene. They are two very different chemicals. 

Lighter fluid, on the other hand, is a multi-purpose fluid that is used in lighters. It is sometimes referred to as Naptha.

You cannot interchange these two very different chemicals. Doing so would result in unexpected reactions. 

How to Safely Use Charcoal Lighter Fluid

A grill with charcoal lit on fire.

Lighter fluids could be extremely hazardous to your health. It is also harmful to the environment, especially if not disposed of properly.

If you are planning to use lighter fluid, definitely make sure that you are using it responsibly and safely. Most lighter fluids have safety precautions printed directly on the container – it includes the usual “don’t swallow” and “flammable” warning labels along with other types of caution labels.

You should seek medical attention if you accidentally swallowed lighter fluid. 

Is It Safe to Use Kerosene for Your Grill?

Yes. It is relatively safe to use kerosene for your charcoal grill.

However, it is not recommended. The reason is it leaves a faint diesel taste in the food. If you are using a charcoal grill, definitely use the proper lighter fluid.

Other cooking equipment can use kerosene but those are specialized. You can get a kerosene cooking equipment

What is the Better Alternative?

The better choice would be to just use charcoal lighter fluid. It’s the recommended fire starter choice for charcoal grills.

Charcoal lighter fluid is just a more refined kerosene but is relatively safer, and doesn’t leave an foul taste to the meat that you’re grilling.

How to Use Charcoal Lighter Fluid for Grilling

Here’s what you do. You pour enough charcoal into the grill. Stack the charcoal into a cone.

Then pour the charcoal lighter fluid over the cone, letting it drip to the charcoal below. Let the fluid sit for at least 30 seconds. With a lighter or match, light the charcoal cone from the bottom. If you have a long lighter, it would be better since it will be safer for you.

Let the fire run for a bit until the charcoal is white on the surface. Spread it out evenly, add the food, then start cooking.

The Takeaway

This is a close look at a batch of meat grilling.

The reason charcoal lighter fluid is the preferred choice when grilling is it does not add any weird taste to the meat you’re grilling. It just functions as a fire starter.

Charcoal lighter fluid is way different than kerosene, especially for grilling. If you use kerosene for grilling, it would create a weird taste and aroma in the food.

There are cooking equipment that uses kerosene though but they only use it as fuel. If you cook your food with direct exposure to kerosene, it would leave a hint of off-putting aroma into whatever food it is that you’re cooking.

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