How to Put Out a Charcoal Grill (Fast & Safely)

how to put out charcoal grill

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A lot of people let their charcoal grill burn for hours and hours after they are done cooking. 

This is a huge waste of charcoal, not to mention a potential fire hazard.

Keep reading to learn the best way to put out a charcoal grill when you are finished cooking, and how to safely dispose of briquette ash. 

How to put out charcoal grill

Safely putting out a charcoal grill is relatively easy. Stopping the fire is as easy as shutting off the supply of oxygen and waiting for the coals to die down.  

1. Shut the grill down

The first step in safely putting out your charcoal grill is to stop the supply of oxygen to the charcoal. 

Close the lid and close off the air vents. Grills like the Weber Kettle have adjustable intake vents controlled under the grill, and exhaust vents on top of the grill lid.

Make sure they are all fully closed, as even a small amount of air can keep the charcoal burning.  

weber kettle charcoal grill with a closed lid
Adjustable exhaust vent on top of the Weber Kettle lid

This will stave the fire of oxygen and stop the coals from burning so they can be reused

If you are cooking at home, you can go eat, and by the time your meal is finished your grill should be almost cold.

If you are camping or somewhere you want to kill the fire quickly, you can use tongs or a metal spatula to push around all of your ashes in order to ensure they are no longer smoldering. 

Don’t do this too soon, or it may give the coal enough oxygen to keep burning. 

2. Remove the ash and charcoal

Once you’ve shut your grill down and allowed it to cool, it’s time to remove any remaining coals by picking them up with tongs or heat-proof gloves and placing them in a separate bucket.

Some grills, like the Weber Kettle Premium, come with ash catchment systems that make this process easier.

Don’t dump hot coals in water, as the resulting steam can scald you. 

Clear the ash out of your grill using an old brush before dumping it into a bucket of water mixed with baking soda (or salt). Small, non-flammable granular substances like baking soda or salt help to soak up grease and smother grease fires that won’t be put out by just water. 

Once that has cooled completely, wrap it in aluminum foil and dispose of it in the trash. 

Don’t pour this mixture down your drain as it can clog up your pipes.

3. Deal with any hot coals

If you follow the above steps, you shouldn’t have any hot coals to deal with, but if you take shortcuts, you can always put out any live coals still burning inside your bucket by covering them with either baking soda/salt or if they’re stubbornly refusing to extinguish, spray them with some more water from a garden hose (while standing at a safe distance) until they go out on their own accord. 

charcoal fire
Don’t be tempted to dump hot coals into the water. If you need to use water, take a garden hose and spray the coals instead.

Once the coals are out, dispose of them in the same way as the ash.

Equipment to help put out a charcoal grill

You don’t need a huge amount of equipment to safely put out your charcoal grill, just a few of the standard barbecue accessories and a few extras from the kitchen cupboard, including:

  • Aluminum foil
  • A wire grill brush and a dedicated brush
  • Grill tongs
  • Heatproof gloves
  • A bucket of water
  • Baking soda

To make sure you’ve got all the information you need to safely put out your grill, we’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject and answered them for you:

Can I use water to put out a charcoal grill?

Pouring water directly onto hot coals is never a good idea. It can cause a flare-up and you don’t want to be standing close to your grill when this happens. While you can use water to finish cooling coals that are mostly out, we would never suggest just dumping water directly into your grill.

What’s the best way to dispose of old charcoal and ash?

The best way to dispose of old charcoal and ash is to take it to the dump. If you’re just cleaning out your grill, then ash can be safely deposited into a metal container or bucket with at least one side perforated for airflow and placed in an outdoor trashcan away from combustible items. 

used charcoal in a metal container
Use a metal container when disposing of charcoal, as hot coals may melt the sides of a plastic bucket

Before putting potentially hot ash into a trashcan always make sure it is not marked “No Hot Ashes” as the heat produced by even day-old ashes is perfectly capable of melting through a plastic trashcan and causing a fire. 

Can I reuse charcoal briquettes?

Yes, you can. As long as you haven’t used water to put out your grill, charcoal briquettes can be reused. To reuse your briquettes, simply place them in a metal container and allow them to cool. Then knock off any excess ash and return them to your charcoal bag. 

Wrapping it all up

Charcoal grills are an excellent way to cook amazingly flavorful food, but, as with all heat sources, they can represent a danger if not put out properly. Using our guide, you’ll have all the information you need to quickly, safely, and effectively put out your charcoal grill.

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