Charcoal grilling is the purest form of barbecue cooking, with its beautifully authentic aromas and flavors that it imparts on your food. It does have one big drawback though: The cleanup operation needed after you use it.

It’s not just the potential debris and clutter though – it’s also the process of extinguishing the whole thing. It’s messier, trickier and more dangerous than it looks.

It’s important to put charcoal out at the earliest opportunity once you’ve finished using your grill. It helps save fuel considerably, while also helping prevent any risk of it flaring up and burning anything near it. Especially if you have pets or children nearby.

Need to up your charcoal lighting game? Check out my easy guide here.

Here’s how to put out a charcoal grill.

how to extinguish charcoal briquettes


Tools for Extinguishing Charcoal

To extinguish your burning charcoal grill effectively, you’ll need some level of skill in handling it. To do this right, you’ll need a few tools at your disposal. Here are the main essentials:

  • Heatproof oven mitts
  • A bucket of water
  • Metal spatula or trowel
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wire brush
  • A pair of long tongs
  • Fire extinguisher (class B, K or ABC)
  • Can of baking soda for alternative use


Step 1: Shut the grill down

Begin by putting on heatproof oven mitts and ensure that they are heatproof enough to prevent excessive heat from reaching you.

Remove the grill rack from your grill and slowly close the lid. If your grill has vents then make sure that they are closed. This ensures that all avenues of oxygen to get into the grill are covered, preventing any additional airflow to fuel the fire.

Coals can always take a very long time to cool down, and it’s also not always clear if they’re still burning or not, I recommend leaving the grill for up 48 hours, with all vents closed. While it might not take this long to extinguish, it’s important to be absolutely certain.


Step 2: Remove ashes and briquettes

Once the 48 hours have passed and your grill has completely cooled down, you can remove the burned out briquettes and ashes.

Use an ash removal bucket to scoop up the ashes. Tip them onto a large sheet of aluminum foil prior to disposing them. Wrap the sheet up carefully and dispose of it in a metal trash can or carrier. Any sign of an ember can put plastic at risk of burning or melting, so avoid at all costs using a plastic garbage can or bin.

small extinguished charcoal ash

When transferring the wrapped up aluminum – however cold the briquettes may seem to be – it is advisable that you hold them using a pair of tongs from the grill to the can. We want to reduce the risk of any heat or flare up hurting you.

Alternatively, instead of having to wait for too long for the briquettes to cool down, you can still remove them together with the ash using a pair of long-handled tongs. However, in so doing, another important precaution is to use separate metallic containers to accommodate the ash and the briquettes. If the coals are still very hot, it means that they will continue burning in the metallic container and generate more ashes. The best alternative in this case is to remove them one by one and dip into a bucket of water.


Step 3: Be safe

I hate to hammer this point home too much, but any kind of use of a charcoal grill can be hazardous. I strongly recommend against pouring or spraying water directly onto your grill while it shows any sign of heat. Always wait until it has completely cooled down, even if this is 48 hours down the line. Coals burn at very high temperatures, and dousing them with water can lead to cracks in your grill. Another danger created by pouring water directly onto the grill is that it will create harsh levels of steam and will disperse hot ash, in turn causing nasty burns.


Step 4: Clean the grill out

Use a metal spatula or a trowel to sweep off the remaining ash from the grill. This should be followed by a thorough clean-up of the grill. Pay careful attention to the vents since that is where some ashes are likely to enter, potentially creating an obstruction for your next grill-off.

On the lower parts of the grill, and especially on the grill grates, be sure to use a wire brush. At your own preferred intervals, clean the grilling grates using soap and water. It’s important to lubricate these parts using silicone spray. The spray acts as a good anti-rusting agent, thus improving the lifespan of your charcoal grill.


Step 5: Return leftover briquettes

When they have completely cooled down, put the cold briquettes back in the bottom halve of your grill so that we can use them again next time. Be sure to use a pair of tongs.


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