How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill – Safest & Easiest Ways

The feast is over and your barbecue was magnificent. Although most would like to food-coma at the first opportunity, duty calls to do the tedious part – cleaning up and putting away all the equipment.

First things first. You have to put out the charcoal. Some choose to just close the lid and vents and wait for the charcoal to extinguish on its own, which can take several hours. Others have limited time and need a quicker option.

Here’s a compilation of all the best ways to put out a charcoal grill.

Do You Need To Put Out The Charcoal After The Cook?

Letting the charcoal burn itself out might seem easier, but it also presents a few potential problems.

When you’re dealing with hot coals safety is always a concern. If the grill gets knocked over, you’ll have hot coals scattered across your deck or lawn. Since the heat from the charcoal and grill will remain after the cook, it is also a hazard if you’re in a family environment with young children or pets. 

It’s also more environmentally friendly to extinguish your charcoal as soon as you are done with it, as it will prevent excess emissions in the form of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from being released unnecessarily in the air.

Even if the coals appear to be dead, charcoal can remain hot for up to 12 hours. So you could accidentally start a fire or cause some damage to your trash can if you toss them out without properly extinguishing them first.

Aside from all the safety concerns, putting out your charcoal grill when you’re finished will also let you salvage the reusable lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes before it burns to smithereens. 

So, if you put out the charcoal as soon as you can after the cook it will save a considerable amount of fuel, and reduce risk to yourself, your family, your property, and the environment.

Easiest Way to Put Out A Charcoal Grill

If you’re using a classic kettle grill or other charcoal grills with a lid and vents, then putting it out after grilling can be a very simple task. Here’s how to smother the charcoal and safely remove it from your grill.

  1. Lid On, Vents Closed.
    Place the lid back on the grill and close the bottom vents and the lid’s dampers, effectively cutting off the oxygen to the coals. Without oxygen, the charcoal will eventually burn out and extinguish.
  2. Wait For The Charcoal To Extinguish.
    Your charcoal could take up to four to eight hours to burn out and cool down. Knowing this process takes a while, you can eat, clean up, have another beer, and check the embers periodically to see when they are ready.
  1. Save The Reusable Coals.
    Once the coals are completely cool, pick out the unburnt briquettes or large lumps of charcoal remaining. These will be easily used for your next cook!
  1. Scoop Out The Ash And Remains.
    Scoop out the ash and unusable charcoal, then wrap it in aluminum foil, or another fireproof material or container before throwing it in the trash. The foil keeps the charcoal from igniting other materials in the trash can — which happens more often than you’d think!

Alternatively, you can use an ash vacuum, so long as you’re certain that the ash and remaining charcoal is completely cool.

How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill Without A Lid

Put Out Charcoal Without A Lid

If your charcoal grill doesn’t have a lid, putting out the coals is a little more challenging. Fortunately, you have a few safe options for extinguishing the coals.

Let The Charcoal Burn Out By Itself

The easiest and safest method is to actually just let it burn out by itself. However, there are a few quick things you can do to make the process quicker and safer. To put out a charcoal grill without a lid simply:

  1. Spread the charcoal out evenly at the bottom of your smoker by using a shovel or a stoker. This allows the coal to cool down and extinguish more quickly.
  2. Clear away any potential hazards in the area, and let others in your space know the coals are still hot. 
  3. Wait up to 8 hours for the coals to burn out and cool down entirely.
  4. Separate any reusable charcoal chunks and dispose of the ashes and remaining charcoal covered in foil or other unmeltable material.

Remove And Smother The Charcoal

If you have the right tools to do so, it’s arguably safer to put out the charcoal by removing it while it’s hot and smothering it. This will put out the charcoal so much quicker, which will also reduce your carbon footprint.

If you want to remove your charcoal while it’s hot, make sure you:

  1. Have fireproof/heatproof gloves, an adequately sized shovel, and a metal trash can or container with a lid to shovel the coals into.
  2. Put on the gloves and safely shovel all the coals into the metal trash can and place the top on.
  3. This will cut off the oxygen supply to the coals and after 4 hours they should be cool enough to properly dispose of. 

How To Put Out A Charcoal Smoker

Across all the types of charcoal smokers, whether you’ve got a kettle, drum, or ceramic style charcoal smoker, the main principle remains: Put the lid on and close the vents.

If you do want to put out a charcoal smoker more quickly, and if you have heatproof gloves you can usually remove just the charcoal pan and extinguish the charcoal yourself. Either put the entire charcoal pan into a metal trash can and put the lid on or pour the charcoal in the trash and slowly add water to quickly extinguish the charcoal.

Even if there is still smoking wood left, you can just treat it as if it were charcoal and put it out the same way.

Can You Use Water To Extinguish A Charcoal Grill?

There’s no denying that water extinguishes the coals the quickest. But, never dump water directly into your grill. If you do, you could damage your grill or create a hard, crusty mess at the bottom that’s much harder to clean. The sudden burst of steam could also burn your skin. You could still bring a jug of water when you go camping, but don’t pour water on your grill unless it’s an emergency or you have to leave quickly.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use water to extinguish the coals. Like the previous method, use a shovel to scoop the hot coals into a metal trash can. Once they’re in the can, pour water over the coals to extinguish them. Pour the water slowly so you don’t get a faceful of steam. This method might be quicker, but you should still use a metal trash can so the coals don’t burn the material.

If you work slowly enough, you might be able to reuse some of the coals. Otherwise, wrap the coals in foil and throw them in the trash like usual.

Salvage the Remains - Reuse Your Charcoal!

We’re all for zero waste here at Grillsimply, not only does it save valuable resources but it saves you on fuel costs too. You can always re-use your charcoal, provided it is not wet, and you store it properly before next use in an airtight container. Remember, charcoal never really expires, so long as it’s kept in the right, dry, conditions.

The easiest way to tell if the charcoal is worth keeping is by first putting it out and then shoveling or using grill tongs to separate the larger pieces from the smaller chunks and ash. If it’s still got its briquette or lump charcoal shape and doesn’t look like visibility disintegrated then it’s probably worth keeping for next time.

To get the best out of second-use old charcoal, always mix it with a fresh batch in your charcoal chimney or when lighting charcoal with any other charcoal starter. This will help keep a consistent temperature at the start which can impact the entire cook.

If your charcoal won’t lighttrying removing some of the old chunks with fresh new chunks.

How To Put Out Charcoal In An Emergency

Your first reaction may be to get a bucket of water or the hose. But, most grill fires are actually caused by grease and fat dripping and catching on fire. This is the classic grease fire flare-up scenario, but although sometimes easily manageable, if gone unnoticed can cause serious issues and annoyance!

The safest and most reliable way to quickly put out charcoal in an emergency is to put the lid on and close all the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. This will quickly starve the charcoal of oxygen and the flames will die down and extinguish themselves. 

If you’re tipped over the grill and charcoal has gone everywhere then you can grab the hose or water to make short work of the burning embers.

If all else fails and you’re concerned about safety of yourself, others, or your property then you can always use a compact fire extinguisher. It’s absolutely necessary to have one of these compact but effective extinguishers any time you are grilling to account for any worst case scenarios.

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