Why Won’t My Charcoal Grill Wont Stay Lit? Solutions and Fixes

The charcoal grill wont stay lit

Do you need help getting your charcoal grill wont stay lit? Maybe it starts strong, but you feel frustrated as the fire suddenly dies. Not only can this be highly inconvenient, but it also results in food that needs to be cooked correctly and sometimes even lost meals altogether. The team at ABC Charcoal Grills has seen this issue many times before and is here to help you get back to grilling in no time.

In this blog post, we’ll share some common culprits for why your charcoal grill won’t stay lit, as well as tips and tricks that will help ensure a successful cookout every time. So don’t give up hope just yet – let’s look at how to keep your charcoal grill burning through every round of burgers.

Reasons Your Charcoal Grill Won’t Stay Lit

Below are the leading factors that prevent your charcoal grill from remaining ignited. This information will help you better understand and quickly troubleshoot why your grill is not staying lit.

1-Using the wrong kind of charcoal:

The ideal charcoal for your BBQ is key to creating the perfect fire. With hundreds of brands and variations to choose from, it can be overwhelming to make a choice. My go-to for a classic oak flavor that works with most recipes is B & B Charcoal Briquettes.

Charcoal grill wont stay lit

When choosing your fuel, it’s worth considering how long you plan on cooking and the taste you’re after. Different charcoals will produce varying temperatures and burning speeds. For versatility, Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal is my preferred option for both short and long cooks.

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When grilling fish or veggies, short-lasting charcoal is your go-to. There are two types of cooking charcoal, each with distinct characteristics: lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes.

Lump charcoal is irregularly shaped, which makes it challenging to control the fire. But it burns faster and hotter than briquettes, so it’s perfect for short cooking sessions like smoking baby back ribs and turkey thighs.

Charcoal briquettes, on the other hand, are perfect for long, slow cooks. They’re easy to stack and burn evenly, giving you the control you need for BBQ and smoking.

2-Not Using Dry Charcoal

When the charcoal doesn’t stay lit, novice grill masters may find themselves frustrated by the lack of flame, leading to a disappointing end to the barbecue party.

One common cause of damp charcoal is moisture absorption from the air. Charcoal is quite porous, soaking up water vapor like a sponge and losing its dryness all too quickly. Mindful storage of your charcoal is essential; otherwise, its once-dry composition may turn soggy mush.

If you need help to ignite the coals, your charcoal may be the problem – not your technique. Although experienced grillers know the tricks of the trade, newcomers should stick with the tried-and-true tactic of using dry charcoal.

3-Your Grill Needs Cleaning

Is your charcoal grill giving you a hard time staying lit? It could be because it’s dirty. As part of your regular BBQ routine, make sure to keep your grill clean to prevent not only flare-ups but also ash build-ups.

Why is that important? Ash build-up in the bottom of your grill can choke your fire and make it difficult to light your charcoal.

This happens because the vents where your charcoal burns are in that area. Without enough oxygen reaching the burning coal, it won’t stay lit.

To avoid this, clean your grill thoroughly before and after use.

-Cleaning Your Charcoal Grill

For an enjoyable BBQ experience, take your time cleaning your grill. Kick back and savor the delicious food you’ve cooked while the grill cools.

Once it’s cooled, removing the ashes and grease is a breeze for most grill models with an ash and grease management system. For models that lack this feature, use a metal ash shovel or your vacuum cleaner hose (while wearing gloves and a face mask for protection).

Now it’s time to give your grill grates a good scrub with a wire brush and warm, soapy water. The wire brush will whisk away debris, and the soap solution will tackle any stubborn residue. Follow these steps for a clean, tasty grilling experience every time!

To keep your grill working great, cleaning it regularly, both inside and out is essential. To start, mix warm, soapy water, grab a damp cloth or sponge, and give the inside a good wipe-down, focusing on the walls, lid, and bottom.

Moving onto the outside, you’ll want to wash with mild soap and water, paying particular attention to the handles and lid. And if you’re the proud owner of a stainless steel exterior, consider adding a stainless steel cleaner to your toolkit for extra shine.

