Can You Cook Over a Fire Started With Gasoline?

Don’t put your food in the hands of the neighborhood arsonist. And don’t let that arsonist be you!

Published Categorized as Questions
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Have you ever experienced a moment where you’re ready to grill, only to discover that you’re fresh out of lighter fluid?

Or, having experienced such a moment, have you caught yourself eyeing that can of gasoline you keep for the lawnmower, or other machinery in the yard, and wondered: “Hey, it’s flammable—like lighter fluid—and it’s a fluid that’ll light. So why not give it a go?”

If you have, you’re a completely normal person.

At some point, anyone who has a charcoal grill faces this question.

“Can I use gasoline to start my grill?” Or maybe it’s a question that’s a bit more derivative from the first. “Can I… ahem, should I cook over this fire that I started with gasoline?”

You don’t even have to be out of lighter fluid to consider it!

You may be simply putting a list of things together you’ll need to pick up soon from the store, and lighter fluid may be on it. Only for you to wonder, “Do I really need more lighter fluid if I’ve already got gasoline?”

Well, the good news is, no, you don’t need lighter fluid.

There are other ways you can get your charcoal grill going without using lighter fluid.

In fact, many believe you shouldn’t use lighter fluid in the first place for both health, safety, and flavor reasons. (Which should be a hint that many also don’t want you to use gasoline, either.)

That being said, using gasoline isn’t the appropriate replacement for lighter fluid. In fact, it shouldn’t be an option at all. The point is if you’ve got to choose one or the other, lighter fluid is always preferred to gasoline.

Always.

Good thing you googled “gasoline,” “grill,” and/or “no lighter fluid” and found your way here to Barbehow.

But before getting too much further down the road about the best ways to light a grill without lighter fluid, let’s take a look at why gasoline should stay far away from your briquets.

It’s Not Can You, It’s Should You. (And No, You Shouldn’t)

Don’t introduce extra volatility to your grilling experience. This can’t be repeated enough.

There are so many simple lines of wisdom that can be taken for granted that really should be stamped on the consciousness of every rational person.

Lines such as:

  • Don’t step on a crack in the sidewalk.
  • Don’t play with the flame thrower in the garage.
  • Don’t collect trouble.
  • Keep your back to the wall and your gun hand free.

Well, maybe not all of those (except the last two), but one that should definitely be stamped all over your consciousness is don’t introduce extra volatility to your grilling experience.

In other words, don’t douse your coals with gasoline.

If you’re grilling, you’re already playing with fire. Of course, it’s not actually “playing” since you’re being a safe and responsible grill master.

But there’s no avoiding the fact fire is involved.

With fire comes heat and the potential for other things to catch on fire or get burned, including yourself.

The last thing you need to add to this equation is a highly volatile chemical that can cause your very controlled cooking experience to descend into an out-of-control infernal nightmare.

As the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association make clear, you shouldn’t use gasoline or other volatile chemicals because, quite simply, they can explode.

Got that?

Don’t use it. It can explode.

Sounds like a pretty good reason not to use gasoline or kerosene (which is used for jet fuel), right?

The United States Consumer Protection Agency goes one step further and recommends never using or storing gasoline near a grill, let alone cooking over a fire started with it.

In other words, if it has an open flame, don’t have gasoline next to it. And don’t throw gasoline in it.

Now that everyone’s up-to-date on whether they should use gasoline on their grill, let’s take a look at better options for getting the fire on your grill going.

Options Far Safer Than Gasoline

Although you may be tempted to use gasoline, you know better than to and so now you need to know what you should use to get your briquets hot. The good news is, you’ve got plenty of options that shouldn’t end with an explosion, out-of-control fire, or anyone losing their eyebrows.

First and foremost is anything that’s flammable and can be easily extinguished if necessary.

This includes anything from rolled-up newspapers to dryer lint to paper towels soaked with vegetable oil. You can also use cardboard paper towels or (scent-free) toilet paper rolls.

If you feel like you need an accelerant, your bar might provide the answer.

Alcohol that’s at least 100-proof (50% alcohol by volume) can be used to light your briquets. You can also use denatured alcohol or mineral spirits. You can even crack open your first aid kit and use rubbing alcohol.

Related: Can You Use Alcohol to Start a Fire?

All are more effective and safer to use than gasoline.

Another way to avoid this type of situation is to buy a product like Kingsford Match Light briquets. They already come with lighter fluid infused in the briquets.

Of course, you’ll also get some of that “lighter fluid” taste in your food if you cook with them, and especially if you don’t wait for the coals to ashen over. But if that’s what you like, more power to you!

Related: How to Grill Without the Taste of Lighter Fluid

Lastly, if you don’t have a chimney starter, this is a good reason to have one. A little kindling and your coals are hot in no time. No fluid or anything else is required.

The main thing to remember is once some coals are hot, they’ll quickly make other coals hot. At this point, fire is no longer needed. You only need time and patience as the coals work their heat magic.

In Summary

Gasoline is a highly volatile chemical that is an essential part of our lives. From cars to lawnmowers to electrical generators, the uses and needs for gasoline are significant.

Using gasoline for grilling is not on that list of uses and needs. 

Instead, there are far safer and more effective ways to light a fire on a grill that doesn’t involve using a chemical that’s key safety concern is exploding and causing fires and burning people.

You’re far better off using traditional items like kindling, paper soaked in vegetable oil, dry firewood, or even high-proof liquor or rubbing alcohol to get your grill going instead of using gasoline.

Worst case scenario, if you don’t have anything to start your fire and your imagination is running wild, probably better to put off grilling until you have the correct stuff to cook with.

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