3 Ways to Put Out a Charcoal Grill Safely

Doug Stephen – A hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research, he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.

Putting out a charcoal grill after a happy and fulfilling barbecue exercise might seem like a straightforward task. Right? After all, you don’t need to do anything but let the charcoal burn down to ashes on its own. You may also think about pouring water on the coal to cool it down and extinguish the grill.

However, things don’t work that way in the barbecue world. Extinguishing a charcoal grill is easier said than done and it can be messy and dangerous. In fact, charcoal grilling accounts for over 1,500 home fires every year with a vast majority resulting from not putting out the charcoal grill properly.

While charcoal grilling can be fun and exciting, the looming risks and dangers involved when putting out the grill are far too many. For this reason, we explore 3 different methods you can use to put out a charcoal grill safely after use.

1. Step By Step Guide On How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill

charcoal disposal

Photo Credit: Kingsford

Equipment required:

Method 1 – The Traditional Way

If you are not in a rush and you have time on your side, then consider putting out your charcoal grill the traditional, old-fashioned way. You only need to close your grill for 48 hours to allow it to extinguish on its own. Here are the steps:

  1. Wear heat-resistant BBQ gloves before handling the grill
  2. Close the lid and the top and bottom vents to cut off the oxygen supply
  3. Wait 48 hours for the grill to cool and the charcoal to go out completely
  4. Remove the spent charcoal and scoop out the remaining ashes from the grill
  5. Wrap the cool ash and charcoal in a sheet of aluminum foil
  6. Using a metal spatula, clean out any remaining debris from the grill
  7. Clean your grill using a metal brush or grill brush to prevent clogging
  8. To salvage reusable charcoal, pick the largest pieces of coal using tongs and return them to the grill for your next BBQ

Method 2 – Using Water

Always avoid pouring water onto your grill as a means of cooling it down. The water will make the hot grill contract and develop cracks. Spraying water over burning coals will also form hot steam that can cause serious and nasty burns.

This method is completely different though. Instead of pouring water over charcoal, you will douse the hot coals in a full bucket of water. Here are the steps:

  1. Wear heat-resistant BBQ gloves before handling the grill
  2. Close the lid and the top and bottom vents to cut off the oxygen supply
  3. Wait for about an hour for the charcoal and the grill to cool before opening the lid
  4. Prepare a large bucket of water
  5. Using a pair of metal tongs, pick one piece of charcoal at a time and submerge it in the bucket of water
  6. Remove the submerged coals from the water and place them on a large sheet of aluminum foil on a non-flammable surface
  7. Place the wet coals out in the sun and allow them to dry for up to 2 days
  8. Using a metal spatula, scrape the ashes from the grill into an aluminum foil and dispose them in a metal container
  9. Clean your grill, focusing on the cooking chamber, grates, and vents
  10. After the two days, collect the dry charcoal lumps and store them in a fireproof container for reuse

Method 3 – Putting Out An Open Fire Pit

The third and final method is specifically for putting out an open charcoal fire pit rather than a standalone grill. The method is fast and simple as it only involves carefully pouring water over the coals. Make sure you are a few steps away from the pit to avoid nasty burns from the hot steam. Here are the steps:

  1. Wear heat-resistant gloves and clothing
  2. Fill a large bucket with cold water
  3. Move a few feet away from the fire pit
  4. Pour or spray water directly onto the coals until they cool down
  5. Pick the wet metal coals using a pair of tongs and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil
  6. Allow the wet coals to dry
  7. Pick the cool coals and transfer them to a metal container for reuse

2. Why Do I Need To Put Out My Charcoal Grill?

The last thing that comes to mind after a grilling session is putting out the grill. You are probably hungry and you want to indulge in your BBQ delicacies first as you enjoy with your guests before thinking about other tasks. 

how to put out a charcoal grill
Barbeque Fire Sparks

However, leaving your charcoal grill burning and unattended is a fire hazard. The remaining lumps of charcoal are still lit and they pose several dangers, from burns to fires. For these reasons, it is always a wise idea to put out the charcoal grill immediately after cooking.

Putting out the grill early is also good for the environment especially if you are out on a camping. As you know, charcoal tends to emit carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases when burning. By extinguishing your grill early, you are also cutting down on the needless release of these potentially dangerous gases.

Another reason why you should put out a charcoal grill immediately is to save on resources. The remaining charcoal in the grill is probably reusable and you can salvage it by extinguishing your grill as soon as possible.

3. How To Handle Emergencies

Sometimes the fire from the grill may get out of hand and pose serious dangers. Fortunately, you can arrest flare-ups easily by closing the lid and all vents to cut off the oxygen supply. If the situation is beyond control, reach out for your fire extinguisher to put out the fire before it spreads.

Doug Stephen

Doug Stephen


Whether you are a newbie or an experienced griller, you should make it a habit to put out a charcoal grill immediately after cooking. Leaving your grill burning is a safety hazard to your kids, pets, and your property.