And remember to give your grill a once-over and check for any damaged parts that may need replacing. Not enough airflow:

4-Not enough airflow:

Proper airflow is crucial to keep your charcoal grill lit as needed. Oxygen makes it happen – it keeps the fire burning and the food coming out delicious. With it, you’ll get a good cook.

So, how does it work? When more oxygen flows in, the fire burns hotter and faster. This means you’ll get more heat from your grill or smoker. Conversely, if oxygen is scarce, your flame will smolder off, and the cooking temperature will drop.

Charcoal grill wont stay lit

Fill the charcoal grate before you start the flame for a long and effortless cook. Not only will you save unused coal, but you can also rely on the vents to regulate the temperature inside the cooking chamber. Invest in proper mechanisms to ensure your grill is fed with the oxygen it needs, and you’re all set for a great meal.

To increase the cooking temperature, open the vent and inject more oxygen into the chamber. On the other hand, closing the vent halfway reduces the temperature. Note that the exhaust vent must always be at least halfway open to release combustion gases into the air; a closed vent will cause gases to build up, and smoke will do nothing to help your charcoal stay lit.

5-Unsuitable Weather to Keep a Charcoal Grill Lit

As much as we love hosting barbecues, harsh weather can quickly turn our plans into a soggy nightmare. Unfortunately, charcoal grills are more susceptible to surrounding weather conditions than others.

Strong winds blowing into the grill can make the fuel burn much faster, requiring more constant refills and wreaking havoc on your control of the flame. In fact, without careful monitoring, the grill could go out in mere minutes!

We know what you’re thinking: “Can’t I just light the charcoal inside to escape the wind?” Unfortunately, this is a no-go, as it will expose you to poisonous gases that can have adverse effects. If you cannot move your grill to a barricaded backyard area, we recommend using a shield guard or improvising one. Trust us; the difference is noticeable!

To ensure your quality grill stays in tip-top shape during cold winter, I recommend using a grill cover to safeguard its components. We all know good grills can be pricey, so protecting your investment is a wise decision.

Also, keep your charcoal in a dry, airtight container or a tightly wrapped plastic bag when storing it. Otherwise, charcoal can absorb moisture from the environment in humid conditions, making it difficult to ignite when grilling time comes around.

6-Using Low-Quality or Cheap Charcoal Briquettes

Investing in high-quality charcoal is vital for the best possible cooking experience.

Cheaper lumps and briquettes may seem like a good deal, but their irregular density means they are harder to light, keep your grill lit and ultimately provide a less satisfying cooking experience.

So avoid falling into that trap; consider options like Royal Oak, Kingsford Original, or B&B Charcoal for better ignition, higher burning temperature, and prolonged lighting duration.

Give yourself the gift of high-quality charcoal, and elevate your cooking game today!

Solutions to Consider When the Charcoal Doesn’t Stay Lit

There are several reasons why charcoal may not stay lit. The good news is that we have curated a list of verified solutions you can employ to keep your charcoal burning consistently and for longer periods. Engage in efficient and prolonged grilling with these effective tips.

Charcoal grill wont stay lit

-Storing the Charcoal in Right Place

This is the ultimate solution if your lump charcoal or briquettes need help to stay lit due to moisture. Dry coals can easily become damp and foam-like, resulting in difficulties during the lighting process.

To keep your charcoal dry, there are various storage options to consider. Choose a dry and sheltered environment to ensure the coals maintain consistency and burn efficiently.

If you’re in a rush, place the damp coals directly under sunlight for 2-3 hours, and they’ll be ready to burn consistently.

-Stacking the Charcoals (Stack Your Charcoal)

To achieve perfectly-cooked meals every time, it is important to master the stacking technique. Experts use this method to arrange charcoal pieces creatively, such as cones, mounds, or even snaking patterns, depending on the amount of charcoal needed.

Stacking ensures good contact between the coals, creating a faster and more efficient spread of fire and promoting even distribution of heat for easy temperature control in the cooking chamber. Plus, it helps prevent charcoals from burning out too quickly, as they will burn until they create an ashy white coating in the base of your grill – giving meat and veggies unparalleled smoky flavor.

If you’re new to grilling, don’t worry – familiarizing yourself with this technique is easy and well worth it. Try stacking your charcoal vertically instead of flat it on the bottom of your grill and experience the difference!

