Every grill operates with heat, except for the electric grill, which also uses fire. This fact alone makes every grill potentially dangerous. Carelessness, improper handling, or accelerants lead to between 3,000 to 4,000 grill accidents occurring in Germany every year. 75% of these incidents are attributed to the use of lighter fluid or similar accelerants (such as gasoline or petroleum). This alone demonstrates the danger posed by highly flammable liquids, whose vapors are extremely fire hazardous.
Why even consider lighting a grill with lighter fluid? One might suspect that grilling is a time-consuming process where time needs to be saved. However, that’s not true, as any grill can be ready for use in about 30 minutes. For those finding the charcoal’s preheating too lengthy, opting for a gas or electric grill might have been a better choice. Cooking outdoors on a grill in the garden has the special ambiance of grilling. This includes slowly transforming charcoal into the desired glowing embers without igniting the grill with lighter fluid. For those still feeling it’s too time-consuming, there are numerous other aids available to expedite the glowing process. In our grill accessory section, we’ve highlighted various tools. Chimneys, fire starters made of wood wool or wax, heat guns, or blowers are practical and safe tools that can get a charcoal grill going.
The dangers of lighter fluid at the grill
Lighter fluid causes uncontrolled combustion when the liquid or gases come into contact with open flames, heat, hot surfaces, or sparks. Even smoking can ignite the gases. Additionally, lighter fluid causes eye irritation. Just storing lighter fluid can pose a risk, especially in households with children. When a grill is lit with lighter fluid, a flash flame can occur, reaching back into the lighter fluid bottle. The gases from the lighter fluid also pose the risk of a lighter fluid vapor cloud, which burns in a 3-meter-wide wall of fire. Temperatures between 1,000 and 1,800°C are generated. Severe burns and even death can result from such an explosion. Many victims of such grill accidents suffer lifelong disfigurement and functional limitations. The damage to the airways due to the enormous heat (inhalation trauma) has led to death on multiple occasions. It’s not only the person lighting the grill with lighter fluid who is affected but also people near the grill. Often, children are also affected by such grill accidents. Depending on the grill’s location, such as a covered terrace, there’s even the risk of starting a fire and causing significant property damage.
Legally, not only the culprit is liable but also those involved in a grill party who did not prevent the use of accelerants (contributory negligence). Hence, passive grillers are also required to actively oppose the use of lighter fluid (Higher Regional Court of Hamm, judgment of April 21, 2009, 9 U 129/08).
Responsible grillers are aware of the dangers and refrain from lighting a grill with lighter fluid. They know (and now you do too) enough methods to safely preheat grill charcoal swiftly. They come up with all sorts of tricks to enhance the flavor of their grilled food (for example, aromatic wood chips). For a true griller, it would be a sin to replace the distinctive taste of their dishes with the taste of lighter fluid that lingers when the grill has been lit with it.