How To Shut Down A Charcoal Grill

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You have finished grilling your favorite foods on your charcoal grill, and it’s now time to shut the grill down for the day. Learning How To Shut Down a Charcoal Grill is as easy as closing your vents and closing off access to any oxygen. No need for any additional steps.

Big Green Egg set up for two zone grilling.

Grilling with charcoal can add a great flavor and crust to any recipe that you are making. But there is a process to follow to not only safely shut down your grill, but also potentially re-use any charcoal that was not yet burned completely. This guide walks you through how to properly shut down your charcoal grill.

Step 1: Clean the Grates

After you are done cooking anything on your grill it’s important to clean the grates of any residue. This can include creosote, grease, and bits of your food. By cleaning your grate of any residue you make it that much easier to start it up the next time and get right to grilling without the food sticking.

2 Thin steaks on a grill over direct heat.

It also minimizes mold growth and rust that can develop from food and grease that collects on the grates.

Step 2: Close The Vents

Whether you are using your Weber Kettle, Big Green Egg, or other charcoal grills, the main element that keeps a charcoal fire going is airflow. In order to shut down a charcoal grill properly you have to eliminate the airflow that is coming into the charcoal through the vents.

Bottom vent for the big green egg that allows air to come into the grill.

This means you want to seal off any vents on your grill, which are most commonly your bottom vent which allows air to come in, and your top vent which allows your air flow to exit the grill. Be sure both are completely sealed.

The top vent of a Large Big Green Egg open.

Step 3: Check your Grill Lid

Some grills have lids that don’t sit as well on the base. This is especially evident in older or cheaply built kettle grills. To really choke off the airflow, your lid needs to be sitting tightly on your grill with no outside air coming in.

Step 4: Time

With all the airflow starved, the charcoal will start to extinguish as it consumes the air inside the grill. This doesn’t happen right away and takes some time.

Do not remove any ash until you have allowed the grill to completely cool overnight with the vents closed. Trying to remove the ash while it’s still warm will re-ignite the charcoal.

Step 5: Reuse The Charcoal

With a proper shutdown and the ash removed, you can (and should) re-use the unlit charcoal. It’s best to mix more charcoal in and then follow your normal process for lighting your grill before your next cook.

Old unlit charcoal in the base of a Weber Kettle before being relit.
If there are usable coals after everything has cooled, you can (and should) reuse these larger pieces.

Can I Use Water To Shut Down A Charcoal Grill?

Some recommendations to shut down a grill include water. Water may be fine for an open campfire setup, but it is NOT recommended to use water in a grill of any type.

  • Using water over time to shut down a grill can cause steam and moisture which can enhance rust on steel grills.
  • Kamado Grills like Big Green Eggs can get that moisture into the ceramic. You should not use water to shut down any Kamado-style grill as they are the most efficient grill for shutting down. Closing the vents is sufficient.
  • Water will prevent you from being able to use the charcoal again.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take For Coals To Cool Down Using The Vent Method?

It will take 2 to 4 hours for a grill to completely shut down depending on the type of grill you own. Kamado-style grills will shut down faster than kettle grills.

Can I Leave My Grill Unattended While It Cools Down?

For the initial cool-down period, it’s recommended that you stay near the grill to make sure the grill is cooling down. Once you identify the grill is cooling down you can check occasionally. It’s not recommended to completely abandon any grill that is still warm.

Can I Use A Fire Extinguisher To Put Out Charcoal?

There is no reason to use a fire extinguisher to properly shut down a charcoal grill. The only time we recommend a fire extinguisher is if you have a grease fire that you cannot safely extinguish by closing it down, or a situation that risks potential damage to property or the safety of people.

When Is It Safe To Add The Grill Cover Back On?

You can add the cover to any grill when the outside temperature of the grill is less than 100 degrees F, or cool to the touch. This prevents the cover from melting.

Grill On

Now you have the proper steps for safely extinguishing your charcoal fire while having the ability to re-use charcoal.

  1. Clean Your Grates
  2. Close The Vents
  3. Check Lid
  4. Wait and Cover
  5. Start-Up Again and Reuse any Remaining Charcoal

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About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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