Have you ever ruined a grilling session due to the bad behavior of your charcoal? If so, you’re not alone because many grillers face the exact same problem.
There can be several reasons behind the challenge of charcoal pieces not staying lit. But the good news is that you can repel this issue by following simple tips.
That’s what we are going to share in this article. We will highlight the reasons why you are not able to keep the charcoals lit, verified solutions for it, and a few beneficial tricks.
So, let’s clear your concerns about why won’t my charcoal stay lit with an in-depth guide.
Reasons Behind Why Won’t My Charcoal Stay Lit
Insufficient ventilation, poor quality or damp charcoals, and horizontal stacking are some of the top reasons that don’t let your charcoal grill stay lit.
To solve this, one of the solutions is to stack dry charcoals vertically instead of flat on the grill and light the bottom layer so the fire can move upwards.
With that said, let’s shed light on some of the most common possible causes according to our research and observations.
Not Using Dry Charcoal
One of the strong reasons your charcoal isn’t staying lit is that you are probably trying to ignite damp pieces of charcoal.
Most of the time, when you buy charcoal briquettes, they are completely dry because they are created under low-oxygen conditions.
On the other hand, they are porous too, and charcoal absorbs water vapor and moist quickly, even from the air. So, if you don’t store charcoal properly, your dried charcoal can turn damp.
As a result, lighting the charcoal becomes challenging, and when you have ignited them, they may not stay lit due to the moisture.
Experienced charcoal grill users can keep going with the damp charcoal as well, but if you are a newbie, make sure you go with dry charcoal.
Using Low-Quality or Cheap Charcoal Briquettes
If you buy lousy lump charcoal or briquettes just to save a few bucks, you may end up wasting your food after spending hours cooking it.
They don’t have constant density, which takes comparatively longer to ignite, and they struggle to keep your charcoal grill lit.
So, you should buy a bag of high-quality charcoal that will ignite quicker, burn hotter, and stay lit, no matter if you have to spend extra money.
Several best options are available in the market, such as Royal Oak, Kingsford Original, and B&B Charcoal.
It can be a default issue in your charcoal grills, or you are making a mistake in providing better airflow to the charcoals.
Adequate ventilation and airflow system are essential if you want your grill or smoker to burn charcoal constantly.
You might be using a charcoal grill with tiny air holes, and they are not letting the required amount of air enter the ignition chamber.
On the other hand, most grills use air vents for airflow and require expertise to handle them accordingly.
In the case of keeping charcoal lit, you should keep the vents open so that the air can easily find its way to enter the area of burning charcoal.
Additionally, the temperature control on charcoal grills is done through the vents and can be a bit challenging to master.
Unsuitable Weather to Keep a Charcoal Grill Lit
When it comes to grilling in windy conditions, winds interrupt the flow of oxygen, causing flames or coals to flare up and leading them to be extinguished.
Grilling in the rain can also create challenges as it will moisten the charcoal briquettes. As a result, you struggle to light and keep them lit, and potentially, they will produce more smoke than required.
So, you can grill under a sheltered area and make a temporary wall to prevent wind blasts from ruining your grilling session.
Using Dirty Grill
When you use a dirty grill with ash build-up, you might struggle with keeping it lit in the charcoal lighting process.
The reason is that the white ash is usually found in the bottom part of your grill. It is where your charcoal burns and vents are also located there.
So the oxygen does not reach the place where coal burns, and your charcoal grill won’t stay lit. The solution is to clean your grill before and after use thoroughly.
A Quick Sneak Peek – Questions to Ask Yourself
Let’s share a checklist that you need to consider before complaining that your charcoal won’t stay lit.
|Common Causes of Charcoal Not Staying Lit||Does this cause apply to your situation?|
|Using dry charcoal?||Yes / No|
|Using low-quality charcoal briquettes?||Yes / No|
|Any airflow issues?||Yes / No|
|Unsuitable weather?||Yes / No|
|Using dirty grill?||Yes / No|
Solutions to Consider When the Charcoal Doesn’t Stay Lit
Well, there may be several reasons why your charcoal does not stay lit. The good news is that we have compiled a list of several verified solutions you can try to keep your charcoal burning constantly and for longer durations.
Storing the Charcoal in Right Place
This is your best solution if you think your lump charcoal or briquettes are not staying lit due to moistness.
As mentioned above, air and humidity can turn your dry coals into damp foam, and you will struggle in the lighting process.