Achieving uniform heat requires proper coal placement within the grill. Here are a few techniques to help you get there:

Snake Method

The charcoal snake method is a popular technique for low and slow cooking. It involves forming a ring of coals around your grill, then lighting one end using a chimney starter. This allows the fire to slowly burn from one end to the other, maintaining a consistent, low temperature inside the grill. Try this method today for excellent, mouth-watering results and a guaranteed party pleaser.

Minion Method

The Minion Method employs a gradual fire spread to maintain a constant and even burn. Start by laying the coals at the grill’s bottom, light the center-most coals, and let the heat mesh to the outer edge. The fire’s eventual spread throughout the coals should help keep the temperature stable.

-Use a Charcoal Chimney Starter

Using a chimney starter is a game changer when keeping your charcoal consistently lit during your grilling sessions. This cylindrical device can hold numerous charcoal pieces at once, igniting a simple single newspaper lit from underneath.

So what makes this tool such a great option? Besides the convenience of igniting all the charcoal at once, its compact design ensures an even and consistent ignition of every piece of charcoal inside the chimney. Once the coals reach the ideal temperature, pour them onto the grates of your charcoal grill and let the grilling commence!

-Keep the Lid Open (Keep The Grill Lid On)

It’s a fact that opening the lid to your grill while cooking isn’t a good idea. Not only does it release precious heat and flavor, but it also lets in cold air, which affects the internal temperature and increases the cooking time.

But did you know that keeping the lid closed can keep your charcoal burning longer? Here’s the trick: keep the lid open until the coals start burning at the right temperature. Then, close the lid to maintain the heat and prevent your coals from extinguishing.

Here’s a pro tip: if you use lump charcoal or briquettes, close the lid before igniting them. This will allow the coals to get the right amount of oxygen and air for an aggressive ignition, ensuring you get the perfect sear on your meats.

-Refill The Charcoal As Needed

Ensuring a stable fire throughout your grilling session requires timely charcoal replenishment. A common mistake is waiting too long, where lit coals can no longer light fresh ones leading to a dying fire. For cooks that last ~3 hours, adding enough charcoal at the start will suffice, but longer cooks require monitoring and refueling every 3-4 hours. Keep your grill well stocked and enjoy an uninterrupted BBQ session!

How Do I Safely Refill The Charcoal?

Replenishing charcoal may seem like a daunting task, but fear not! Follow these simple tips for a quick and safe addition to your grill.

First, don’t wait until it’s too late to add more charcoal – it’s crucial for maintaining consistent heat and preventing overcooked food.

For optimal results, add more charcoal when only a third is left. If you employed the charcoal snake method, add more briquettes to the pile at the unlit end. If you opted for the minion method, carefully open the charcoal basket and add coal around the lit coals.

Remember to watch your forearms! With these tips, you’ll be able to maintain the perfect heat for your grill and achieve mouth-watering results every time.

-Use the Right Type of Charcoal

When it comes to purchasing charcoal, you have a couple of options to choose from: Lump charcoal and briquettes. While briquettes may be tempting due to their affordability and wide availability, we recommend opting for lump charcoal for the best performance.

The top-notch lump charcoal consists of high-quality hardwood and minimal additives that provide a hot, long-lasting burn that is easy to regulate. Furthermore, it burns cleaner and doesn’t produce excessive ash, making cleaning up a breeze.

In contrast, briquettes contain chemicals that make them burn slower and even harder to light. Although they burn longer than lump charcoal, the low flame quality doesn’t make the investment worthwhile. Check out our comparison of lump charcoal vs. briquettes to get more insights.

-Use Dry Charcoal

Proper charcoal storage is vital to avoid the disappointment of a smoky mess or a grill that won’t light up. Charcoal’s porosity means that it acts like a sponge, absorbing moisture from rain and humidity in the air.

We still need to remember to shelter our bag of charcoal, but with airtight containers like large paint pails from DIY stores or plastic storage containers with locking lids, you can ensure charcoal stays dry between uses.

-Know How Much Charcoal to Use

Ensuring your grill is ready to go is key to a successful barbecue. But, if you don’t have enough charcoal, the flame will fizzle out. The secret to keeping the fire going is having enough fuel and getting the coals close together to build up heat.

