How to Put Out a Charcoal Grill

The opportunity to enjoy the outdoors amongst the company of family and loved ones is a major draw card during the summer months. Having them over for a barbecue is even better, especially at summertime but you will need to know how to put out a charcoal grill.

A barbecue cook up is a great way to bond with family, friends, and neighbors, but making it even better is using a charcoal grill. There’s a distinct flavor that using charcoal brings to your barbecue. The smokey flavor they impart on the meat makes even renowned grill masters prefer charcoal over gas.

However, there are a couple of things you need to know before using a charcoal grill. Firstly, you need to know how to ignite the charcoal, which may seem simple enough.

Simply pour your fresh charcoal into the grill or use a charcoal starter. I like to get a couple of fire lights under the charcoal to help with the process.

The second, more relevant factor is knowing how to safely put out a charcoal grill. This article will focus on how to put out a charcoal grill safely. If you’re still not sure how to use your charcoal grill, click here.

How to Put Out a Charcoal Grill Safely

To put out a charcoal grill fire, you need only a few common barbecue tools and a couple of items from the kitchen cupboard. These include a water container, insulated gloves, BBQ tongs, aluminum foil, baking soda, a special brush, and a wire grill brush.

Several ways to safely put out a charcoal grill after using it include:

Dousing the Embers

This quick and straightforward option is only used when grilling on the go and need to pack up soon after cooking.

Close the lid and vents as soon as possible to prevent oxygen from reaching the charcoal, which will help to smother it.

Although not recommended, you can rapidly and fully cool ash by gently pouring water over the charcoal, moving your jug around as you do to allow the water to fully cover the coals and ensure they all come into contact with the water.

This will prevent any chance of the embers re-igniting. However, this runs the risk of producing ash and hot steam, which can be a health hazard, hence the reason it is my least preferred method so you have to be extra cautious if you do this.

Again, I recommend you avoid using this option unless you’re really in a hurry because you risk the chance of cracking your grill due to the sudden and drastic change in temperature.

A better way is to wrap hot coals with a couple of layers of aluminum foil and putting them into a bucket of water, the foil will stop ash from dispersing widely and help to stop hot steam from rising.

Suffocating the Flames

A safer, albeit time-consuming, alternative method is by suffocating the coals and letting them cool off on their own, may take up to 48 hours though.

The HPBA (Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association) recommends that the most straightforward method for putting out charcoal after grilling is just to let it burn out and convert to ash. Then allow them to cool for no less than 48 hours.

For more ease, you should ideally remove the grill rack and seal the lid along with any vents while cooling. When the ashes have cooled, wrap them up in aluminum foil and discard them separately from other combustible materials, a quick soak in a bucket of water will help.

You just need to be 100 percent certain that the charcoal is completely out before throwing into a bin. I like to bury mine in the garden that way my bin won’t go up in flames, haha.

Let It Burn!

Alternatively, if your charcoal grill lacks a lid, one way to put out the burning coals is by letting them burn out entirely until they reduce to ashes. You’ll still need to let the grill cool down afterward, so it’s like the second step I suggested, but even longer. You’ll also need to monitor the coals as they burn out so they don’t burn what they shouldn’t. So, this is a method for those who have patience.

Waste Disposal

After the charcoal has cooled down to a safe, low temperature, you can get rid of the ash and the used charcoal. I suggest entirely wrapping your coals in aluminum foil and dousing with water for a minute or so before putting them in a non-combustible outdoor trash can.

It would also be a pity and a waste to throw away all the charcoal if, on the other hand, you discover that there is quite a bit left over after grilling. You can reuse the charcoal pretty easily to reduce this waste.

If you plan to use the coals again next time you grill, avoid putting partially burned coals in water to put out the flames.

Cleaning the Grill

You’re nearly finished, it’s a good idea to give the grill a clean down now so you are ready to go for your next BBQ.

To remove the leftover ash off the grill, use a trowel or a grill spatula made of metal. After that, you need to clean the chamber thoroughly. Pay close attention to the vents since there is where some of the larger charcoal ashes can end up and likely cause a blockage for your next grill-off.

Clean the grates and the lowest portions of the grill using a wire brush. You can use mild soap and water to clean the grates every few times to remove stubborn grease.

It’s a good idea to give the grill a quick spray or wipe down with some cooking oil to help  lubricate these components, it works well as an anti-rusting agent, extending the life of your charcoal barbecue. This link explains in further detail how to clean a BBQ grill.

Why Is It So Important to Put Out a Charcoal Grill Carefully?

In contrast to a gas barbecue, charcoal needs access to oxygen to stay ignited. (For this reason, keep the lid on when using a charcoal grill since taking it off might cause winds to feed the flames.) Additionally, unlike gas grills, there is no off button you can press to stop using a charcoal grill once you’ve finished cooking.

The coals burn rather hotly and might take up to 48 hours to cool down so they can be thrown away. Although there are methods to speed up the procedure, you should still wait several hours before handling them.

Always use a non-combustible container when disposing of your ashes and coals, even when you think they are totally cold!

Final Thoughts

We cannot stress the importance of grilling safety enough. Please wait a few minutes before covering your grill; it may continue to be hot for hours after you’ve finished cooking. More essential, keep children and pets away from the grill.

If you follow these simple procedures after grilling, you’ll ensure easy clean-up and maximum safety. Don’t allow disposal issues to stop you from having the ultimate charcoal BBQ, as nothing compares to enjoying a flame-cooked dinner with friends. Grill sensibly so you can do it a again and again!

Written By


Hi there, I'm Greg (also known as Herbie) and like most Aussies enjoy a good BBQ. I want to share with you some tips and recipes, along with gear that I like, to help you with your backyard barbecue and grilling hobbie.Anyway, have a look around and let me know what you think and happy BBQing. Cheers Herbie.

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