You have several options for storing your charcoal in the right place. It can be anywhere where the environment remains dry and sheltered all the time. When you use these coals, charcoal burns faster and more consistently.
If you are in a hurry, you can place the damp coals under the direct sunlight for 2-3 hours, and they will be ready to burn constantly.
Stacking the Charcoals
You may need to familiarize yourself with the stacking technique if you are new to grilling and smoking. It is a technique that experts often use while cooking on charcoal grills or smokers.
Arranging the charcoal pieces in a specific pattern or shape is called stacking. You can place them in a cone, mound, snake shape, or pyramid shape. The pattern also depends on how much charcoal you use.
It is helpful in various ways, such as good contact between the coals, faster fire spreading, and suitable air and oxygen distribution.
As a result, when charcoals start burning, they don’t extinguish till they create an ashy white coating in the bottom of your grill.
For further effectiveness, try to stack them vertically instead of arranging them flat on the bottom of your grill.
It is also suitable for easy temperature control and even heat distribution in the cooking chamber.
Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter
A chimney starter is a significant consideration when the goal is to keep your charcoal lighting throughout the cooking session.
It is a cylindrical-shaped thing where you can place plenty of charcoal pieces at once and ignite them through a newspaper from underneath.
Why do we consider it a good option?
Because it allows for even ignition of all the coal pieces at once, thanks to the compact placement inside the charcoal chimneys.
When the coals turn red and reach a suitable temperature, you can throw them into the charcoal grates.
Keep the Lid Open
Do you know that the lid of your cooking chamber can also keep your charcoal burning for longer? We suggest you keep the lid open until the coals start burning at the right temperature.
Once they’re ready, then you can close the lid, let it maintain the heat, and prevent your coals from extinguishing.
When you close the lid before igniting your lump charcoal or briquettes, ultimately, they don’t get extra oxygen and air, which are essential in aggressive ignition.
Tips and Tricks to Keep your Charcoal Burning
Let’s share some useful tips and tricks that will help your charcoal to stay lit comparatively longer.
Consider Using a Fan
As we were just talking about the importance of air, we encourage you to use a fan as it is an excellent choice to keep your charcoal burning at a steady temperature.
A fan can help you provide the required air and oxygen to the cooking wood. As a result, you will be able to hold a longer yet consistent cooking session.
You’ve got several options, such as a blower fan, handheld fan, electric fan, bellow, etc.
Play with Dampers and Vents
It will help if you spend more time learning how to use grill vents and dampers because both play a massive role in keeping your charcoal hot.
For example, learn what the impacts are when vents or dampers are open and how they react if you keep them close.
It will help in constant charcoal burning and polish your temperature-controlling skills with a charcoal grill or smoker.
Use Even Charcoal Pieces
Another valuable tip you can follow is to burn those coals that are even in size. When you use uneven pieces, they cause hot spots and don’t burn constantly.
For example, lump coals are natural but have inconsistent sizing and require more effort in the ignition.
Briquettes are a better option than lump coals because they come in even sizes, burn longer and consistently, and allow you to reuse charcoal if any are unburnt.
Winding it Up
Inconsistent temperature and longer breaks in the grilling or smoking session can waste your quality time and ruin the taste of the food you are trying to prepare. It usually happens when you are unable to keep your charcoal lit.
So, to overcome this, we have developed a comprehensive guide. Make sure to go through the solutions we have provided, and you will be able to keep your charcoal grill lit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How hot does charcoal burn?
Several factors determine how hot charcoal can burn, with charcoal quality being the most important. Good-quality charcoal can reach the scale of 700 °F, but when you use them for cooking your food, it can burn up to 500 °F.
How long does charcoal burn?
If you have one bag of high-quality charcoal briquettes, you can expect them to burn for 4-5 hours. On the other hand, lump charcoal burns comparatively faster, giving you 2-3 hours of cooking time.
Do you close the lid when lighting charcoal?
We recommend that the smoker or grill lid be open when you arrange and burn your charcoal because it allows better airflow, making the ignition process quicker and easier. Once the coals turn grey, you can close the lid.
Robert Gill, a BBQ enthusiast, and Senior Author at FaveGrills.com bring his extensive knowledge of BBQ equipment and exciting recipes to the team. With his outgoing personality and love for BBQ, Robert plays an essential role in the FaveGrills community, sharing his passion and expertise through informative articles and gear reviews.