How to Start Charcoal without Lighter Fluid in Three Hours or Fewer


1. One empty bottle of lighter fluid.

2. Well-Marinated Steak

3. One Grill Full of Unlit Charcoal

4. One Box of Unlit Matches

Step 1: Pick up the bottle of lighter fluid and realize that it is empty.

Step 2: Get angry. Be creative here. Anything from glaring at the charcoal hoping it will burst into flames by the power of your fury to cursing the iron heavens is appropriate.

Step 3: Determine that a little setback like this isn’t going to stop you by golly. Remind yourself that the pioneers didn’t have lighter fluid and they cooked out all the time.

Step 4. Take approximately half the matches in your box and build a pyre inside the mound of charcoal. Light pyre.

Step 5. Get angry when this doesn’t work at all. More cursing of iron heavens (optional).

Step 6. Google, “How to Start Charcoal without Lighter Fluid” on your cell phone. Ignore the tiny voice in your head reminding you that the pioneers did not have cell phones.

Step 6. Follow instructions obtained on internet. Insert ball of wadded up newspaper and build charcoal up around it. Light.

Step 7. This doesn’t work either. More cursing of iron heavens.

Step 8. Shift your paradigm. Start to think of this as starting a fire rather than starting charcoal. (Note: paradigm in this example is an automatic. Extra steps may be required for standard shift paradigms.)

Step 9:  Gather kindling: bits of dry grass, tiny twigs, slightly less tiny twigs, small sticks.

Step 10: Push charcoal to the edge of grill and pile kindling in the middle starting with dry grass and tiny twigs.

Step 11: Light Kindling. Add slightly less tiny twigs and small sticks little by little as the fire catches.

Step 12: Pile charcoal on top of the fire you have started a little at a time, being careful not to smother it.

Step 13: Bask in the glory of your success. Tweet an obscure reference to Atop the Fourth Wall (optional)

Step 14: Grill and eat steak.

Step 15: Write blog post chronicling your adventure.

Step 16. Edit Blog post and realize you have two Step 6’s. Ignore.

8 responses to “How to Start Charcoal without Lighter Fluid in Three Hours or Fewer

  1. You don’t have twigs and sticks when you live in sun bleached rows of white dominoes waiting for another hurricane 4 or 5 to level called condos in Miami. The rules won’t let you have grill on the balconies anyway. So I won’t have the problem but really miss charcoaled cooked things including vegetables. How about strategies for combating mosquitoes the size of Buicks?

  2. You always give me a giggle. Step 16 was it.

  3. Ha! Loved this. Always a pleasure to read your blog. I especially liked Step 2 (and 5…and 7), as this is generally my own personal response to such things.

  4. Ha, ha, been there! Very funny picturing this scene!

  5. Ha Ha! This is great

  6. Good one Albert…kind of funny, but then Congrats for your accomplishment.

  7. Dude, one word… Sizzler. Plus I live on the third floor with no balcony.

    You’re a better man than me, Sir.

  8. lol. You made it sound funny. I’m sure it’s frustrating when you’re doing the run around. 🙂 So, did you manage to grill or did you order out?

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