For a lot of years I was a propane only kind of guy. Maybe not to the level of Hank Hill but I stayed away from charcoal for one sole reason: Lighter Fluid. Thankfully I learned about the other methods of lighting charcoal and my apprehensions evaporated much quicker than that lighter fluid stink. So, for many years now, I’ve been using my chimney to start plenty of charcoal fires.
While the chimney works great it does create another step in the process. More specifically, the dumping of the chimney. That extra step is what has gotten in the way of a lot of charcoal cooks for me. It seems easy enough, and it really isn’t difficult, but if I have a lot of stuff going on, whether at the tailgate or at the homegate, reducing steps is a big plus. More often than not this meant turning to my gas grill. Thankfully there is now another option.
A few weeks ago our friends at Kingsford sent us a complimentary bottle of their new EcoLight Charcoal Lighter for evaluation. Right now I need to add the disclosure: Yes it was sent to us for free, but as always we approach these products objectively, fairly, and without prejudice.
Simply put, EcoLight is a new type of lighter fluid. “But you just said…” I know I did but hear me out. What makes it different is that it’s not petroleum based like the stuff you’ve known for years. Instead EcoLight uses corn-based alcohol to give the same effect as the other types but without the odor. Armed with this knowledge, I was eager to give it a try.
My initial test did not go well but I am positive it was my fault. I am confident I did not use enough EcoLight on the briquets. The bottle does give directions of how much to use but precise measuring of charcoal and fluid did not seem practical for the way that many tailgaters would use this product. Of course the directions do mention not to spray the stuff onto lit coals but I’m sure no one would ever think that was OK.
For my second test, I used more and made sure I had adequately covered my charcoal pile. Not drenched mind you, I’d just made sure that the EcoLight was spread out. 25 minutes later, I had a pile of lit coals and I was ready to cook. My impartial taster, my wife, perceived no difference in the food, only mentioning I used too much thyme in one recipe. That was convincing enough for me.
If you’re a charcoal grilling fan but have strong feelings about lighter fluids, give this a try. There is no weird smell and while it may not replace your chimney it could, at least, prove to be another tool for your grilling arsenal. Kingsford EcoLight Charcoal Lighter retails at $5.99 a bottle but a quick Google shows many stores offering it for less. Based on our testing Kingsford EcoLight is definitely Tailgate Approved.