On the Posse, we’re dedicated chimney users when it comes to starting charcoal.
Simple and effective, even if from time to time I have to use a second sheet of newsprint to get the coals going.
Posse member Bryan Gooding likes to use a propane torch to start the paper rather than matches or a lighter. Marshall Cooper uses a treated cube or wadded butcher paper with cooking oil. He says newspaper and cooking oil work well too.
Still, there are times when I’m in a hurry and just want to get a flame going as quickly as possible, with minimal fuss.
That’s why I tested GreenFlame, a new product from Green Biologics, a company based in the United Kingdom. A key component of the fluid is made from fermented corn at the company’s plant in Little Falls, Mn.
No petroleum-based ingredients, the product’s promotional materials say. No taste on food. Little smell.
After testing, I can confirm that there is no taste residue on food and there is very little smell.
A GreenFlame spokesman says the product is available at all Kroger stores, a select number of Safeway/Albertson stores, a few specialty stores and Amazon. The company's suggested retail price is $4.99 to $5.99 for a 32-ounce bottle.
So, that leaves me with a dilemma. For decades, I have been a dedicated Weber user. I love my Smokey Mountain and I also have two regular Weber grills.
Until the test, lighter fluid had never been used in these machines. I followed “The Charcoal Vow,” as posted on Weber’s company blog:
“Raise your right hand and repeat the following: I vow to never use lighter fluid, when lighting my charcoal, ever again!”
The blog recommends a Weber chimney starter and Weber paraffin wax cubes.
I contacted Weber about its lighter fluid stance to see if there were any leeway for newer products such as GreenFlame. Spokesperson Katy Davis said she wasn't aware of any change, but she would monitor and if the company did change its stance she would let me know. Such a move would be major news in the grilling world.
On its Web site, Kingsford, the big charcoal maker, lists three methods to start briquets: 1.) Chimney. 2.) Lighter fluid. 3.) Use its Match Light brand of charcoal, which has lighter fluid added to the briquets.
Kingsford doesn't differentiate between types of grills.
Writing in Forbes earlier this year, Steven Savage said:
“Neither I or Green Biologics are claiming that bio-based charcoal lighter fluid will save the planet, but it is a small step that a lot of people could take without some big investment and while doing something a lot of Americans enjoy – grilling.”
I like that sentiment. So, the bottom line for me: I’ll remain a dedicated chimney user, but will keep a bottle of GreenFlame around for those times when minimal fuss is desired.
Photo of GreenFlame lighter fluid ©Gary Jacobson/Texas BBQ Posse