I don’t mind spending money but I don’t like to waste money. Letting my charcoal just burn out slowly after grilling made me think I was wasting money. And I found out I was until I figured out how to reuse charcoal in my grill and smoker.
Why Do You Have Charcoal Left After Grilling?
The problem with a charcoal grill is that to maintain the temperature during you cook you need a lot of charcoal and most of the time you have a hot bed of coals left after you are done with your grilling.
My first tip is to read my extended article on how to put out a charcoal grill after grilling so you have as much charcoal left as possible to reuse.
Now you have cooled off charcoal but it is still covered in a thin layer of ashes that have to be shacked off first. I just do this by shaking my Weber charcoal baskets I most of the time use in my grill.
In my post about how to make a 55 gallon drum smoker I wrote that I use the Hunsaker vortex charcoal basket and I take it out of my UDS and shake off the ashes in the back of my yard.
My Experience With Reusing Charcoal
I have experimented with several ways to reuse charcoal to save some money and here are my findings.
Reusing Charcoal For Grilling.
I have had no success with reusing charcoal briquettes in my grill. The reason is, in my opinion, that the leftover charcoal is not 100% charcoal anymore because it is pretty hot the first time used.
So it can not burn so hot that it reaches the right temperature of around 350 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit needed for grilling.
I had better results with lump charcoal and I guess the reason is that this is a more natural product and not made from pressed wood as you can read in my article on how charcoal briquettes are made.
Even when I added it to fresh charcoal briquettes after my grill was hot the temperature dropped very fast once the “Old” charcoal was burning.
However, yes you can put new charcoal on top of old and get the fire going again.
I noticed that used charcoal briquettes absorb moisture faster than new charcoal. For that reason, you must know how to store charcoal the right way.
Reusing Charcoal For Smoking
I have had better success with reusing charcoal briquettes in my smoker. The reason is, in my opinion, that by using it for low and slow the charcoal that is left will still give off enough heat for my 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit smoking.
I also noticed that I still have to mix it with “fresh” charcoal or else I would get some wild temperature swings in my smoker.
The charcoal will of course stop burning faster in a smoker after turning the vents off because the heat is a lot lower than in a grill.
In a smoker, the charcoal is more smoldering and not soo much burning.
Can You Reuse Charcoal For Grilling Or Smoking – My Experience
I would not suggest reusing charcoal briquettes for use again in a charcoal grill for grilling but when used in moderation you can use it for low and slow in a smoker.
Lump charcoal is a better option to be reused in a grill.
The most effective way to use and reuse lump charcoal is when you are using a Kamado Type Grill.
That does not mean that charcoal is a total waste after grilling. There are enough other things you can do with charcoal after grilling that can benefit you in a different way.
How Many Times Can You Reuse Charcoal?
I also tried to answer the question of how many times can you reuse charcoal and my experience is that even in a smoker it is best to reuse it only one time.
After this one time, you really have to dump it and not use it again.
After trying to use it again I had too many temperature fluctuations that I could only contribute to the old charcoal.
Have you got any tips or ideas to add to this article? Feel free to leave it in the comments.
Eddie van Aken
Eddie van Aken has years of experience in running his full-service restaurant and with this came working with using and dealing with all types of kitchen equipment. With his experience, he can find all the pros and cons of grills and add them to the grill reviews and the outdoor cooking tips he is writing about. You can read more on the About page for Eddie van Aken