How to put out a charcoal grill safely, according to experts

It's vital to know how to put out a charcoal grill properly, to keep your backyard fire-safe after cook-outs on your BBQ

Lit charcoal grill
(Image credit: Tamas Balogh / Alamy Stock Photo)

BBQ safety 101 includes knowing how to put out a charcoal grill safely. Coals which are still hot are a serious fire hazard as they are still extremely flammable.

The only way to ensure that they won't catch on fire and pose a safety risk to your backyard and home, is to ensure that you learn how to extinguish a charcoal grill properly, or at least keep your coals safely contained before hanging up your tools.

There are just as many unsafe ways to put out the coals on your best BBQ as there are safe ways. So it's important to acquaint yourself with the different methods to keep yourself and your family free from risk.

coal ash in a grill


(Image credit: Hympi / Alamy Stock Photo)

Follow these expert tips for how to put out a charcoal grill

Learning how to cook on a charcoal grill is one thing, but 'knowing how to put out a charcoal grill safely requires patience,' says Chris Bonnett, Founder of Gardening Express (opens in new tab), 'as the burning coals take a long time to cool down.' 

One of the possible advantages of gas when it comes to gas vs charcoal grills is how easy they are to extinguish. 'Unlike the gas grill that you can conveniently turn off from a switch, extinguishing a charcoal BBQ can be a hassle and if it’s not done right, it can impose a serious fire hazard,' he says.

1. Smother the coals

For Ben Forte, Kamado Joe (opens in new tab) and Masterbuilt (opens in new tab) Marketing Manager and BBQ enthusiast, the best method for how to extinguish a charcoal grill is to smother the coals.

'Simply shut off all oxygen, so close down all the vents and then shut the lid,' says Ben. 'That way you save fuel for the next cook.'

Chris Bonnet also feels that allowing the coals to burn out on their own is the safest method. 'As soon as you’ve finished using the grill, close the lid and shut the vents to smother the flames,' he says. 'But bear in mind that you have to wait at least 48 hours before removing them from the grill,' he says.

'The other point worth noting is that the once you close the lid and shut the vents, the BBQ area should be placed in a safe place away from children and pets, as it will still be hot for some time,' says Liam Glennon, Senior Garden Buyer at VonHaus (opens in new tab).

Whilst being safe, this method doesn't work if you want to know how to put out a charcoal grill more quickly.

A charcoal grill with the lid on in a back yard

Charcoal grill from Napoleon (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Napoleon)

2. Remove the coals

Chris Bonnet stresses his essential grilling tip: 'Before you start handling a charcoal grill, make sure you put on heat-resistant BBQ gloves or oven mitts to prevent burning yourself.' 

'You can dispose of the coals and ashes by wrapping them in a large sheet of aluminium foil and placing them in an ashcan or metal container,' says Chris. 'The speedy solution for how to extinguish a charcoal grill is to let the grill sit for a few hours and then scoop the coals and ash out with long-handled tongs and drop them in a metal bucket filled with cold water.'

'We would also recommend that you ensure the coals have completely burnt before removing the ash,' says Liam Glennon. 'Do not dump ashes anywhere away from from your outdoor grill station where they could start a fire, and always dispose of ashes in a proper receptacle.' 

Hot coals sitting in a charcoal barbecue

Never dump ashes anywhere unless they are fully burnt out

(Image credit: Lasse Kristensen / Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Extinguish a charcoal grill quickly in emergencies

'Pouring water over it will be the most common dangerous way that people consider for putting out a charcoal grill,' says Liam Glennon. Although it may seem like a quick solution, you should never pour water directly on a hot grill.

Therefore Liam recommends after you light a BBQ, having one of the following on hand at all times when using a charcoal grill so you can put the coals out: 'A fire extinguisher or bucket of sand should be on hand to smother the fire in emergencies only.'

fire extinguisher next to a barbecue

A fire extinguisher or bucket of sand should always be close to hand at a BBQ

(Image credit: AB Forces News Collection / Alamy Stock Photo)

Can you pour water on your charcoal grill?

'No, do not pour water on a charcoal grill,' says Ben Forte. 'It could work but you wouldn’t really want to do that, adding water to hot coals can create hot steam and ashes which could burn you, so be very careful.' 

'For Kamado grills or ceramic BBQs, you could shock the ceramic so it is not advised, with a metal BBQ if left wet it will increase the chances of rusting, so then you'll need to know how to remove rust from grills. And worst of all – you’re left with a really horrible mess to clean up.'

The best way putting out a charcoal grill is to shut off the oxygen and you can simply empty the ash tray at the end once the coals have cooled down. Easy and clean.

man putting out a barbeque with a bucket of sand

You only need use a bucket of sand to extinguish charcoal instantly

(Image credit: gipi23 / Getty)

How do you extinguish a charcoal grill without a lid?

'The safest way for how to extinguish a charcoal grill without a lid is to let the coals burn out,' advises Liam Glennon. 'The only other method is removing the coals or briquettes and cool or suffocate away from the BBQ. This will get the coals cooled down faster, but you’ll need the best BBQ tools and equipment to hand to do this, such as heat proof BBQ gloves, a metal handheld spade or shovel, a metal bucket or something similar (must be metal).'

Can you re-use charcoal once you've put it out?

'Yes, a handful of good-quality charcoal can smoulder through a low and slow cook nicely and still have enough energy to burn again,' says Ben Forte. 'But it will run out of puff eventually.'

'If you still have some leftover charcoal that could be reused, you can store them in a fire-proof container, and use them again on your next BBQ session, once it has completely cooled down,' says Chris Bonnet.

Teresa Conway
Teresa Conway

Teresa has worked as an Editor on a number of gardening magazines for three years now. So she is lucky enough to see and write about gardening across all sizes, budgets and abilities. She recently moved into her first home and the garden is a real project! Currently she is relishing planning her own design and planting schemes. What she is most passionate about when it comes to gardening are the positive effects it has on our mental health to grow and care for plants, as well as being great for the environment too and help provide food and shelter for wildlife.