A Beginner’s Guide on How to Keep a Charcoal Grill Lit

Are you new to charcoal grilling? You want perfectly cooked grilled meat, but your charcoals will not keep lit up? Maybe you are a fan of the charcoal grill's traditional smoky flavor, therefore decided to invest in one. But every time you try to master the grilling skill, something goes wrong. There are several possibilities for your charcoal not to stay lit up.

Charcoal grilling is not the easiest form of grilling, but indeed it is the most charming one. Charcoal grilling gives a traditional vibe as well as a smokey flavor. It takes a little bit of practice to get a hold of the grilling. When you have mastered the skill of grilling in a charcoal grill, you can do it with your eyes closed (don't take it literally, though).

If you wonder what you can do differently this time to make things work, you are on the right track. This article will discuss how to keep a charcoal grill lit.

Charcoal Matters

The quality of charcoal matters. If you are hoping that any cheap charcoal will work, well, you are wrong. That does not mean you have to spend a ton on charcoals. You only have to find good quality charcoal that works for your grill and your need.

Don't worry about investing a bit more in quality charcoal, as you will be thankful later. Low quality charcoal is inconsistent, hard to get hot, does not stay lit for long, or creates uneven heat. They also burn out very fast.

If you are trying to start a fire with old charcoal, it might not always work. Old charcoal loses it's grilling properties.  It can also burn out faster than expected.

What type of charcoal you are using matters as well. Briquette style charcoal is recommended over lump charcoal, as they generate heat evenly and predictably.

Starting The Fire Properly

Properly starting the fire is the key to a good grilling experience. If you cannot light up the fire the right way, your charcoals will end up burning out quickly or will not give even heat.

Chimney Starter

You can easily start the fire using a chimney starter with minimal effort. You can find cheap chimney starters at your local hardware stores or online.

You have to put the paper in the bottom of the chimney and then put charcoals—light up the paper in the fire. The fire from the paper will heat the charcoals and start a fire.

Afterward, you can put the lit up charcoals in the charcoal grill's kettle and start grilling.

Lighter Fluid

In this method, remove the cooking grate and open up the vents. Remove the lid as well, as you will need as much as airflow as possible. Form a pyramid with charcoal with a peak at the center of the grill.

Squirt some lighter fluid on the charcoal. Do not use too much that the charcoals get soaked in lighter fluid. Let them soak for 2-3 minutes.

Again squirt some lighter fluid here and there in the charcoal pyramid. Light up the charcoal carefully with a lighter. And you are good to go.

How to Keep a Charcoal Grill Lit?

1. Dry Charcoal

Is your charcoal dry? If not, then it could be the possible reason why your charcoal does not stay lit. Charcoal naturally absorbs or holds moisture. If you store your charcoal in a humid place, it might not perform well. Damp charcoal does not lit up or keep lit.

2. Using Dampers

Almost every charcoal grill comes with two dampers. These dampers are there to control airflow. In most cases, one damper is in the bottom where the coal or ashtray is situated, and another is in the lid. You can control these dampers to control the heat or fire of your coals.

More oxygen means more fire. The more air the coals get, the more they lit up and produce heat. While preheating, make sure that dampers are open all the way. This will ensure your coals are getting the maximum amount of oxygen to grill. Some advanced designed grills come with more dampers to give even better control of the heat.

3. Stacking Up Charcoals

Stacking up coals a technique to keep your coals stay lit. Heat naturally heats up. If coals are stacked in a pyramid-like structure, the heat gets distributed evenly.

The bottom coals allow heat to go up to the top coals, ensuring even heat. If you put coals flat on a surface, heat will not be distributed evenly from one coal to another. Some pieces will be hotter than others.

4. Too Humid or Windy Weather

If you are trying to grill in a humid place, the coal might go out faster. Coal absorbs moisture that can result in coals not staying lit for long. It is not impossible to grill on a humid day. It's just you have to give extra effort to do so.

However, if you are planning to grill on a windy day, you should take some precautions. Wind or breeze can put out your fire, so you need to cover the grill with a lid slightly. But make sure you keep 3 to 5-inch gap from the grill to the lid. 

5. Cooking Wood

Don't make things worse by adding wet or low-quality wood to your charcoal. Adding wood gives a unique woody smell and flavor. Seasoned cooking wood can have high moisture that will end up reducing heat.

Soaking up wood before grilling adds water to the grill, and that is definitely not ideal for creating heat. Going for a dry chunk of wood is the best option. It will lit up faster and burn for a lot longer.

6. Keep Adding Coals

Keep adding coals to keep the grill hot. Don't wait for all the coals to burn out. Add a few pieces of coal when half of the previous charcoal is burned out. Usually, add them every 30 minutes.

The time might vary depending on your charcoal quality. Wait a few minutes, like 5- 10 minutes, so that the new batch of charcoal can ignite, and then you should resume cooking. Adding coal creates more heat too.

7. Keep Your Grill Clean

If your ashtray is all stuffed with ashes, the bottom damper becomes somewhat useless. It cannot properly ensure airflow to the charcoal in the kettle.

Therefore, the coals do not get enough oxygen and do not lit properly. You need to frequently clean the ashtray. Cleaning the ashes ensures not only better grilling but also increases the longevity of your grill.

Store Properly to Use Next Time

You have leftover charcoal and planning to use them the next time you grill again; then, you should properly store them. Otherwise, they will become useless next time you try to grill.

To appropriately store, you should keep the leftover charcoals in an airtight bag and seal it. Keep the charcoals in a dry place.

To Conclude

Now that you know how to keep a charcoal grill lit, get started with improving your grilling skill. Hopefully, your grilling experience will be smooth this time. A perfectly lit grill will give you perfectly cooked food that is praiseworthy.

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