How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill? (Simple Actionable Tips)

Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: March 22, 2024

Using a charcoal grill right will transform your culinary experience. I’ll be the first to admit. It took me some time to master it but once I did, it’s been my go-to choice when I crave some BBQ.

But, friends and family who are interested in charcoal grilling often come to me with one concern: What’s the best way to put out the charcoal grill safely?

So, to help anyone with the same concern, I wrote a guide on the best way to put out the charcoal grill. I used more than a decade of experience working with charcoal grills to bring you my tips and tricks on how to put out your charcoal grill in a safe way.

Quick Summary

  • Putting out a charcoal grill safely involves closing the lid and air vents to cut off oxygen, allowing the charcoal to burn out, and leaving it to cool for up to 48 hours.
  • Necessary equipment for extinguishing a charcoal grill includes heat-proof mitts, a metal trash can, a wire brush, foil, tongs, baking soda, a spatula, and a fire extinguisher are needed.
  • A 1996 case report in the National Library of Medicine found death can occur after accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from operating a charcoal grill, underscoring the importance of proper grill extinguishing procedure [1].
  • Cleaning the grill after extinguishing involves removing ashes, sweeping the chamber, washing the grate, and seasoning with silicone spray.

Why It’s Important to Extinguish Charcoal Grill?

Grill full of smoke and charcoal

There’s no button to press on the charcoal grill that’ll extinguish it. Unless you put it out yourself, the charcoal will continue to burn until completely spent. If you’ve used a lot of charcoal, this could last for hours and is a safety hazard.

Here’s why you should always put out a charcoal grill:

  • The charcoal will continue burning, and it’ll be hot to the touch as long as it’s on. People could assume it isn’t hot and not be as careful around it. When coals burn hot, they can cause severe burns.
  • When unattended, a charcoal grill is a burn hazard. It can be turned over by children, pets, even a strong wind, which can start a fire.
  • It’s bad for the environment. While the charcoal grill is burning, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are being released into the air.
  • You’re wasting fuel. The charcoal briquettes and coal will keep burning until extinguished, and you won’t be able to reuse them.

What Equipment Do You Need to Put Out A Charcoal Grill?

Metal tong, bowl filled with baking soda, and a woman with oven mittens on

There are several things you’ll need to safely put out a charcoal grill. Make sure you have the following items at hand when using your grill:

  • Heat proof oven mitts
  • A metal trash can
  • Wire grill brush
  • Aluminum foil
  • Grill tongs
  • Baking soda
  • Metal spatula
  • Fire extinguisher

3 Step Instructions on Extinguishing a Charcoal Grill With a Lid

Men cleaning out a used grill

Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to safely put out a charcoal fire if you have a grill with a lid.

1. Close the Lid

The first step is to put on your oven mitts and remove the rack. Once the rack is removed, close the lid.

If you have a grill with air vents or dwarf doors, close them as well. This is important to make sure there’s no oxygen supply reaching the coals and creating a fire.

“Once everything is closed, all of the air will be burned up from the charcoal that’s in there; everything will die out. It takes a little while, so it’s going to stay hot for some time, and you need to be careful.”
- AlaskaGranny, YouTube Channel

Note: Burning charcoal takes a long time to cool down, up to 24h, or even more. To be on the safe side, leave the grill with all the vents closed for 48 hours.

If you don’t want to wait for this long, make sure to leave the grill until it’s completely cool to the touch. You can also use a damp towel to cool down the grate.

2. Get Rid of Ashes and Briquettes

stack of briquette charcoals

If you plan to reuse your unburned charcoal in the next grilling session, skip this step. However, if you want to use new charcoal, it’s time to clean out the completely cooled grill. Here's what to do.

Once you’ve waited for 48 hours, or you checked if the briquettes are cold, it’s time to remove the burned-out briquettes and ashes.

According to a grill manufacturer Kingsford, to do this, use long grill tongs to scoop out the leftover briquettes and put them in aluminum foil before throwing them in a metal bucket [2].

Since briquettes are a fire hazard, make sure you’re wearing your mitts and are using long tongs to avoid any burns.

Also, to be on the safe side, use a metal container instead of a plastic garbage can because plastic can melt.

Time to clean out the ashes. If they aren’t completely cold, scoop them out and put them in a separate metal container.

If there are still some embers present, and you don’t have any fire extinguishers, use baking soda to safely extinguish a small fire.

Recommended Article: What To Do With Charcoal Ash?

3. Cleaning Time

If you thought you’re done with cleaning once you get the ashes and briquettes out, think again.

The next step is to clean the chamber thoroughly. Use a metal spatula to sweep off any remaining ash from the grill chamber.

Check the vents because ashes sometimes get in there, and if you don’t get them out, they may cause issues down the road. 

Use a grill brush on the grate, and clean it with soap and water.

You should also season a charcoal grill by using a silicone spray to avoid rust and extend your grill’s lifespan.

How to Put Out a Charcoal Grill Without a Lid?

Burnt wood with smoke settling down

There’s no way to extinguish a charcoal grill quickly if it comes without a lid.

Here’s what to do:

  • Fully open the air vents.
  • Let the coals burn out until they’re entirely extinguished and the grill is fully cool to the touch.
  • Keep an eye on the grill while it’s running at high temperatures to make sure no children or pets touch it.
  • Once the grill is completely extinguished and there aren’t any flare-ups, proceed with step 2 from above — With long-handled tongs, take out ash and briquettes in a fireproof container.

Can You Reuse the Charcoal?

Used charcoals burning in a grill

Once you’ve finished cooking, you may have a lot of charcoal left. There’s no need to throw it away. Instead, you can help the environment, and your wallet, by reusing the charcoal.

You don’t have to wait until it’s done burning to see what’s left. Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Fill a metal bucket with water
  2. Put on your mitts
  3. Use tongs to remove the coals
  4. Submerge the charcoal into the water for about a minute
  5. Put the charcoal on a non-flammable surface to dry
  6. Repeat for each lump charcoal and briquette
  7. Store coals in a fireproof bucket and reuse them

Also Read: How to Cool a Charcoal Grill

Water Rules When Extinguishing a Hot Grill

Splashed water on a burning machine

The most important rule when it comes to water is to avoid pouring water over hot charcoal. Here’s why not:

  • Coals are scorching, and if you dump water over them, you risk cracking your grill.
  • Pouring completely cooled water over hot charcoal will create a hot steam cloud, and you risk getting burned.
  • If you pour water over hot coals, you risk washing them out the bottom of the grill.
  • Pouring water will create a sludgy mess in the bottom of your grill. If this hardens, you have clogged vents and a huge clean-up ahead of you.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8687276/
  2. https://www.kingsford.com/how-to/how-to-put-out-your-charcoal/
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About the author

Devon Ferguson
Senior Editor
Devon Ferguson is the senior editor at Carnivore Style who loves dining and traveling. This well-traveled meat hunter has scaled cities high and low to scout sources for the finest meats. He's tested and reviewed nearly every grill, smoker and meat delivery box on the market.
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