Can Charcoal Be Reused for Smoking and Grilling?

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I have no shame in stating that if I can save a dollar or two, I will. But cutting corners at the price of my barbecue’s quality is where I draw the line.

Here’s the problem: Reusing your charcoal can save you money, but will the quality of your grill suffer as a result? Is it feasible to repurpose outdated charcoal?

Lets check out what the experts have to say.

Can You Reuse Your Charcoal?

Can You Reuse Charcoal for Smoking & Grilling?

The quick answer is yes. You may and should reuse your charcoal in order to save money. The ability to reuse charcoal is a significant benefit of utilizing a charcoal smoker over other kinds of grills.

After you’ve completed cooking, it’s a good idea to extinguish your charcoal grill by fully closing the vents and extinguishing the burning charcoal. You’ll be able to preserve as much charcoal as possible for your next cook by doing so.

If you need to clean up right immediately, gently drop the coals into a metal container, such as a big can or a metal bin, and cover it with a lid.

The smaller the container, the less air there will be to fuel the combustion process.

If I know I’ll be using the charcoal again soon, I’ll simply drop it back into my chimney starter and it’ll be ready to go.

Will Your Old Charcoal Burn, and Burn Hot?

Can You Reuse Charcoal for Smoking & Grilling?

Your old charcoal will burn as long as you gather solid pieces of charcoal and keep them in a dry place.

In fact, even if it becomes a bit moist, your old charcoal may be fairly forgiving. AlaskaGranny made some fascinating findings regarding moist, aged charcoal. Her charcoal became moist as a consequence of her putting it out in the rain. Despite this, it continued to burn. You may see the results for yourself here:

However, there are several considerations to consider when utilizing old charcoal in terms of the heat generated during combustion:

  • Because older bits of charcoal are smaller, they will sit closer together, reducing airflow between the lumps. This implies that the maximum cooking temperature may be lower than when using fully fresh charcoal.
  • If you want to attain temperatures around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, aged charcoal should suffice.
  • If you want to reach temperatures of 350°F or higher, you might consider utilizing only fresh charcoal for your cook.

How to Collect and Store Your Old Charcoal

When collecting old charcoal, the major goal is to remove the ash from the solid bits. Excess ash will reduce the capacity of the charcoal to burn.

One method is to scoop up your charcoal and brush off the ash with something similar to a deep frying basket. AlaskaGranny’s idea may be seen in the video below.

Give your charcoal lumps a squeeze to see whether they’re worth preserving; just don’t grill your fingers while you’re doing it. The more robust the parts, the better they will hold together under pressure. They will collapse if they get too ashy. These lumps (or what’s left of them) aren’t worth saving.

How you keep your reclaimed charcoal is primarily determined by when you want to use it next.

  • If you plan on lighting up your charcoal grill soon, screening out the nice lumps and just leaving them in your smoker may be the way to go. This approach is a fast and easy way to store your charcoal and keep it dry, provided you remember to replace the top.
  • If you are not going to use your charcoal grill for a long, you may need to locate a place in the shed to store your charcoals. A big tub or metal bucket with a cover is great for storing charcoal.

A word of caution: unless there is an emergency, do not extinguish the burning charcoal with water. When combined with water, ash can corrode the metal on your machine. It will jam the vents as well.

How to Start Your Smoker if You’re Using Old Briquettes

It is worth noting that if you attempt to ignite your next cook with just old charcoal, you will have little luck.

If you’re using a charcoal chimney to fire your lumps, build a sandwich with new charcoal, old lumps, and additional fresh pieces on top.

Adding some additional charcoal briquettes ensures that you have enough airflow to get the heat up and ignite the charcoal. This is owing to the gaps that have created between the newer, larger pieces.

Another viable approach is to ignite some fresh charcoal in your chimney. Place these hot coals on top of your old coals in the cooker once they’re heated.

Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes

You may be asking what the distinctions are between lump charcoal and briquettes. We have a full description of the benefits and drawbacks of lump charcoal, or you can watch the video below.

Briquettes, according to Malcom, are excellent for low and slow cookers, but lump charcoal creates more intense heat and is better suited for speedier cooking methods such as grilling.

How does this impact reusing lump charcoal?

Briquettes will most likely degrade more and leave fewer large pieces to reuse. Everything we’ve stated about briquettes applies to lump, but you’ll probably end up with more reusable bits.

Wrapping it up

We hope you liked this article on reusing old charcoal.

  • You can reuse your old charcoal!
  • Look for larger bits and remove as much ash as you can before reusing.
  • Store your old charcoal in a dry spot.
  • When utilizing old charcoal, some fresh charcoal must be added to the combustion mixture.
  • Using a chimney while lighting your barbeque can make igniting your old charcoal simpler.

Do you recycle your used charcoal? Do you have any suggestions? Or maybe you have a question about repurposing old charcoal. Please mention it in the comments section below.


How many times can you reuse charcoal?

Instead of throwing every bit of that barely-used charcoal every time you fire up the grill, Cooks Illustrated proposes reusing the coals. Even when they’ve been burnt before, they’ll relight. So tossing them out after one usage is a huge waste of money.

Can you relight charcoal briquettes?

With one exception, we found that the answer is yes. Attempting to fire a chimney starter solely made of spent coals proved futile—these smaller coals snuggled snugly together, substantially blocking airflow and delaying or even preventing the coals from lighting.

How do you extinguish charcoal to reuse?

By carefully pouring water over the charcoal and swirling it, you may swiftly and thoroughly cool the ash, removing the risk of latent embers rekindling. Be cautious – pour the water carefully to prevent producing heated vapor.

How long does charcoal last when smoking?

In a low and slow or oxygen-restricted atmosphere, such as bullet and offset smokers, Kamado or Weber kettle (lid on), you may anticipate twice the average cooking time compared to open grilling. So lump charcoal should last 4-6 hours, and briquettes should last 8-10 hours.

How long does it take to reactivate charcoal?

Place the charcoal bag outdoors in the sun for at least 2 hours once a month to revitalize it.

How long should you let charcoal burn before using it?

Depending on how much charcoal you’re lighting, let 15-20 minutes for it to thoroughly heat up before putting it into the base of your grill.

Do you have to clean out old charcoal?

If you possess a charcoal barbecue, you should thoroughly clean it at least once throughout the cooking season, preferably twice if you grill often. Why? You don’t want carbon or ash accumulation in your grill, nor do you want corrosion on your barbecue grates.

Can you put new charcoal on top of old?

Directly Adding Unlit Charcoal

Simply layer some fresh charcoal on top of the old. If the fresh coals are put evenly, the flames from the burning coals should easily ignite them. Following a 1 to 1 ratio of introducing fresh coals is essential, although adding a lower quantity is also acceptable.

Can you smoke with just briquettes?

Because they burn at the right temperature for smoking, regular charcoal briquettes should be utilized. There’s no need to spend money on expensive lump charcoal; it usually burns too hot for smoking. The greatest charcoal is the regular stuff. You could also add some wood chips for a unique smoky taste.

Why do you put salt on charcoal?

This is just a brief explanation. Take a pinch of table salt. Toss the salt on top of the hot coals when they’re ready. The chemicals in the salt crystallize the soot, causing it to fall to the ground and vanish.

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