Charcoal Grill Won’t Stay Lit: Possible Reasons And Solutions

For delicious meals, cooking on a charcoal grill is second to none. But for that, you need a hot one that stays lit during the entire cooking time.

Sadly, your charcoal grill won’t stay lit due to several reasons and that will result in disappointments. So, you keep wondering how to keep the charcoal grill lit and hot.

Considering that, I will be talking about the possible reasons and exactly what should you do to get smoky flavored grill always.

Reasons Why Charcoal Grill Won’t Stay Lit And Hot

charcoal grill won’t stay lit

Starting a charcoal grill is easy but keeping it lit is not! I will explain the reasons in detail but let’s check them first in brief:

  • Your charcoal grill is not clean.
  • Using poor quality (damp/wet, old) charcoal.
  • Not keeping the dampers open.
  • Faulty built-in thermometer. 
  • Closed air vents.
  • And many more!

The above reasons are the main suspects but I will talk about some additional possibilities as well. And you will find solutions to solve the problem as well!

  • Grill Isn’t Clean 

Every time you use the grill, you need to clean the ash out of it thoroughly. Not doing so becomes an issue and you may not get what you want from your grill!

Let me explain why.

The ash in the cooking chamber will clog the ventilation system of the grill.

Every single time, you should clean the grates of your grill. It does not take much time but it’s crucial to get the most out of your grill.

  • Quality of Charcoal
right charcoal for grill

During the time of grilling, you may think that any kind of charcoal will do the trick but the quality of charcoal matters. 

Of course, you need a good batch of charcoal but your investment in grilling will result in a complete failure if you can’t choose your charcoal properly.

Getting cheap or low-cost charcoal is the first mistake anyone can make. You are not saving money doing so. Rather it will result in wastage of money, time, and utter disappointment. 

Low-quality charcoal is difficult to heat and lit. You will find it difficult to keep it lit for a long time. Also, it burns out quickly!

Again, if you choose the old charcoal to grill, it won’t give you the result you need. It hardly works as it has not had enough grilling qualities. In my experience, it also burns out quickly.

So, what type of charcoal you have to choose matters greatly. 

Yes, there are plenty of options when it comes to quality charcoal but I would recommend the ‘Briquette charcoal’ 

You can google about its quality but several charcoal grilling enthusiasts have strongly recommended this on several forums.

  • Dryness of Your Charcoal

Even getting the best charcoal won’t cut it if they are wet. Did you check your charcoal status in this regard?

During grilling or any other cooking, you need a handsome amount of dry charcoal.

It is quite important to have your charcoal dry for grilling. If it is not dry, your charcoal grill will never stay lit. 

You may use the best quality charcoal in grilling but your investment will never give you the best result if it is not dry at all.

Charcoals are porous; it is natural to absorb moisture from the environment. 

So, you must be careful to store them and store them away from the damp environment so that they cannot absorb moisture at all.

If they have the chance to be damped, it will be very difficult to keep them lit.

  • Firing Properly

Another reason why it won’t stay lit is that you are not firing it the right way in the first place. If you cannot fire the charcoal properly, it will burn out quickly or partially. 

To do this the right way, you need a charcoal chimney starter which may cost you more or less $20. It will make lighting your coal easy. 

Just load the coals up, place a piece of paper at the bottom of the starter for ignition. Wait for 10 to 15 minutes until the coal ignites.

Not using the charcoal chimney starter will result in a wastage of time and money as you will find it hard to ignite a fire. You can find plenty of YouTube videos on it to do it right as well.

  • Making Stake of Charcoal

Having the best charcoal and keeping them dry is crucial. And it is a good practice to take your charcoal vertically as well.

While grilling, to get the best lit, you must make a stake of your charcoal. The charcoal stake can give the best result and solve the problem of not being lit.

If you can’t stake charcoals vertically or you stake them horizontally, some of them may not stay lit. Even worse, they will burn out without reaching the right temperature. 

Rather, the vertical stake helps each other to grow lit of the upper part. So, staking them vertically is a must to have your charcoal stay lit.

  • Using Chimney Starter
charcoal grill won't stay hot

Using a chimney starter can be the best way to stake your charcoal. You can choose any kind of chimney starter likely the cylinder-shaped metal starter.

Without any hesitations, just fill the starter with your grilling charcoal. You may use paper before filling it up with charcoal. Then, simply place the starter in the griller or smoker.

After the lighting, wait for around 20 minutes. Your charcoal will become hot rapidly. Then start grilling.

  • Ample Ventilation

Due to proper ventilation, your charcoal grill may not stay lit. Proper ventilation for the smoker is needed to grill.

If your air is not enough in amount, your charcoal never will light. Even if it is lit somehow, it will die without a sufficient amount of air.

To get more fire or heat, you need more oxygen. If the charcoal gets more air, it will stay lit and give more heat.

  • Using Dampers

The most charcoal grill comes with dampers and you will find them on the top lid and bottom of the grill. They are there for better air circulation.

If your grill won’t stay hot, there is a strong possibility that the dampers are not wide open.

For the best air circulation in your grilling, you may use dampers. To control your air, two dampers are recommended in grilling as every charcoal grill comes with two dampers.

Again, you can control your heat in grilling using these dampers.

But be careful that you have to be sure about all dampers are open while pre-heating.

  • Weather Condition

Weather is another key factor when it comes to keeping the grill lit and hot. You will find it very tough to lit the charcoal during humid or windy weather.

In humid weather, there is a lot of moisture and the air becomes wet. Wind can put out your charcoal. So, you should use a light cover to control your heat.

Charcoal grilling takes extra effort and you will be less disappointed if you keep the weather factor in mind while grilling.

  • Adding Extra Coal

Adding this extra coal with help to keep your charcoal lit. When you want to last the heat longer; you need to add more coal.

Otherwise, you may fall into difficulties in grilling.

Make sure that you have burnt half of the charcoal, never wait until the last. 

The time interval may be in 30 minutes for adding extra coal from the beginning. This time also depends on the quality of the charcoal.

  • Right Wood For Right Taste

How would you feel when you find a wooden smell from your charcoal grill?

It’s annoying and very much frustrating!

You will find such a smell when you add low-quality or wet cooking wood to charcoal grilling. Again, adding seasoned cooking wood can give you a bad impression of charcoal grilling with a woody flavor.

So, choosing such kinds of woods is certainly wrong. You should go for the best dry charcoal and there is no alternative to it.

Finally, you have learned how to get a charcoal grill to stay lit. Now, it’s your turn to grill like a Pro. I hope you will do it better now which can be appealing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long will a charcoal grill stay hot?

If lit properly, it should stay hot for at least 30-40 minutes.

What do you do when your charcoal grill won’t stay lit?

Add lighter fluid and wait for few minutes to let it absorbed into the charcoal. The lighter fluid will help to start the fire and remain lit. To get the best result, add some kindling as well!

Can you relight charcoal?

Yes, you can relight your charcoal. It does not make any sense to start with a fresh batch of charcoal whenever you fire up your grill.

Why does my charcoal burn out so fast?

When exposed to wind, your charcoal will burn out fast because of the additional oxygen it gets from the air. This happens a lot when you place your grill in an open area like your backyard or lawn.

Do you leave the vent open on a charcoal grill?

Only when you need more temperature while grilling, you can keep the vent open to let in more oxygen.

Closing Remarks

Charcoal grilling is a traditional form of grilling with a traditional vibe. Every now and then you may face some trouble starting a charcoal grill and keeping it lit.

But now that you know why your charcoal grill won’t stay lit and what to do to keep the charcoal grill hot, it should not have any trouble from now on.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment box.

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