How To Put Out a Charcoal Grill – With or Without a Lid

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Everyone loves food cooked on a charcoal grill – but do you know how to put the charcoal out when the cooking is over?

There are numerous ways to put out a charcoal grill. Some will allow you to use the charcoal again for your next barbeque session, others are more wasteful.

It all depends on the type of grill you have, and more importantly – how quickly you need the charcoal to be totally cold.

hot charcoal grill

If your charcoal grill has a lid, then you can extinguish the coals by simply closing the lid and vents which starves the coals of oxygen – causing it to go out. This method can take up to 48 hours for the coals to cool down completely. If you have the time, this is the safest method and it allows you to re-use the charcoal on your next cook.

But let’s have a look at the different methods in more detail.

How To Put Out a Charcoal Grill With a Lid

bbq with a lid

We already mentioned this method briefly in the intro, but it’s worth going over again as this is by far the safest best method.

It allows your grill to cool down slowly (less chance of buckling metal) and it means you can re-use the charcoal the next time you want to cook up a feast!

To properly extinguish a charcoal grill with a lid:

  1. Close the lid and air vents
  2. Make sure the grill is in a safe place (think of kids and pets)
  3. Let it sit until cold

This method can take up to 2 days for the coals to go fully cold.

How To Put Out a Charcoal Grill Without a Lid

hot coals in a barbeque

If you have a grill or fire pit without a lid then closing the grill up may not be possible for you.

In my opinion, these methods are less than ideal – but you need to work with what you have right?

So here are a few ways to put put out charcoal grill without a lid.

Method 1: Let The Coals Burn Out

This is probably the best method when it comes to putting out charcoal in a grill without a lid.

The method:

  1. Open the grill air vents fully
  2. Let the coals burn down to ash
  3. Ensure that no children or pets touch touch the barbeque

This is the safest method as it doesn’t involve getting up close and personal with the barbeque and there is no risk of damaging your grill.

Once the charcoal has burned to ash, go through the standard clean up procedure.

Method 2: Remove The Coals and Smother Elsewhere

This method of putting out charcoal allows you to (potentially) re-use the charcoal again on your next use. But it does involve moving hot coals.

You will need:

The method:

  1. Remove the grates and other items from your grill so you have good access to the coals
  2. Ensuring you are wearing your heat proof gloves, shovel the hot coals into the metal trash can
  3. Put the lid on the trashcan and sit in a safe place
  4. This will starve the coals of oxygen – causing them to go out

This method could take up to 2 days to fully extinguish the charcoal, so make sure the trashcan is somewhere safe – it will be VERY hot for a while.

Make sure the steel trash can is heavy duty and of high quality, or the coals may burn through it.

Once the charcoal has cooled down, you can inspect it to see if any of it can be re-used.

Method 3: Remove The Hot Coals And Extinguish Elsewhere

Once again, this method requires a few more safety items and great care should be taken as it involves actually moving the hot coals.

It is also important to mention that this method involves using water on the coals – which will create steam. Steam can cause severe burns – never put any part of your body over the coals when you are dousing with water.

You will need:

  • A metal handheld spade or shovel
  • Heat proof BBQ gloves
  • A heavy duty metal bucket or similar (must be heavy duty and all metal)
  • A hose or buckets of water

The method:

  1. Remove the grates and other items from your grill so you have good access to the coals
  2. Ensuring you are wearing your heat proof gloves, shovel the hot coals into the metal bucket
  3. Move the bucket to an out of the way area (where smoke and steam wont matter)
  4. Use a hose or buckets to slowly tip water on the coals. Be very careful of the hot steam – don’t put your face over the bucket.
    1. Optional: use a water sprayer to slowly spray water on the hot charcoal. This may allow you to reuse it in the future and is actually safer – but it takes more time.
  5. Continue to add water until the coals are completely out

Do NOT add water directly to your grill/BBQ – it will likely damage it due to the sudden changes in heat.

Do NOT use a low quality metal bucket, as the coals may burn through thin metal.

After Your Charcoal Has Cooled

coals to be reused

Once you are sure the charcoal is cool (don’t just shove your hand in their to check), you can clean up your grill.

If you used a method that didnt involve dousing the charcoal with water or burning it to ash, then you may be able to re-use it. Remove the unburned and half burned charcoal and store it in a dry place.

Clean out the ash. Ash has multiple uses around the house or you can wrap it up in some aluminum foil and put them in a metal trash can if you can.

Safety tip: before disposing of your ashes be sure that there are no hot embers left.

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Aaron is the founder of and Essential Home and Garden. With over 15 years of hands-on experience in home ownership, lawn care, and gardening, Aaron is a seasoned expert in areas like lawn care, DIY, HVAC, and pest control.