About to use a charcoal BBQ? How many coals will you need in order to make it last for all of your cooking? The last thing anyone wants is for their grill not to stay hot and to run out of lump charcoal mid-grill sesh.
Let’s take a look at how long charcoal actually burns, and how much you’ll need to cook everything you’re planning to make.
Charcoal Burn Time
A general rule of thumb is that a single layer of charcoal will provide around 1 hour of high heat where temperatures are prime for grilling.
While the coals will stay hot for more than an hour, the entire charcoal grilling process includes a few phases.
So, how long does charcoal last? Technically, on your average outdoor grill, charcoal will last 2 to 3 hours.
This includes the process of the charcoal warming up and burning off the outer surface which takes about 30 minutes, then you’ll have the 1 – 1.5 hours of high heat (core cooking time) and the post-cooking time when the charcoals are slowly simmering out is about 45 minutes.
With that said, exactly how long charcoal can last depends on:
- The size of the grill
- The type of grill
- Type of charcoal used
- The ventilation of the grill (airflow)
- How much lighter fluid is used
- How much charcoal is used
For a typical Weber kettle grill, you’ll need about 20 briquettes for every hour that you plan to cook.
Just remember that the more ash there is on the charcoal, the less time it will burn for. So make sure to keep those ashes cleaned off!
How long will one bag of charcoal burn for?
About 1.5 hours. You should be able to cook around 15-20 burgers on one single bag of charcoal.
For larger items like a whole turkey, you’ll need around one and a half bags of charcoal.
It’s always best to have some extra fuel on hand in case your cookout runs longer than expected – nobody wants to be left in the lurch with an unfinished meal!
How Much Charcoal Do I Need?
For a small grill, around eight ounces of charcoal is ideal.
For a large grill, you’ll need around eighteen ounces. If you’re using a smoker, then you’ll need closer to thirty-six ounces.
Average Grill: the general rule of thumb is that it will last around two to three hours in total.
Smoker: Charcoal can last up to six hours.
When in doubt, it’s always best to buy more rather than less. That way, you won’t run out and you won’t have to worry about your food not cooking properly.
How to make Charcoal burn for longer
A few tips to extend the life of the charcoal you have burning is to make sure the airflow around it is as free as possible.
You can do this by creating a space for it in your grill, closing the vents in your grill, or placing it on an elevated surface.
Another way to make charcoal last longer is to control the oxygen supply. This can be done by partially covering the charcoal with a metal lid, or by using a damp piece of paper to cover it. By doing this, you will extinguish the flames and create an environment where the charcoal will smolder instead of burn due to the moisture of the paper towel.
This will cause the charcoal to last significantly longer – up to twice as long! Just be sure not to let the charcoal get too hot before putting the lid on or you risk burning through your briquettes prematurely.
How to make Charcoal burn faster
One way to make the coals burn quicker is to use a charcoal chimney starter. This will help the coals to light faster and make them hotter. You can also use newspaper or crunched-up paper sprayed with lighter fluid to help start the fire faster.
Another way to make your charcoal burn faster is to break it into smaller pieces. If you have big chunks of charcoal, they will take longer to light and will not get as hot as quickly. Try breaking the charcoal into smaller pieces so that it will ignite more easily.
Of course, adding some lighter fluid to the fire in order to make it burn even quicker is one easy way. Opening the grill vents wide will help with natural air and will cause the coal to burn faster too. Just be sure not to add too much, or you may end up with an uncontrolled fire!
Use the right amount of charcoal – A Perfect Formula:
When creating a charcoal fire, it’s important to remember that you don’t need as much as you might think.
You do not need to fill the grill to the top with coals, the high heat from the coals are enough to reach the grilling grates and cook the meat (or whatever you plan to grill).
A good way to work out how much fuel you’ll need is to use this formula:
(Length of grill (inches) x Width of the grill (inches)) divided by the number of people
If you’re using a kettle grill, measure the length and width in inches.
Multiplying the length by the width will give you the total square inches.
Divide the tota square inches by the number of people who will be eating to find how many square inches each person should have.
With this information in hand, you’ll be able to calculate how much charcoal you’ll need for your next cookout.
Can you add more charcoal mid-grill?
If you need to add more charcoal during cooking, wait until the coals are completely cool before adding them to the grill. Adding hot coals to the grill can cause flare-ups and could damage your grill.
How long can you store Charcoal? Does charcoal expire or go bad?
Charcoal briquettes can last indefinitely as long as it is stored in a dry place. The charcoal will not expire and will not go bad, so you can store it for as long as you want.
However, the charcoal’s burn time may decrease over time. The older the charcoal is, the less time it will take to burn. So if you are looking to use your charcoal for a specific purpose, make sure to check how old it is before using it. Otherwise, you may be disappointed with how quickly it burns out.
How long does it take for charcoal to go out?
You can tell that charcoal is dying out because the flames will start to get smaller and the sparks will lessen.
For smaller fires, charcoal can take about 30-45 minutes to extinguish. For larger fires, charcoal can take up to two hours to go out.
If you want the charcoal to go out sooner you can use a shovel to cover the charcoal with dirt or sand. This will help put out the fire faster by removing the airflow and oxygen from the area.
If you are letting the charcoal burn out on its own, try to wait until the charcoal is mostly white ash before disposing of it in order to reduce the risk of a fire.
Make sure to always have water close by in case of an emergency.
Can you relight old charcoal?
You can re-use old charcoal as long as it still has a little bit of heat left in it. If the charcoal is completely cold, then it won’t light and will just end up being a waste of time.
A good way to tell if you can relight previously used charcoal briquettes is to hold them up to the light.
If you can still see a red glow in the center, then they should be good to go. If there’s no red glow present, it’s best to just use fresh charcoal for your next cookout.