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No Newspaper? Other Options for Lighting Coals

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2016

We wondered if there was a suitable alternative to newspaper for lighting coals.

In our May/June 2016 issue, we included a note about how to properly pack the bottom of a charcoal chimney starter with newspaper, but some readers reported a problem: They no longer get a paper. One option: buy starters. We also wondered if there wasn’t a suitable alternative in the recycling bin.

In lieu of the paper, we first tried 10 crumpled pages from a glossy magazine (enough to provide fuel without overpacking), but they smoldered slowly—a half-full chimney took a full 30 minutes before the coals were ready. Half a cardboard six-pack carrier, crumpled into the lower chamber, did the job in 20 minutes but generated a lot of smoke and flyaway embers. Corrugated cardboard torn into strips behaved the same way.

The best bet? A cardboard egg carton torn into rough 4-inch chunks and lightly packed into the lower chamber. It produced minimal smoke and ash as it burned, and our coals were grill-ready in 20 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes with newspaper.

GLOSSY MAGAZINES? NO

CARDBOARD SIX-PACK CARRIER? NO

EGG CARTON? YES