How to Keep a Charcoal BBQ Lit

Starting a fire in your charcoal barbecue grill isn’t all that tricky. What can be challenging however, is keeping the fire is lit consistently so that it cooks your food fully and evenly. If you leave your charcoal grill burning by itself or don’t use it properly, your grill will go out, but with some maintenance and skill, you can keep your barbecue fire going as long as you need it.

Purchasing Your Charcoal

The simplest way to help your charcoal last longer is to buy quality charcoal. If the flame going out on your charcoal grill is a consistent issue for you and you are using low quality charcoal, no amount of maintenance is going to fully fix your issue. Generic brand charcoals are harder to start and burn out quickly. By spending a few extra dollars on quality charcoal, you’ll be saving yourself from a difficult and uphill battle trying to keep your grill flame alive.

Starting the Fire

When you need to start the fire on your charcoal barbecue grill, pile the charcoal into the shape of a pyramid and then generously cover the briquettes with lighter fluid. Make sure that your charcoal briquettes are put together as tightly as possible. While lighter fluid will help your fire start and remain lit, you can help it along by adding some kindling as well.

Light the fire soon after applying the lighter fluid, as the fluid will lose its effect the longer you wait to start the fire. Lighting the fire sooner will not only help your briquettes to light, but also help keep your fire burning for a longer period of time.

Keep in mind, once your fire has been going for a while, you should avoid adding additional lighter fluid, as it could make the already burned parts of the charcoal wet and cause the fire to go out.

WARNING: Be careful when dealing with any open flame or accelerant such as lighter fluid. If you need to adjust the positioning of any kindling or move charcoal bricks around the grill once the fire is lit, use tongs or a poker tool, and keep your body at a safe distance.

Keeping the Charcoal Burning

When the charcoal begins to have gray edges, move the charcoal around using a poker device. When the air hits the charcoals at this point, they will heat up quickly, allowing you to cook your meal. Continue to move things around every few minutes to keep the charcoals burning faster.

This is the critical step that you’ve likely been neglecting when your other grill fires have faltered. Maintaining that intermittent air flow on the coals is what continually causes them to heat up. If you leave your grill and allow your charcoal to settle, even with the fire going, they will cool down and the fire will die.

Allow the air to hit the coals while you are cooking as well.

Windy Situations

If you are barbecuing and conditions like a windstorm or even a gentle breeze threaten to put out your barbecue flames, you can remedy the situation by covering your grill slightly with a lid. Make sure you leave a gap between the lid and inner grills of at least 3-5 inches high. The gap makes sure that air can still reach your fire and keep it burning, but the enclosure will shield the grill fire so that the wind will not be able to blow the fire out or make a mess of your ashes.

The Charcoal is the Key

You do not necessarily need roaring flames to cook a good meal, just heat, which comes from good charcoal. Though you may have flames for a few minutes, you will know when you can cook when the charcoal begins to have the gray around the edges and you spread the charcoal briquettes out.

Barbecuing can be enjoyable if you can keep your coals burning long enough to cook your delicious meal. Though it is not an exact science, with a little practice, you can become proficient at keeping the coals burning.