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How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill (Safely!)

How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill (Safely!)

According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), 49% of US consumers use a charcoal grill. It’s hugely popular thanks to the authentic flavors it gives to your food!

There’s just one drawback — an extensive shutting down process after using a charcoal grill. 

You can’t just turn off the coals and fire when the party starts to wind down. Hence, a lot of users have questions about how to put out a charcoal grill.

From removing briquette ash to proper vent management and safety tips, here’s your comprehensive guide to putting out a charcoal grill.

Guide to Putting Out a Charcoal Grill

Discussing how to put out a charcoal grill is incomplete without focusing on safety. For improved safety and efficient disposal, you may want to consider having the following items handy.

  • Metal Spatula
  • Heat-proof BBQ Gloves
  • Safety glasses 
  • Aluminum foil 
  • Grill tongs
  • Wire Brush
  • Baking Soda 
  • Fire extinguisher (Class K, ABC, or B)
  • Bucket of water 
  • Scooper 
  • Metal trowel 

Shut it Down

Start by wearing heat-proof BBQ gloves. These gloves should be rated to provide complete protection even under excessive temperatures. 

Then, carefully carry out the rack before slowly closing the lid. If your charcoal grill has vents, you want to make sure they’re fully closed. By doing so, you’ll be cutting off all oxygen inlets into the chamber. 

The next step is to just waitttttt.

Coal lumps can take a long time to completely cool off. Depending on just how large your coal base was and how much it has left in it, this could take anywhere from 4 – 48 hours!

It may not take this long but it’s important to be certain before taking the next step. It’s hard to figure out if the coal lumps are still burning. A good indicator is when the grill feels cool to your touch. 

While waiting for the grill to cool, keep a close eye on it. You don’t want people or pets getting too close. 

Remove Briquettes and Ashes 

Only when your charcoal grill is cool should you attempt to clear the ashes and briquettes. Using a scooper, start removing the ashes and briquettes from the chamber. 

The best practice is to tip the ashes onto aluminum foil. This foil should be large enough to wrap the ashes and briquettes comfortably. When you finish this step, wrap up the ashes in the foil and dispose of the bundle in an iron trash can. 

Dying flame embers can still melt or burn a plastic garbage can. Always use a metal trash container. 

When picking up briquettes, avoid the temptation to use your hands — however cold they may look. It’s also best to use tongs to carry the aluminum foil bundle as this can eliminate the possibility of flare-ups hurting you.

Clean Your Charcoal Grill

Cleaning your grill is the most time-intensive step to putting out a charcoal grill. With a metal trowel, sweep out any ash remnants present in the chamber. 

Follow up with a comprehensive cleaning of the chamber. While doing so, you’ll want to focus on the vents. Ashes can lodge in the vents creating a blockage that’ll affect your next grilling session.

You don’t need soap for this step. If it’s been a while since you gave your charcoal grill a proper cleaning, soap is highly recommended. 

While cleaning, you’ll need to remove the grate and scrape it with a wire brush. Use water while scraping to remove hardened food particles and debris. Be sure to also take a wire brush to the rest of your charcoal grill.

After giving it a thorough scrubbing, rinse off your grill with clean water. Then, allow it to dry. 

If you have salvaged any coal briquettes, you can arrange them in the grill chamber. This way, it’ll be ready if you have to grill again anytime soon. Close the grill and store it.

How to Put Out a Charcoal Grill Faster

The step-by-step above is effective, but it requires time. At the very least, you’ll have to wait 36 hours for the coal lumps to cool down. 

It’s possible to put out a charcoal grill faster but this method is stressful and will require care on your part. The advantage to it is you get to save more of the charcoal lumps for reuse

You don’t need any extra equipment. Everything we’ve listed above works for this method. 

Step 1

Start by closing off oxygen routes into the grill chamber. Close the lid slowly and seal all the vents to kill the flames.

Step 2

Here’s a step where you can achieve speed. With this method, you don’t have to wait 36-48 hours for the chamber and charcoal lumps to cool. You only have to wait for an hour or two. 

While waiting, prepare a tub of water, your tongs, and a large enough sheet of aluminum foil.

Step 3

Using the tongs, grab each briquette and submerge them in water. The catch is you have to do it one at a time. Due to the sudden rush of steam, it’s the only way to guarantee safety.

Dunk each briquette in water for a minute or two. Make sure it’s fully extinguished before removing it. Then, place it on an aluminum foil sheet to dry.

Step 4

After drying the briquettes, store them in a fireproof metal container. They are ready to use next time you grill.

Step 5

Sweep out ashes with a metal trowel. You can toss the ashes on a sheet of aluminum before disposal. 

As we mentioned earlier, scrub the grates, cooking chamber, vents, and other parts of your charcoal grill with a wire brush. Then, rinse the unit and allow it to dry before storing it. 

If you like, you can return the dry briquettes to the chamber before storing your grill.

Can I Pour Water On My Charcoal to Put it Out?

Elementary science shows us water is fire’s primary bane. Pouring water over your hot coal will “turn them off”. 

That doesn’t mean it’s good practice. If you’re looking to extend the lifespan of your charcoal grill, it’s a bad idea.

Here’s what happens if you use water to put out a charcoal grill:

  • The resulting steam cloud is a burn hazard
  • Pouring cold water on a hot grill will cause a thermal shock that can crack your cooker 
  • There’s the possibility of washing burning coals out of your charcoal grill

Water will create a sludge in your charcoal grill. If you don’t clean it immediately, this sludge will dry and harden quickly. You’ll be left with stuck dampers, completely clogged vents, and a day of cleaning.

Perhaps the only time to use water is when you have to pack your charcoal grill in a few minutes. For instance, while on a camping trip. 

If this is the case, use as little water as possible. Then, carefully pack up the mess in a pre-designated container and save the heavy cleaning for later. 

Final Thoughts

Our goal was to provide you with a couple of safe ways to put out a charcoal grill. The first method is ideal if you’re not on a time crunch. It’s also a safer step for novice users with questions about how to put out a charcoal grill. 

If you need to put out your grill more quickly and safely, the second method is a better option but don’t forget to follow each step carefully.

Whichever method you choose, be sure you have all of your safety gear on hand. Use thick, heat-resistant gloves and safety goggles. You’ll also need heat-resistant tongs to carry hot coal lumps. Stay safe!

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Lindsay Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! I created this website to be a resource for everyone who wants to make the best home possible.