Getting the fire started in your charcoal grill might not be that challenging for you. But keeping it lit until you have grilled all your food is where most folks have it rough.
It can get quite frustrating when your fire goes off midway and you have to start it all over again. You’ll be in for a worse grilling experience!
Luckily, there are tricks you can observe to keep your fire going until all your food gets grilled.
This guide will enlighten you on the helpful tricks to keep your fire lit, major culprits behind your grill not staying lit, and other helpful info related to charcoal grill fire.
How do you keep a charcoal grill going?
If you want your charcoal grill fire to stay lit and let you finish grilling all your food at any temperature, then you should start by putting the following measures in place.
Use quality charcoal
You’ll be shocked that the reason why your fire keeps dying has something to do with the quality of the charcoal you use. If you’ve been using cheap charcoal from generic brands, it shouldn’t surprise you that you have been consistently experiencing your grill not staying lit.
No amount of maintenance will fix the problem if charcoal is the problem. So, the only option here is to start buying quality charcoal. But this doesn’t mean getting the most expensive charcoal available. Just make sure you get quality charcoal that stays lit for long and produces even heat.
Start your fire correctly
Another thing you should focus on to keep your fire lit is how you start your fire. Staring charcoal grill fire is an art and if you don’t know how to go about it, you’ll soon be complaining about the fire dying quicker than you can grill your food.
When starting the fire, take off the grate and stack up your charcoal in the shape of a pyramid, and then cover it with lighter fluid (just enough amount to start the fire and keep it going). Give the fluid a couple minutes to get absorbed into the charcoal before firing up.
Ensure the bottom vents are wide open and then grab the lighter and fire up your charcoal.
Once your fire has been going on for a while, you should restrain from adding more of the lighter fluid as this accelerate the burning rate of your charcoal and even result in dangers bursts of flames
Make use of the vents
When starting a fire in your charcoal grill, you should keep the bottom vents wide open. You want to supply your charcoal in the firebox with as much oxygen as possible to promote combustion. For you to achieve this, you need to keep the intake dampers open throughout the fire starting process.
Don’t listen to anyone suggesting closing the vents or partially opening them when starting the fire. If you do this, you’ll restrict the amount of air circulating to your charcoal. With insufficient air, the fire will simply go off, forcing you to start all over again.
Move the burning charcoal around
This is an often overlooked trick but works magic in keeping your coals burning for a long time. When you see your charcoal starting to show gray edges, try moving it around with a poker device.
The secret behind this simple act?
It allows air to hit the burning charcoal, allowing it to heat up even faster and make it ready to cook your meal. Make a habit of moving the lit coal around every few minutes and your charcoal will only keep burning.
You should continue with this practice even as you start cooking to let air heat the coals and maintain your desired cooking temperatures.
What type of cooking wood are you using?
Cooking wood is a good way to add natural smell and flavor to your meat. But the quality of wood you use can hurt your fire. For instance, seasoned wood features high moisture content that ends up reducing heat and creating a musty smoke with an undesirable taste.
Soaking your wood before using it might look cool but it only adds water to your coals, making it hard for them to stay lit (water and fire don’t mix!).
So, what kind of cooking wood do we recommend? We advise you to use properly dried woods that will ignite quickly to keep your grill lit and still add flavor to your food. Dry wood will also prolong the burning time of your coal.
Add more coals
If you don’t want your grill to disappoint you with the fire going off too quickly, you shouldn’t leave the coals to burn out.
Instead, you should continue adding coals when half the current ones burn out. You can do this at 30-minute intervals, though the period may vary depending on the quality of charcoal you’re using.
Don’t resume cooking as soon as you add a new batch of coals. Give it 5-10 minutes to ignite before you can carry on with your grilling.
Adding more coals also helps raise the heat/temperature of your grill.
Check your surroundings
The weather in the area you’re grilling might be silently causing your fire to go off after a few minutes. This mostly happens in humid and windy weather.
Charcoal is highly porous stuff and high humidity can easily saturate it with moisture which makes it hard to keep burning for long. While you can’t control the humid weather, but you can still grill your food by ensuring you use dry charcoal.
Remember to stack it up and start the fire correctly—it should keep going on a humid day.
As for the wind, a gentle breeze or a strong windstorm can easily put out your grill flames. It can even blow loose ash onto the lit charcoal and possibly put them out. You can fix this by placing your grill in a windbreaker to help block as much wind as possible.
Alternatively, you might consider closing the lid on your grill slightly (not fully) to stop the wind from blowing out the fire while still allowing air to reach your fire to keep it burning.
Keep your grill clean
Most people, especially beginners, might not know this but keeping your charcoal grill clean is the secret to ensuring your fire stays lit through the cooking duration.
If you don’t clean it, the ashtray will accumulate with time and block the intake dampers. Thus, they won’t carry their function of supplying your coal with oxygen. And you know what oxygen-starved coals? They don’t stay lit!
Clean your grill after every use. get rid of the ashes to ensure perfect grilling next time you’ll use it. Besides, disposing of the ashes helps increase the lifespan of your grill.
BONUS Tip: Store your charcoal properly
If you have any charcoal left after your grilling session, you can use them in your barbecue. But before then, make sure you store them correctly so they’ll stay lit correctly.
The best way to store your unused charcoal involves placing it in an airtight bag and sealing it completely. And don’t forget to place them in a totally dry place.
Many charcoal grill users have had the experience of the gill fire going off before they’re done cooking. While there’s no single reason behind your fire going out before you’re done, a bunch of possibilities exists on why charcoal grill fire misbehaves. Understanding these possible culprits is crucial to keeping your grill lit.
Having outlined all these possible reasons for fire going out and the necessary measures to take to keep your grill lit, we’re hopeful that you’re now well equipped to keep your grill fire going for as long as you have food to grill.