How To Extinguish Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills are quite famous for their intricacy. This covers both the flavor palette and the complexity of handling charcoal fuel. Most seasoned and amateur grillers can easily start a fire on such a grill, but not everyone knows how to effectively extinguish it.

Of course, you can let the grill cool off naturally, but what if your situation needs quick action? Whether you have to pack the grill soon after the meal or move it into storage, there are faster ways to extinguish the coals and cool off the grill than just leaving the appliance to its own devices.

How Do You Turn Off A Charcoal Grill?

As opposed to the easy heat control system found on gas grills that use turning dials, charcoal grills don’t really have the luxury of a fast shut down. But this is the price many choose to pay for richer flavors that charcoal cooking provides.

There are a few tricks that can help you speed up the cooling process of the affordable charcoal grill once you are ready to turn it off, as it were. Most of them involve some form of manipulation of the grill itself or the coals that have been used for grilling.


  • If you plan on trying out the fast cooling of your grill or griddle, it would be best to remove the grates and set them aside in a safe place. It’s also recommended to clean them prior to their removal as it will become harder to get rid of food debris and grease once it cools.
  • For cleaning, you can use grill brushes and tinfoil and for handling the grates it’s always vital to use heavy-duty barbecue gloves and tongues. Store the grates so that nothing can catch fire from the residual heat.

Measure Your Fuel

The first thing to keep in mind before shutting down the grill is the fuel, and more importantly the type of charcoal you are using. It’s common knowledge that charcoal burns hotter than gas, but you should also know that charcoal briquettes burn longer than lump charcoal or hardwood. This means they also retain heat for longer periods of time, meaning that you should be particularly mindful when handling them after cooking.

A simple shuffle of briquette coals or their ashes might lead to flare-ups or even start of another fire. So it’s generally advised to think ahead and prep your grill for cooking with these safety measures in mind.

Mainly this implies either going for lump or pure charcoal or, if you are using briquettes, adding only the necessary amount so that it doesn’t overload the grill. The question of charcoal quantities is not only a briquette issue: lump charcoal, wood or a mix of both all impact the cooling time of the ashes produced after cooking.

Control The Vents

The majority of charcoal grills feature two sets of air vents to provide heat control. The vents are located at the top of the lid and at the bottom of the grill itself, though their specific position varies from model to model. These are designed to increase or decrease the supply of air or completely cut it off.

When you need to turn off the grill, all air vents should be promptly closed. The lid should also be shut. By preventing the oxygen from entering the grill, you will effectively smother charcoal and ash embers.

The time for keeping the vents closed varies on how much charcoal you’ve added in the grill and how much time you have on your hands.

Generally, it’s a good idea to keep it in this setting for 24 to 48 hours, but few people can afford to work with such timelines. So you can start by keeping the vents and the lid shut for at least 10 minutes and proceed to the next step when you are sure any remaining heat sources have been choked out.

Cool The Coals

Moving the coals right after you’ve finished cooking (or even after you waited it out with the closed vents) can be very dangerous and lead to injury.

Depending on the type, brand, and initial amount, charcoal can maintain hot temperatures for a long time, so any attempt to throw them out without appropriate protection or foresight can seriously harm you.

The next logical step after smothering the fire is cooling the coals as much as possible. For this, you will only need a water spray bottle, a pair of tongs, and some heat-resistant mitts or gloves.

  • First, you will need to spray water over the top later of the coals.
  • Mix the coals inside the grill.
  • Proceed with spraying and shuffling until the coals are more or less cool to handle.
  • Remove the coals and ash from the grill and let the metal cool before covering it.

Do You Open Or Close The Vents On A Charcoal Grill?

Both. The position of air vents determines how much oxygen is administered into the grill at all times.

  • By combining various open/close positions pf the bottom and top vents, you can create different heat settings. 
  • When both vents are open, the grill will operate at its best with a steady supply of oxygen keeping the fire going.
  • When both vents are closed, fresh air can’t get inside the chamber, so the fire can’t be sustained for longer. So if you need to shut down a charcoal grill, close the vents and wait.

How Long Does It Take For Charcoal To Burn Out?

The burning time of charcoal depends on its composition and quantities in which you add it to the grill. Some grills also have thicker walls, so the heat is retained for longer inside the firebox.

From the perspective of prep and cooking, charcoal burns out after 15 minutes under a closed lid, meaning it develops a white-grey ashy layer which is when the cooking should begin. After that, if the coals are not properly extinguished, they are able to preserve heat for long periods of time, sometimes even up to 24 hours.

Can I Pour Water On My Charcoal Grill?

Although adding water is a popular method for extinguishing grills, it isn’t poured directly into the grill or onto the burning coals.

Adding too much cool or cold water in large quantities to hot metal may seriously damage the grill. What’s even worse, it can potentially harm you in the process due to the rise of hot steam.

So while you can add water to the grill, it is usually done when the coals no longer burn and only in small amounts via pulverizer. The process should be gradual, so you will need to be patient and cautious throughout.

About the author

Chris Cosentino

Chris Cosentino

Hi! My name is Chris, the Owner of the website. You can follow me on Twitter.

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