Anytime you’re cooking with coals or fire, it pays to be careful. Many people tend to underestimate how long it takes for coals to cool and a hot grill to become safe to touch with your bare hands.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to extinguish a charcoal grill safely, all of which we’ll cover in this article. So, whether you’re new to grilling with charcoal, or are just curious as to how to extinguish a charcoal grill safely, we’ll walk you through the process step by step.
Method 1: Wait 48
Your best option for putting out a charcoal grill safely is to simply wait for 48 hours. Now, depending on the amount of charcoal you used and how many coals were left when you stopped cooking, it may not take the full 48 hours. But, if you’re able to wait that long, it’s the best bet.
Step 1: Close Grill Vents and Dampers
After you’ve removed the last of the food from the cooking grate, go ahead and put the lid back on. Then, in order to cut off the oxygen supply to the coals, close the vents and dampers. Most grills have a vent control near the bottom of the grill, and a damper in the lid. Closing them both will help the coals go out relatively quickly.
Step 2: Secure The Grill
Once you have the lid back on and the vents closed, make sure the grill is secure. During the 48 hours that it’s cooling, you want to make sure that people and animals don’t bump into it and burn themselves or knock it over and start a fire.
If you need to carefully move it a short distance to secure it, you should do so without tilting it. Make sure to wear some burn resistant grill gloves in order to avoid being burned.
Moving a grill with hot coals inside is never a good idea, and moving it any more than a few feet is asking for trouble. You definitely don’t want to transport a grill in any sort of vehicle before the coals are fully extinguished.
Step 3: Check Carefully
If you’re not sure whether the coals are fully extinguished, check the grill carefully. Don’t assume anything, because you’d be surprised how long coals can stay hot.
If you do need to move the grill after 48 hours, try getting the ash out into a fire-proof container while wearing heat-resistant gloves and exercising proper caution. You want to make sure the ash is out of the grill before you move it, as the hot coals will likely be hidden in the ash if there are any left.
Method 2: Transfer the Coals To Water
This method is active rather than passive. Method 1 just calls for you to wait, while this method calls for you to take action.
- A Medium or Large Bucket of Water
- Heavy-Duty Tongs (for grabbing coals)
- Protective Gloves
Step 1: Set Up
Position the bucket of water next to your grill and put on the gloves. Carefully remove the cooking grate and set it aside, so you can reach the coals.
Step 2: Transfer the Coals
Using the tongs, transfer the coals one at a time to the bucket of water. Beware of steam coming out and make sure to use the gloves while you do this.
Step 3: Salvage the Charcoal
Once you have all of the coals in the water, you can let them sit for a few minutes, to be sure they’re out. After you’re sure, you can take them out of the water and let them sit for a few days to dry out. Then, the next time you grill, you can mix the old charcoal in with the new. It will save you some money while allowing you to safely extinguish your coals!
Method 3: Transfer Coals To A Fire-Proof Bin
Another option for extinguishing your coals is to move them into a fireproof metal bin. Once in the bin, you can use a lid to starve them of oxygen. However, most ashcans are made to put cold ashes in. Putting hot coals in a metal container will cause the container to get hot. This method should only be used if the other two methods above are not possible.
- Heavy-Duty Tongs or a Shovel (for moving coals)
- Protective Gloves
Step 1: Transfer the Coals
You’ll want to wait as long as you can before transferring the coals and ash into your ashcan. When you do transfer them, make sure that your ashcan is resting on a surface that won’t be damaged if the bottom of the can gets hot, as will probably happen.
While wearing your protective gloves and using either tongs or a shovel, carefully move the ash and coals into your ashcan.
Step 2: Close The Lid
Once you have all of the coals and ashes in your ashcan, put the lid on. This will help to remove oxygen from the can, allowing the coals to cool faster than they would if you left the lid off.
Be sure to keep the ashcan on a surface that won’t be damaged by heat, like brick, bare ground, or rock. It will be several hours at least before the ashcan is cool to the touch. In fact, waiting two full days before disposing of the ashes in the can is advised.
Step 3: Dispose Of The Ashes
Once you have waited at least 2 days, you can dispose of the ashes. If you want to salvage any leftover pieces of charcoal, you can remove them with tongs before dumping the ash into a trashcan. If you think the ashes may still be too hot to put in a trashcan, you should wait until they are fully cooled.
Note: If your wood charcoal is additive-free, you can use the ash for composting, pest control, and gardening. To learn more, check out this article.
Method 4: Spraying or Dumping Water (Not Recommended)
We’ve included this method only because it is mentioned a lot around the web as a viable way to put out your coals. The truth is that it does work to extinguish coals and hot ashes, but it can also be dangerous for you and can damage your grill.
The risk of being burned by embers is high, which is the main reason we don’t recommend this method. Plus, the sudden temperature change that occurs when water meets heat can cause your grill to warp or crack. Not only that, but it creates a mess in and around your grill. You should take all these things into account before continuing with this method.
Caution: This method should only be used as a last resort. If you can’t wait 48 hours for your coals to die, or you aren’t able to transfer your coals safely into a bucket of water, you can do this.
- Protective Gloves
- A Few Gallons of Water
- Protective Eyewear
- A Protective Mask
Step 1: Prepare
Before you start dumping or spraying water on your coals, you should wait as long as you possibly can. Put on the protective gear mentioned above, as hot ash and embers can spray out into the air when the water hits your grill. For this reason, it’s a good idea to pour the water on the grill slowly, if you’re using a bucket.
Step 2: Carefully Apply the Water
If you are using a hose, try to stay as far away from the grill as possible to limit the risk of getting burned. Whether you’re using a bucket or a hose, be prepared for ash and embers to become airborne. Wearing protective gear helps limit the risk of breathing in ash or being burned by embers.
Once you stop hearing a hissing sound when pouring the water on, you’re almost done. But, to make sure, you’ll still want to pour at least another half-gallon on before you attempt to move or touch the grill. Even after you’ve doused the coals, the grill will be hot to the touch for several hours.
Step 3: Cleanup
One of the major drawbacks of this method is the mess it makes when water mixes with ashes. If you can’t wait for the ashes to dry out, you’ll have to clean them up as best you can. You’ll also want to wipe down your grill after using this method, as it can spread gunk all around.
By far your best option when it comes to putting out a charcoal grill safely is to simply close the vents, the lid, and wait 48 hours for the coals to cool. If you can’t, then you should consider transferring the hot coals to a bucket of water with tongs. Methods 1 and 2 are the safest options.
Keep in mind that pouring water on your grill can damage the grill and send embers into the air. No matter how you plan on extinguishing your grill, it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy in case of emergencies. Whatever you do, stay safe, be careful, and enjoy the pleasures of grilling with charcoal!
I hope this article has been helpful and, as always, thanks for reading!