Singed eyebrows are off the menu

2019-03-08 08:17:01

By Matt Walker A NEW clean-burning fuel for lighting fires could end the ritual havoc of the summer barbecue, with its billowing smoke, blackened sausages and accidental flash fires. The fuel, which comes as a nondrip gel, is made from almost equal amounts of ethanol, fermented from sugar cane, and cellulose. It burns without smoke, giving off water and carbon dioxide as waste products. “It’s nontoxic, won’t flare and doesn’t taint food,” says Nick Malpeli, director of Kwik Cook of Bristol, the firm that developed the fuel. Conventional fire-lighting fluids are based on kerosene (paraffin), a highly flammable petrochemical that can flare up if you douse the charcoal with too much fluid. Solid lighters are usually based on hexamine, a compound often used in explosives. It produces a lot of smoke, which contains potential carcinogens and blackens food with soot. By contrast, only about 0.1 per cent of the new fuel turns into soot. The mixture of cellulose and ethanol would naturally burn with a bluish flame. But for safety reasons, Kwik Cook has added table salt to turn the flame a highly visible yellow. Tiny amounts of Bitrex, an extremely bitter substance,