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Grilling Fuel & Fire Starter Options

There are a variety of fuels for your grill. Here is general information on fuel options and some fire starters.

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Charcoal Options

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Natural Briquettes

  • Made from pulverized lump charcoal held together with natural starches
  • No off-flavors generated from some composite briquettes

Composition Briquettes

  • Made from burned wood and scraps, coal dust, camphor, paraffin, or petroleum binders
  • Use quality brands -- otherwise they may contain excessive fillers that give foods an unpleasant taste and leave heavy ashes

Charwood or Lump Charcoal

  • Formed from hardwoods, such as maple, oak, and hickory
  • Lights quicker and burns cleaner and hotter than briquettes
  • Additive and petroleum-free
  • Retains some natural flavor
  • Occasionally sparks
  • Limited availability
  • Higher cost than briquettes

Wood

Natural woods, such as hickory, oak, or fruit-tree wood are available in chips and chunks.

  • Delivers intense heat
  • Burns longer than alternatives
  • Gives additional flavor to food
  • Small size requires presoaking
  • Do not use softwood as it is prone to flare-up
  • Do not use lumber or plywood, which contain toxic chemicals

Chips

  • Readily available at hardware stores and grocery stores

Chunks

  • Delivers smoky flavor
  • Can build fire entirely from chunks or in combination with briquettes
  • If used with briquettes, light chunks first as they burn longer
  • No soaking required

Gas Fuel Options

  • Most gas grills run on liquid propane
  • A minority run on natural gas

Where to Find Fuel

  • Most gas grills have tanks that can be traded in for full ones at many supermarkets and hardware stores
  • If your home is heated with propane, the grill can be attached to the propane supply line, eliminating the need for a tank
  • Call your local utility to find out about natural gas hookups

Instant-Light Charcoal

  • Easy to light
  • Soaked with petroleum product that releases fumes through much of cooking
  • Charcoal added during cooking will give bitter flavor to food

Lighter Fluid

  • Fluid dispersed on coals and allowed to soak in for few minutes before lighting
  • Fluid burns off well prior to cooking
  • Against the law in some places because of resulting pollutants

Paraffin Starter

  • Environmentally safe, nontoxic
  • Smokeless
  • Easy to use
  • Place a few pieces of paraffin under mound of charcoal or in bottom of chimney starter and light

Chimney Starter

How does it work?

  • Cylindrical steel pipe with vents in bottom, grate in middle, and heatproof handle
  • Charcoal or wood chunks placed on grate and crumpled newspaper or paraffin starters placed in bottom of cylinder
  • Chimney set on bottom grate of grill and newspaper or paraffin starter is lit with long match or lighter
  • When coals are ready, remove chimney and pour coals directly on grill
  • Cylindrical shape encourages coals to light quickly and evenly

Electric Starter

How does it work?

  • Metal coil placed beneath briquettes
  • Plugged-in coil heats up and ignites coals within minutes
  • When coals begin to glow, unplug and carefully remove starter
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