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Flamin' Hot... Doritos? Why Snacks Start Fires So Well

Doritos burn like the devil. Learn why and how they can start fires.

A single Doritos chip is light on fire with a match
Doritos will catch fire pretty easily and burn for a long time.
James Martin/CNET

This story is part of Try This, CNET's collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.

If you forgot to bring a fire-starter or kindling for your campfire, you might have a solution in your snack bag. Doritos catch fire easily, and they burn long enough and at high enough temperatures to help a fire get started, or at least help it on its way. They're also not the only snacks that burn -- Cheetos and Fritos will work in a pinch as well.

Get the full details on this simple fire-starter trick and learn why Doritos burn so well. For other life hacks, learn how to cut a cake without a knife or how to stop junk mail.

@cnetdotcom Loose the #Firestarter logs, use #Doritos instead. #trythis#lifehack#howtotok#campinghack#cheetos#chips♬ original sound - Adam

Why do Doritos burn so well?

Doritos have nearly 30 ingredients, but the first three are what bring the fire:

1. Ground corn. Doritos' primary ingredient -- corn -- is a carbohydrate that burns well for fuel, even hotter than wood. When ground into a fine powder like cornstarch, the extra surface area makes it flammable

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Pro tip: A corn cob also works great as a fire-starter, but only when it's dry.

2. Vegetable oil. Doritos lists three vegetable oils -- corn, canola or sunflower -- which all burn well. They're flammable but once you hit a fire point of about 700 degrees F, they burn like most other oils, with a durable, consistent flame. 

3. Salt. It's not burnable, but the salt in Doritos (210mg of sodium per ounce) keeps the chips dry and crispy. Salt functions as a desiccant to make it easier for the fuel to burn.

What's the best way to start a fire with Doritos?

To burn, fire needs fuel and oxygen. Doritos give you the fuel and their shape helps enable the oxygen to let it burn. Their design gives them a surface-area advantage -- they're thin and curved to allow gaps in stacking. 

Make sure to pile your Doritos below the dry, stacked wood so air can easily pass through, and keep the Doritos close enough to burn them directly. 

After you prepare your fire pit, create your bed of kindling. Doritos are more fire-starter than kindling, so add smaller and drier branches directly above the chips if possible. Then arrange your logs on top of the kindling.

The flames from your pile of Doritos should burn long and hot enough to catch the dry wood on fire. In my testing, the chips from a 2.75-ounce bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos burned with a strong flame over 1 foot high for about 10 minutes. A smaller bag of Cool Ranch Doritos burned comparably.

Can other snacks burn as well as Doritos?

Yes, other snacks with the same combination of carbohydrate content, vegetable oils and high salt level can also burn well. 

Fritos corn chips only have three ingredients, but surprise! They're the same three critical ingredients as Doritos -- corn, vegetable oil and salt. Fritos also work great as a fire-starter.

After Doritos, the most obvious snack to test was the self-proclaimed Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Again, corn, vegetable oil and salt combine to create another fiery snack fuel. 

In my tests, the Flamin' Hot Cheetos burned even brighter than Doritos. While they were more difficult to stack than the large and flat Doritos, once I formed them into a pyre, half of a 3.25-ounce bag burned for minutes with a flame over 2 feet high. 

Does the flavor of Doritos matter when starting a fire?

I tested burning Doritos with two flavors -- regular Nacho Cheese Doritos and Cool Ranch Doritos. There was no noticeable difference between the two flavors as far as burning power, but they both produced an odd black smoke, most likely from the vegetable oil.

No, burning the Cool Ranch Doritos did not create a blue flame.

Stay safe when burning Doritos (or burning anything)

Before you set your Doritos aflame, make sure that fires are permitted in your area, the area is clear of other flammable debris and conditions are favorable for a campfire. Check that children and pets are a safe distance away. And make sure you have a shovel and a few gallons of water on hand if you need to quickly extinguish your snack-driven fire.