Cooking Tips

Don’t Burn Money: Reuse Your Charcoal

Thrifty cooks reignite coals for a second round of grilling.

Published Aug. 1, 2022.

Whether you grill with lump briquettes or more expensive hardwood charcoal, quick-cooking recipes like our Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks can leave you with a fair amount of only partially used coals at the end of cooking. We wondered if we could, in the name of frugality, immediately extinguish the coals by cutting off the air supply and save them to reignite in a future round of grilling?

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We discovered that the answer is yes but with one caveat. Trying to light a chimney starter filled entirely with used coals was a nonstarter—these smaller coals nestled tightly together, greatly restricting airflow and delaying or even preventing the coals from igniting. But you can replace up to half of the fresh coals called for in a recipe with used coals. 

How to Store Used Charcoal

As soon as you’re finished grilling, cover the grill and close the vents. Once the coals are cool enough to handle, dump them into a small, metal lidded container such as a garbage can. 

How to Reuse Charcoal

Before you light a new fire, place your previously used, cooled briquettes into a charcoal chimney starter and shake and rap it over the trash to dislodge ash which would impede the coals from properly igniting. Temporarily remove the coals from the chimney starter. Then, to maximize airflow, place 1 part of fresh coals in the chimney first and top them with 1 part of the used coals.

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