What to do with charcoal after grilling?

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The charcoal smoker is cooling down. The food is cooked to perfection, but what do you do with the leftover charcoal?

In this post, we cover the answer. For the people unrequited with or why we use charcoal, this is for you.

Charcoal is made by burning hardwood at a high temperature, and it gives foods their characteristic smoky taste.

Close all the vents after you finish cooking and let the fire extinguish slowly. We will also answer these questions: 

  • Do you need new charcoal every time?
  • How long does it take for charcoal to burn out?
  • When should you add charcoal to a grill?
  • Can you pour water on a charcoal grill?

Do you need new charcoal every time you grill?

People often dump the used charcoal or let it burn into ashes without thinking they can reuse it. You need not buy new charcoal every time you grill because the old charcoal can produce a good amount of heat if it is still solid.

The advantage of using old charcoal is that you can start your fire faster for cooking. Reuse charcoal will not affect the taste of the meat. Recycling used lumps and briquettes charcoal will help you save money, reduce waste and help the environment.

How long until charcoal burns out?

This depends on what type of charcoal you are using. If you use hardwood lumps, they will burn quicker than briquettes. Hardwood lumps are 100 percent natural and come in all shapes and sizes. It has a high burning point and can last up to 15 to 20 minutes, after which the temperature will reduce. 

Simultaneously, briquettes come in one shape, size and burn for an hour at a steady temperature. It releases harmful gas during this short time; therefore, it is necessary to put off the grill when not used.

When should I add charcoal to a grill?

You can start adding charcoal to a grill when the grill temperature reduces to 225◦F. It will take at least 15 minutes for hardwood lumps to re-stoke your grill with new charcoals; this will not affect the taste of the meat but will bring the temperature down.

 In contrast, briquettes charcoal is meant to last for an hour at a steady temperature. While dealing with briquettes, preheat the charcoal at least 30 minutes before you start cooking because it will release a bad odor of smoke and affect the meat’s taste. Besides, re-stoke the grill after 30 minutes with new preheat charcoal.

Can you cook on black charcoal?

Yes, you can cook on black charcoal. However, it will disturb your cooking, as the temperature of the charcoal will be relatively low and will not match the temperature once it is fully burning. Therefore, give the chimney time to do its thing and let coals get nice and hot before you start cooking anything. 

Cooking on black charcoal is not recommended if you are using briquettes charcoal. Let all the chemicals from the charcoal burn out, and then start the cooking.

Is charcoal ash dangerous?

Unless there are addictive chemicals in the charcoal, it is entirely safe and can be used in gardens and for plants. Ash contains potassium carbonate, which is nutritious for many plants, and it will increase the PH level in your soil. 

Briquettes charcoal contains toxic and must be dumped in a non-combustible garbage bin. Recycle ash can contribute a lot to the growth of plants, and it is environmentally friendly. 

Can I pour water on my charcoal grill?

Burning charcoal is dangerous because of the risk of blowing embers. Do not pour water onto the coals to cool them off, as this releases a large amount of steam which can cause severe burns. Charcoal briquets release carbon monoxide as they burn.

You can extinguish your fire by closing the grill hood completely so that oxygen will not pass inside it. This will suffocate the fire and prevent the charcoal from burning further. You can spray the grill hood with water to reduce the temperature. 

Safety precaution while working with charcoal

  • Charcoal produces carbon monoxide in large quantities; therefore, it is always recommended to cook outside the homes. 
  • Do not use gasoline or kerosene as a fire starter as they have a high chance of exploding. Use less-flammable fire starters. 
  • Do not use electric starters in the rain or while standing wet on the ground.
  • Always keep the vents of the grill open during the entire cooking process because charcoal needs oxygen to burn. 
  • Do not add lighter fluid to the charcoal that is already hot or warm.
  • Extinguish the fire quickly as possible to avoid fire accidents.
  • Dispose of the ash if you are using Briquettes charcoal as this contains addictive, which is highly toxic. Wrap the ash in heavy-duty aluminum foil and place it in a non-combustible container. 


Suppose the old charcoal is still solid; you can reuse it for a later cook. Utilizing old charcoal is beneficial because you can start your fire faster to cook. It does not affect the taste of the meat. Recycling old charcoal will help you save money, reduce waste, and help the environment.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.