There seems to be a tendency in any remotely comedic work of fiction for attempts to light a grill to end in spectacular explosion. Just one spark, and it goes up in a beautiful pillar of flame. No matter how many safety precautions are taken — or how few — the only injury involved is a charred, blackened face. Anything worse wouldn't be funny.
This is commonly caused by a character taking a Tim Taylor Technology approach to lighter fluid, but it could be a sign of more general ineptitude. Either way, it's rarely a one-time event, and is generally elevated to an "annual ritual."
This can be Truth in Television, except for the Amusing Injuries. Two to three thousand people are admitted to hospitals every year due to failing to safely light a grill, and some of those incidents are fatal. Just so you know, the proper way to light a charcoal grill is to pour in a layer of charcoal, squirt in the lighter fluid, leave it alone for ten or fifteen minutes, and then light the charcoal. Better yet, use a starting cube (or some newspaper) and a chimney starter.
- This is parodied in a Verizon commercial featuring Michael Bay. "Awesome barbecue!" [explodes in an impressive burst of pyrotechnics]
- A Geico commercial back in the '90s features a guy dousing his grill with copious amounts of lighter fluid. He finally goes to light it, and it cuts to several yards away, and we can still see the explosion off in the distance.
- One Eddie Murphy routine features a story about one of his uncles combining charcoal, gasoline, and lighter fluid to start a backyard grill, with more-than-explosive results.
"Now that's a fire!"
- Calvin and Hobbes: One strip features Calvin's attempt to convince his dad to invoke this trope by using gasoline instead of lighter fluid.
- Crankshaft: Crankshaft is known for his impressive grilling explosions. This was once lampshaded by having the city council help deal with budget problems by replacing their Fourth of July fireworks show with Crankshaft lighting his grill. A cause has been found: Homeland Security wants Cranky's "secret barbecue sauce" as it's apparently more powerful than most military-grade explosives.
- Roger Fox's attempts to light the grill always result in the textbook pillar of fire, in large part due to his consistent overuse of lighter fluid. A common gag is that the Fox family watches fireworks for the Fourth of July in their backyard... created from Roger's attempts at a Fourth of July barbecue. In one example, the force of the blast causes the grill to start boring a hole into the earth. At least one strip also implies that Andy usually lets Jason play inside if Roger's doing barbecue because sending him outside for fresh air would be pointless when there isn't any fresh air when he's using the barbecue. The same strip and others also imply that Roger's grilling attempts usually are bad enough to have NASA or the EPA call him. Roger also doesn't like it when he cannot cook a thing on the grill after he, in his own words, nearly killed himself trying to light it. At one point, he's met with that exact dilemma due to Andy apparently forgetting to shop for burgers, hot dogs, and the like. The final panel has Jason being reluctant to eat his spaghetti with Roger being irate at his having spaghetti himself, implying that he was forced to grill spaghetti after he pitched a fit at Andy.
- Peter also does it twice; the first time actually predates his father making it a Running Gag (the result of spraying lighter fluid on hot coals), the second is deliberate for his Father's Day present in a manner of breaking the fourth wall.
- Final Destination 2: At the end, a teenage boy who narrowly survived a death earlier in the film suddenly dies for a final BOO scare when he messes up using a barbecue grill.
- Dave Barry's column "Independence Day," in describing the "traditional" American Fourth of July experience, claims that the loud explosions and pyrotechnic shows observed at nightfall are "caused by the fact that various dads, after consuming a number of traditionally fermented beverages, have given up on conventional charcoal-lighting products and escalated to gasoline." This spectacular experience, which culminates with a "traditional visit to the hospital emergency room," promotes appreciation of Francis Scott Key's words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," which are said to "commemorate the fledgling nation's first barbecue" and are quoted in the column as follows:
And the grill parts' red glare,
Flaming spiders in air;
Someone call 911;
There's burning scunge in Dad's hair.note
- Death in Paradise: At the end of "The Complex Murder", Dwayne and Humphrey are grilling prawns. Dwayne asks Humphrey to spray the prawns with water. Humphrey picks up the wrong bottle and sprays the grill with the paraffin they had used to light it, turning the grill into a bonfire.
- Home Improvement once featured an attempt to set the record for shortest time to prepare a charcoal grill for cooking. Tim pulled it off in 3.2 seconds using jet fuel and liquid oxygen. The grill promptly took off like a rocket. It landed in a lake at the end of the episode.
- Monk: In "Mr. Monk Makes the Playoffs", Chet Walsh, a Condors fan, is preparing a charcoal grill for the tailgate party, and lights the match after adding in some lighter fluid, with predictable results. However, it is not his adding lighter fluid that caused it to explode, so much as the fact that limo driver Shawn Metzger has added gasoline to the grill, in an attempt to silence Walsh because he feared he may have witnessed Metzger killing backup quarterback David Gitelson and/or knew about Gitelson's out of order playbook due to being in close proximity to Gitelson when Gitelson was killed. This is also one of the few instances where it is not Played for Laughs.
- Rescue 911 has a segment where a kid pours gasoline onto an already smoldering grill with the expected results.
- Hitman: Blood Money: In the mission "A New Life", one (noisy and inelegant) means of retrieving an objective necklace involves sabotaging the target's backyard grill so it will do this when the wearer tries to light it, then collecting the necklace off her corpse.
- Paper Mario: Color Splash: The Grill Thing card teleports the enemies onto a giant grill that combusts them in a massive flame outburst that covers almost the entire screen.
- Bob and George: The only thing Bob might love more than using his fire powers for evil is grilling. Fortunately for all involved, he keeps the flames relatively low for this trope.
- Johnny Wander: Dumping rubbing alcohol on it: not a good way to light your grill. John manages to set things on fire.
- Wapsi Square: Shelly invokes this as part of a plan to arrange a meeting with an attractive police officer who had been hitting on her earlier. At least she takes some safety precautions.
- Darwin Awards: An "At Risk Survivor" award went to a pair of guys who started their barbecue grill, then realized they were short of charcoal. So they loaded their still smoldering grill on to the back of their pick-up to drive it round to a friend's place who had some charcoal. No prizes for guessing what happens when you air at high speed through smoldering coals. Their truck ended up going up in flames.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer empties an entire can of lighter fluid on the grill, and then gets a second can and adds some more. The resulting fireball could be seen from miles away.
- Subverted another time when Homer drenches the barbecue with an interminable amount of fluid, then shields his face to drop in the match. It peacefully ignites a serviceable glow.
- Voltron Force: Hunk designs a massively oversized and overpowered grill. The moment he turns it on, it shoots out a huge gout of flame that instantly vaporizes the meat he was trying to cook. It then proceeds to blast off through the roof and explode.
- What do you get when you mix a bunch of engineers, liquid oxygen, and a barbecue grill? How to light a grill in two seconds!