It’s like how penguins huddle to keep warm; space between the coals will cause the heat to spread out and weaken. So, aim for having the right amount of charcoal to keep the flame going, and make sure they’re close enough to keep the grill hot and ready for all your summer favorites.

For an ideal grilling experience, remember these tips. Use 30 charcoal briquettes for a small grill, while large ones require approximately 50 to 80 briquettes. When searing, make sure to fill the chamber fully, but for low and slow cooking, the room should be around 30% to 40% full. However, keep the coals close.

Keep the charcoal on one side of the grill to avoid burning food. This leaves the other half of the grill cooler and allows easier temperature control.

-Use High-Quality Dry Wood

For those who enjoy smoking on the grill, selecting the suitable wood can make all the difference in taste and quality. However, it’s more than just a matter of choice – using poorly selected wood can cause issues that will ruin your meal.

To ensure the best possible results, it’s essential to use high-quality dry wood like oak, hickory, pecan, or applewood.

But before you even start smoking, you must check that the wood you’ve selected is seasoned. And no, we’re not talking about adding herbs and spices. In this context, seasoning means allowing the wood to dry out for at least six months.

Alternatively, you can buy air-kiln-dried, seasoned wood, which is ideal for grilling. This way, you can be confident that your wood will light effortlessly as the moisture will have been removed.

-Keep Ahead of the Weather

As previously mentioned, moisture can throw a wrench in your attempts to keep your charcoal burning. Weather conditions can also add extra complexity to managing your fire. It is crucial to be mindful of these challenges to maintain optimal fire performance.


In the case of humidity outside, moisture in the air can quickly saturate your coals, hindering grill performance. The good news? You can stack your coal vertically while grilling, allowing your grill to handle moderate humidity easily. You can also use a charcoal starter for a blazing start, building up enough heat to light the coals quickly. Try these tips to keep your grill game at its best.

Wind & Rain

While cooking outdoors can be a fun and delicious way to prepare food, grilling in certain weather conditions can pose challenges. For instance, rain and wind can make it difficult to keep the fire going, affecting the taste and consistency of your meal.

To avoid such issues, it’s essential to take preventative measures. For example, you are keeping your grill covered when not in use can protect it from damage caused by moisture. Additionally, investing in a commercial windscreen can significantly reduce the impact of gusts and turbulence on your flame.

If you’re an all-weather griller, consider setting up a canopy over your cooking area to protect it from the elements and keep your food sizzling no matter what’s happening outside. Following these tips can elevate your grilling game and create a delicious outdoor dining experience.

Tips & Tricks To Keep Your Charcoal Grill Lit

Please find below some practical tips and tricks that can help prolong the burning time of your charcoal. These pointers can be handy in ensuring optimal burning, so read on.

-Consider Using a Fan

Consider using a fan to ensure a steady temperature for your cooking wood. With several options available, including bellow and electric fans, this can be an excellent choice for maintaining airflow and oxygen. By doing so, your cooking sessions will be consistent and longer-lasting. As discussed earlier, proper airflow plays a crucial role in cooking, making a fan a must-have for any serious chef.

-Play with Dampers and Vents

Learning to use grill vents and dampers is crucial for maintaining proper temperature control and consistent charcoal burning. Understanding the impacts of being open and closed will allow you to hone your skills and ensure your charcoal remains hot. For instance, what is the resultant effect when the vents or dampers are open? Similarly, how do they react when kept closed? With this knowledge, you can become a master of temperature control and charcoal grilling or smoking.

-Use Even Charcoal Pieces

Observing the size of your coals is a valuable hack to achieving an even burn. Using uneven pieces leads to hot spots and inconsistent roasting. Even though natural, lump coals require more ignition effort, their varying size gives an uneven burn. However, briquettes provide an efficient alternative due to their consistent size and long burn time. Most importantly, they enable you to reuse charcoal that may have gone unburnt, making them a superior choice.

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FAQs About Charcoal Grill Stay won’t Lit.

Can I Add More Charcoal While Cooking?

