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How do I light a gel fuel canister for fondue?

Okay, I know this sounds ridiculously obtuse! But I am trying out a new enameled cast iron fondue pot and it came with a Swiss Fire Gel Fuel Pack. It has no instructions for lighting it. It simply says "tear foil cover off".

I don't want to blow the house up. Do you just stick a lighter in this thing?

The first ingredient on the gel pack is Ethanol.

How the heck do I light this? Also, can I use a tealight with the cast iron enamel fondue pot instead?

I don't really like the idea of this thing burning at my table, but I digress.

Thank you to all who may have some insight on this!

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  1. Just a lighter or a match will work great. A tea light won't throw nearly enough heat.

    1. Just touch a match to it, the exposed surface just burns, it's not like a candle with a wick. We use them all the time with chafing dishes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ferret

        Thank you, CanadaGirl and Ferret! I appreciate your response and now I won't have to freak about using that thing! :O)

      2. With any open flame in use, please make sure you know where the nearest fire extinguisher is and how to use it.
        It seems silly but, you never know if someone might get a bit overzealous with the "full contact fondue" and knock the thing over.
        Have fun & stay safe

        3 Replies
        1. re: zippypinhead

          if one is truly worried, and given the fuel involved, I'd keep baking soda around. easier to clean up than an extinguisher as well (former boy scout/fire bug/voice of experience)

          1. re: hill food

            Yes, most times the baking soda is going to do the trick.
            I would still have an extinguisher handy though.... I just happen to have one hanging outside the door leading from kitchen to garage. Haven't had to use it yet.
            I'm the son, son-in-law, brother-in-law, cousin, grandson and uncle of firefighters. I've seen too many aftermaths of not being prepared..... Fire has no soul and no mercy.

            1. re: zippypinhead

              never a bad idea to have one around, especially if one lives in a rural area 20 minutes from the nearest (all-volunteer) station. they're great folks, but by the time they could possibly show up, it would just be a matter of containment.

        2. A wand type lighter would let you get the the flame close to the fuel surface. They are more useful for bbq and fireplace lighting than the small ones designed for smokers.

          1. as others have suggested a cigarette lighter would be awkward. a match or wand would be more clever.

            I assume the fondue pot stand has a holder for the can o' flame keeping it off the table surface. that's really the only concern. when it comes time to extinguish don't blow it out, just put something on top, like a can lid - deprive it of air. ABSOLUTELY do not use water. unless of course things get boring and you want some excitement. there is a utensil made for this that holds the canned heat and has a sort of tong-like closing mechanism for this. look at the chafing dishes used by caterers.

            when it's time to replace it almost any supermarket or hardware store will have Sterno (with a replaceable lid) and you just put that back on to put it out. why am I always reminded of the movie "Andromeda Strain" when I talk about sterno?

            CanadaGirl is right, you can TRY to use a tea light, but the result would be pathetic.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              What would happen if you do use water to put it out?

              1. re: Dave MP

                The fire won't extinguish and the burning gel will spread. Not good!

                1. re: CanadaGirl

                  yep, unless you happen to like flare-ups!

            2. Alcohol flame is not very hot, so it's ideal for fondue. Sterno gel is not difficult to light- there's no whoosh! involved, and it remains solid enough that you can just blow it out. Doesn't melt at its burning temperature, like candle wax. Tea lights would leave soot on your fondue pot.

              1. I use a "fireplace" butane lighter, and just found some (Costco), that have a flexible tip on them. We use them for citronella candles on the patio too.

                Hunt

                PS - for the gel canisters, it is best to cover them, to extinguish them. Also, let them cool completely, before you move them, as when hot, the gel will be partially liquid, and can spill.

                1. Also area under the gel gets very hot. l do not use them for fondue. When the fondue gets too cold, go back to the stove and reheat. May be a pain but won't burn up a tablecloth as l once did.

                  1. Use a piece of dry spaghetti (yes, just hold it in a candle flame, then use it just like a long match) to light them -- then you don't have to screw around moving a burning pot of fuel! -- this is also stinking brilliant if your sterno happens to do out while you're using it (I partially closed the cover to control the heat and put the darned thing out completely!) -- then you don't even have to move the fondue.

                    1. Please be careful. These types of canisters were in the news the other day for causing debilitating burns to folks. I have heard of the dried spaghetti idea to light a candle, say, on a birthday cake, but don't have experience lighting a gel fuel canister. Googling or Bing-ing this same question will hopefully yield videos for you. Take care.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wahine88

                        Open flame can be dangerous when not handled carefully, whether it's tea lights, Sterno fuel, or bonfires. Nothing specifically dangerous about Sterno (other than providing fuel for over-zealous journalists looking to write a fear-driven article in the run-up to the holidays....)

                        Think about the deep-fried turkeys -- pretty funny that every year, every morning news program does a piece every year about the danger of deep-fried turkeys, and EVERY YEAR the station just happens to cause a grease fire conveniently put out in the nick of time by the local firehouse.

                        The first time was funny....fifteen years later, it's getting ridiculous.

                      2. Just light a match. If you happen to drop it into the can while lighting the sterno, just leave it there, it won't be a problem.