When you’re new to charcoal grills and still learning this traditional grilling art, many things will always go wrong.
One common problem beginners go through is the charcoal burning out so fast. In the worst-case scenario, all your coal burns out quickly and leaves your meat mid-cooked. How frustrating!
More often than not, you find out that you’re doing something wrongly and that’s causing this whole problem.
Read this guide to discover why your charcoal is burning fast and helpful tips on how to make it last longer to let you fully and evenly cook your meat to perfection while imparting those smoky flavors.
Why does my charcoal go out so fast?
The most common culprits behind your charcoal burning out quite fast include:
Poor charcoal quality
One of the things that make your charcoal burn fast is used cheap, low-quality charcoal. Poorly made charcoal not only burns fast but is also inconsistent, hard to get hot, creates uneven hit, and doesn’t stay lit for long.
But this doesn’t mean spending your money on the most expensive briquettes. You just need to ensure you get good quality charcoal that suits your grill and needs.
Still at it, if you’re using old charcoal to start a fire in your grill, it might be another culprit behind fast burnouts. Old charcoal tends to lose its grilling properties—especially when poorly stored—and will burn pretty fast.
Firing up your grill incorrectly
How you start a fire in your charcoal grill could also be the reason why your fuel is burning faster than expected. Properly lighting your fire will ensure an even and fast burning process.
The airflow factor
Your charcoal needs oxygen to burn. The more oxygen there is, the faster the burning process becomes.
Luckily, you can control how much oxygen enters your charcoal grill by controlling the vents that come with it. To stop fast burnout, close the lower grill vents. This will reduce the amount of air coming in and slow the burning process for your charcoal.
However, we don’t recommend closing the upper vents. These play a crucial role in getting carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gases out of your grill.
The ability to control airflow into your grill correctly will give you hours of slow and low heat cooking.
How do you make charcoal burn longer?
The most effective way to make charcoal in your grill burn for longer is by starting the grill fire the right way. We suggest using the ring of fire technique, also known as the snake method to start your fire
This is the Ring of Fire technique:
1. Start by spreading the charcoal in a thick C-shape coil, around the outer edge of the charcoal grate. Ensure the leave a gap of around 8 to 10 inches between the ends of your semicircles.
2. Spread the charcoal evenly around the grill and leave the vents wide open
3. Light up one end of your semicircle. if you want to get high heat faster, consider adding a larger pile of charcoal on the end you intend to start the lighting process. half chimney load will do the trick.
4. Once the lights up, your coals will take approx. one hour to reach a decent high temperature. As more coals continue to burn, the temperature will get up slowly and steadily for about 2 hours.
5. if you want to cook at a lower heat, close the bottom vent halfway. This will restrict the amount of oxygen getting into your grill, thus slowing the burning process and extending the cooking time.
An alternative fire starting method:
A variation of the snake method is the domino/fuse method and it also works to keep the charcoal burning at a slow rate for extended cooking time. This is an ideal method if you plan to get cold smoking temperatures for hours.
For this method, you make a C-shaped coil of charcoal in a single orderly line. Each briquette or lump should stand on the end and lean against the next one in a series (just like a row of dominos). You might want to sprinkle wood chips on top of the charcoal or arrange them at intervals.
Other methods you can use to make your charcoal last longer:
Choose briquette over lump charcoal
It’s well-known fact that natural lump burns hotter and offers shorter cooking periods. Briquettes, on the other hand, tend to burn at a slower rate and for a longer period.
This has something to do with how each type of fuel is made. Briquette is made using sawdust and other wood scraps, unlike charcoal which is made from burning into small pieces of carbon.
If you have been using lump charcoal and it burns fats, try switching to briquette and see if you’ll get any improvements.
Add cooking wood
Adding cooking wood to charcoal can slow the burning process. This is because cooking wood itself burns at a slower rate than lump and briquette.
You just need to place a few logs of high-quality cooking wood inside the grill over the charcoal. As for the type of wood, you can use anything from kiln-dried to hardwood as they offer a longer burning time.
The added benefit of using wood is that it adds flavor to your grilled food and makes it even tastier. Different woods have varying flavors. for instance, cherry wood has a fruity flavor while hickory offers a strong bacon-like flavor.
Stop dousing your charcoal with lighter fluid
The work of lighter fluid is to make your charcoal burn faster. While this might come in handy when you starting the fire, it will keep the charcoal burning faster, even when you have quality charcoal.
Just fire dry charcoal and watch how long it will burn. Besides, the lighter fluid tends to affect the flavor of your grilled meat by releasing vapor chemicals into your food.
Keep the lid open at all times
Most charcoal grill users tend to think that closing the lid helps keep the charcoal from burning fast. The truth is a closed lid will trap heat inside which would cause your charcoal to burn faster. keep the lid open to let some heat escape and slow down the burning process of your charcoal.
Spread the charcoal before adding food
Another simple method of extending your charcoal burn time is by spreading it evenly across the bottom of your grill. The right time to do this is after the charcoal has turned white.
Assuming you stacked up your charcoal when lighting it at the beginning, it lights from the bottom and heats going upward.
Spreading it evenly across the bottom of the grill before adding food is a good idea that slows its burning rate, as opposed to leaving it stacked up.
Mind your surroundings
Using your grill in the open air where there’s plenty of wind can cause your charcoal to burn out pretty fast. The wind, no matter how small it is, fuels the charcoal and makes it burn hotter and faster.
To avoid fast burnout, position your grill near a windbreak. But don’t place it directly against your house. As the rule of thumb goes, place your grill at least 10ft. away from your home and other flammable structures.
It can be a frustrating experience when your charcoal burns out fast before you’re done grilling your food. But knowing why your charcoal burns fast and how to slow its burning process is the secret to having a good barbecuing experience with your charcoal grill.
We have just enlightened you on the main culprits behind the fast burning process for charcoal and some effective methods you can use to make it burn at a slower rate and offer you hours of cooking time.
We hope that this info will help totally eliminate the issue of charcoal burning out fast and offer you a great grilling experience.