Yes, you can add more charcoal while cooking. However, it is essential to remember that the grill needs time to heat up after adding new charcoal. If you add new charcoal mid-cook, give the fire enough time to get back to temperature before adding food.

Can I Pour Water on My Charcoal Grill?

Yes, you can pour water on your charcoal grill if it is hot. However, this should only be done when the coals are nearly finished and ready to be extinguished. Pouring water over a charcoal fire can cause excessive smoke, which could ruin the flavor of any food that is still cooking.

Does Closing the Grill Make It Hotter?

No, closing the grill does not make it hotter. This tactic is often used to keep the heat and smoke inside the grill, allowing for a more consistent cooking temperature. It can also help to maintain moisture levels while smoking, resulting in some delicious dishes.

Why Does My Fire Keep Going Out on My Grill?

If your fire keeps going out on your grill, it is likely due to a lack of airflow. Ensure the vents are open and the dampers are adjusted correctly so air can flow in and keep your charcoal burning. Additionally, check for moisture in the coals, as this can cause problems. If you cannot identify any of these issues, it may be a sign that it’s time to replace the charcoal briquettes.

How Can I Save Unused Charcoal?

Unused charcoal can be stored in a cool and dry place. If you use briquettes, keep them in the original packaging or an airtight container so that moisture does not enter. You can also use lighter fluid to help preserve them for future use.

Should the lid be open or closed on a charcoal grill?

The lid should be open when lighting the grill and closed while cooking. Opening the lid allows ventilation and oxygen to flow into the fire, which helps it burn hotter and longer. Closing the lid retains heat, creating a consistent temperature for roasting or smoking. Additionally, closing the lid prevents smoke from escaping, allowing more flavor to infuse into the food.

Do You Have to Wait for All Charcoal to Turn White?

No, you don’t have to wait for all the charcoal to turn white before cooking. However, waiting until most coals are entirely coated with gray ash is best, and some appear slightly white. This should take around 10 minutes after lighting the grill. At this point, your charcoal will be ready for cooking, and you can adjust the heat by adjusting the air vents.

Should the Bottom Vents on a Grill Be Open?

Yes, the bottom vents on a grill should be open when cooking. This allows airflow and oxygen to reach the charcoal, which helps it burn hotter and longer. Additionally, closing the bottom vents can cause smoke and heat to build up in the grill, making it difficult to maintain an even temperature for roasting or smoking.

Is It OK to Relight Charcoal?

Yes, it is OK to relight charcoal if you have yet to use all of it. To do so:

  1. Remove any unburned pieces and then add a few more fresh briquettes.
  2. Use a fan or bellow to reignite the coals and let them burn until they are entirely coated with gray ash.
  3. Adjust the air vents to achieve the desired temperature, and you are ready to start cooking.

Hopefully, these tips and tricks have provided insight into getting the most out of your charcoal grill. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced chef, understanding the basics of charcoal grilling can make all the difference in achieving delicious, smoky results. So don’t be afraid to experiment, and you’ll soon become a master of charcoal grilling!

Why does my charcoal burn out so fast?

Your charcoal may be burned out quickly due to improper airflow. Ensure that the vents and dampers are adjusted correctly and that enough oxygen is entering the fire. If you use lump coal, break up the pieces into more uniform sizes for an even burn. Additionally, check for moisture in your coals, which can lead to a short-lived fire.

Can I reuse charcoal?

Yes, you can reuse charcoal if it has yet to be burned completely. Let the remaining coals cool down and store them in an airtight container or original packaging. When ready to use again, add more fresh briquettes before reigniting the coals.

Conclusion: Charcoal Grill Stay won’t Lit

Maintaining a steady temperature and ensuring your grill is appropriately lit are essential for a mouth-watering grilled or smoked dish. However, when your charcoal grill stays wont lit, it can be frustrating, time-consuming, and disastrous for the taste buds. Inconsistent temperature and prolonged cooking breaks are common issues arising from a poorly lit grill. But don’t fret; our extensive guide provides practical solutions and tips that can help keep your charcoal grill lit throughout the entire grilling or smoking session. From adjusting the air vents to selecting the right charcoal, our guide will ensure that you can maintain a consistent temperature and create flavorsome dishes every time.

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