Charcoal Won’t Stay Lit! How to Keep Your Charcoal Lit

Charcoal Won’t Stay Lit! How to Keep Your Charcoal Lit

Using a charcoal grill can give you more of that “grilled” flavor you love. However, one of the issues with charcoal grills is that they are a bit more difficult to use than traditional propane grills. If you do execute with a charcoal grill, you will never want to go back to using your propane grill. One of the biggest issues with charcoal grills is getting your charcoal to stay lit. People struggle to keep their charcoal lit, which can be quite frustrating.

Fortunately keeping your charcoals lit is easier than you think. There are a few likely reasons that your charcoals are not staying lit and some things you can do to fix them.

Generally, your charcoal won’t stay lit because it is either too dry, you’re not letting it breath enough, the weather is not good for charcoal grilling, or you are not buying the right charcoals.

Those are the most common issues people have trying to keep charcoal grill lit. I’ll dive more in depth on those reasons,and give you some tips for keeping your charcoal lit.

How To Keep Charcoal Lit

Choose the Right Kind of Charcoal

One of the easiest things you can do to make sure your charcoal stays lit is to buy better charcoal. Not all charcoal is made equally, some are better than others. You are going to be cooking some pretty nice cuts of meat on your grill, so don’t cheap out on the charcoal.

Sometimes with generic brands of charcoal you will have issues just getting it to catch. The better the charcoal the easier it will be to ignite. High quality charcoal will also last longer. If you are having issues with your charcoal either burning out quickly or not starting, buying higher quality charcoal is one of the first things I would do.

Make Sure The Coals are Tightly Put Together

Before lighting the charcoal, make sure they are tightly put together. This will make it easier to get them lighted initially as well as keep them going. After they have been lit, you can add some kindling along the way to keep it going.

You also want to make sure that you stack the charcoal. As you might already know, heat rises, and this is no different than with charcoal. When you are getting the fire ready, pile the charcoal tightly and vertically. They should be piled almost in the shape of a pyramid. Then douse them in lighter fluid to get the fire going. If you stack the briquettes high and tight, you will have an easier time both getting the fire started and keeping it going.

Keep Things Moving

In order for your charcoals to stay hot, you will want to move them around from time to time. Obviously, don’t use your hands, but use a good poker stick to move them around. You might notice that your charcoals are starting to die out when the edges turn grey. Move them around with a stick, when the air hits they will heat up quickly. If the charcoal settles for too long they will naturally just start to die down. Keeping them moving could absolutely help them last longer.

Reasons Why Your Charcoal Still Won’t Stay Lit

We talked about things you can do to keep your charcoal lit, but what if it still won’t light? Well, there are a few reasons this could be. Sometimes no matter what you do, it just might not be possible to get your charcoal to stay lit. Even if you follow each of the above tips, you could still struggle with the charcoal either dying out or not even getting started. Here are some reasons you could be having this issue.

The Weather

Unfortunately with grilling on a charcoal grill, you are sometimes at the mercy of the weather. If it is too humid you might have trouble getting your charcoal to stay lit. High humidity could cause your charcoal to burn out quickly because the moisture will get to your charcoal. There are some things you could do to combat the humidity, but on particularly humid days, you might just have to save the grilling for another day.

Another weather condition that affect the charcoal is wind. Too much wind could also blow out the flame on the charcoal. On particularly humid days, you might end up lighting the charcoal a few times before giving up. If it is really windy out, it also may not be completely safe to grill because it could tip over and the charcoal could go all over the ground. If the wind is not too bad, you might still be able to pull it off. Slightly cover the grill with the lid to protect the flame, but make sure to not cover it completely so they still have room to breathe.

Too Much Ash Build Up

Sometimes too much ash build up could cause issues with keeping your charcoal lit. Luckily, this is an easy fix because all you have to do is clean out your grill. If there is too much ash build up you can try all you want but the ash is just going to keep putting out your flame. For advice on cleaning out the ash in your grill, check out How to Maintain a Grill – The Ultimate Guide. There I covered everything you will need to know about cleaning your charcoal grill.

You Are Not Using Dry Charcoal

Wet charcoal won’t get lit no matter how much you try. Along the same lines as making sure you are using good quality charcoal, you will also want to be sure that the charcoal is dry. Make sure you store your unused briquettes in a cool dry place to avoid moisture getting to them. Especially if you live somewhere with a humid climate, leaving your charcoal outside in the open is a really bad idea.

I hope you found this article on how to keep your charcoal lit helpful. For more tips on grilling, be sure to check out our grilling section.

Sam Rebinskas

Sam is the co-founder of Improve Your Gameday and loves all Boston sports teams.

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