how to keep coals hot

How To Keep Coals Hot

This is how to keep a charcoal grill hot. It covers several sections like timing of adding charcoal, types, and venting.

Overview of How To Keep Coals Hot in Charcoal Grill

This is how to keep coals hot in a charcoal grill. Many have asked for ways to do this while you’re already grilling or smoking. While the most basic thought is to add more charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, there are also other ways to take into consideration such as venting, relighting, using the grill lid, and so on. Keep reading to learn more. And, here’s a good related article for Maintaining a Charcoal Grill.

weber temp gauge at 410f
Weber temp gauge at 410F

There are several ways on how to keep coals hot in a charcoal grill. They are:

  • Adding more charcoal while grilling or smoking
  • Adjusting venting for proper air flow
  • Use of the grill lid
  • Type of charcoal used
  • Use of lighter fluid
  • Thermal properties of the grill

Keep reading as we now cover each of these.

How to Keep a Charcoal Grill Hot by Adding More Charcoal

The best way to keep a charcoal grill hot is by adding more charcoal while grilling or smoking. But, some grills don’t have an easy way to do this. However, most of the medium and higher end grills do. Also, this article covers several other ways to keep a charcoal grill hot so, keep reading and you’ll see about venting, types of charcoal, and other aspects for keeping charcoal lit.

You might have a charcoal front panel door that leads to the charcoal tray for adding it there. Others might have the top grilling grate with hinged ends that lift up for adding charcoal. And still others might have the entire grilling grate hinged in the middle for lifting either half up for adding charcoal. Some charcoal grills even have a gravity feeding system for this.

Regardless of how you are able to add it to your own grill, you’ll have to be aware of where you position your hot charcoal at the very start of grilling to allow for adding more later. This is covered in more details in our article “Add Charcoal to Grill“.

lifting center piece of grill to add charcoal
Lifting center piece of grill to add charcoal
adding lump charcoal to grill center opening
Adding lump charcoal to grill center opening

How Long Does Charcoal Stay Hot?

You’ll need to have an idea of how long does charcoal stay hot so you’ll know how often to add more charcoal or to check it. The two starting things to know is the overall cooking temperature for a particular grilling session and what type of charcoal you’re using. After that, you can control the rest of each grilling instance using the methods discussed further so, keep reading.

While all brands vary, here’s an idea of how long charcoal stays hot and lit. Charcoal briquettes will vary between 40-70 minutes and hardwood lump charcoal will stay hot roughly about 60-120 minutes depending on the lump sizes.

How To Keep Weber Grill Hot

This entire article is good for any grill but, it does use examples throughout of how to keep a Weber Grill hot. You’ll primarily want to learn how long charcoal will burn in your particular Weber grill. And, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with its venting capabilities. The top 3 aspects will be depending on type of charcoal used, how often to check to add more charcoal, and a good understanding of your weber grill’s venting.

Here are some other related topics:

How to Keep Coals Hot by Adjusting Venting in a Charcoal Grill

Learning how to keep coals hot by adjusting venting in a charcoal grill is an art and an acquired skill. Some charcoal grills will have one or more vents on the grill lid and one or more vents on the sides or under the grill body. However, there are charcoal grills that have only one vent on the lid or one vent on the body. And I have actually seen some real cheap charcoal grills for sale that have zero vents!

The idea of venting is that if you have only one vent, it’s your only way to control the overall temperature, beyond removing the lid or using it to cover.

If you have venting for both your grill lid and the body, then you have more options. In that scenario, the lid is good for adding extra air for higher temps when the grill is covered. The body’s vents are good for maintaining temperature control.

There is more discussion in our article section on “How To Use Weber Grill Vents” in the article “How To Use The Weber Performer Deluxe” grill.

using the weber body vent control
Using the weber body vent control

Using the Charcoal Grill Lid for Hot Charcoal Maintaining

You can be using the charcoal grill lid for hot charcoal maintaining but, mainly only if it has a vent. You can give higher temperatures the air it needs by leaving the charcoal grill lid vent wide open. You’ll need to replace the charcoal more often but it does provide a hotter temperature. If you’re wanting to maintain a medium temperature, you can adjust the grill lid vent to be half open or 3/4 open.

grill lid vent fully open
Grill lid vent fully open
grill lid vent partially open
Grill lid vent partially open

Types of Charcoal Used

There are many types of charcoal used but they boil down to 2 main types. They are:

  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Lump charcoal

Pellets, used in pellet grills, don’t fall under the category of charcoal; however, there are pellet combo grills that exist that permit the use of either pellets or charcoal.

Charcoal Briquettes

Here’s an example of a popular evolution of many who go through life cycles of outdoor grilling over many years. It’s not everybody, of course, but it’s a good example of what one might go through. If you’re somewhere in this cycle, you might relate.

Charcoal briquettes is what most people start out with using a cost-effective, simple charcoal grill. And many will also start out with lighting the charcoal via charcoal lighter fluid. It’s basic and simple. Over time, it’s learned that there’s a lot of ash as the by-product. But, maybe that’s just the way charcoal cooking is. So, some will switch over to gas grills to do away with the ash issue and enjoy the convenience of an instant start for immediate grilling.

Over time, the deep, smoky flavor of foods is missed and people sometimes return to charcoal. But, when returning to charcoal and lighter fluid again, there’s a lot of “fuel” taste in the food from the lighter fluid. So, many will quickly learn how to start charcoal without using lighter fluid., using the various methods. Even the self lighting charcoal briquettes and the easy igniting starter cubes have that gasoline taste in the food. Through persistence, doing away with the chemical forms of igniting charcoal is reached.

However, over time, using the electric heat element starter or the paper under the charcoal pitcher, there’s still that subtle chemical taste in grilled foods. Then, after trying different brands of charcoal, it’s eventually learned that this remaining fuel taste is coming from the additives in the production of charcoal briquettes.

This eventually leads most to want to change over to a natural wood lump charcoal but it’s much pricier by the bag. You read about the claims of getting more grilling sessions per bag but, is it really?

So, when you review the overall benefits, it’s not necessarily more expensive. Read on as we now address lump charcoal.

maintaining hot lump charcoal in bin
Maintaining hot lump charcoal in bin

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal can be the kind made from natural wood and isn’t processed with the additives that are used in briquettes. Think of it as furniture that’s built with wood, compared to particle board. Some quick advantages of natural wood lump charcoal are here:

  • It produces a lot less ash.
  • It lights easier and burns hotter.
  • It doesn’t have additives like briquettes.
lump charcoal example of differing sizes
Lump charcoal example of differing sizes

There are some disadvantages too. Here they are:

  • The charcoal lumps are irregular shapes because they aren’t manufactured shapes.
  • It’s dirtier and more black dust.
  • It’s more expensive per comparative weight to briquettes.
  • It’s difficult to find reputable brands of lump charcoal initially.

So, when you’re ready to use lump charcoal, I use a popular kind often found in big box stores. It’s a red bag of Royal Oak all natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal. And, it’s made in America since 1953, and is very affordable. I have noticed it’s consistent with a normal percentage of different sized pieces. In other words, it’s not a big bag of a bunch of tiny pieces, which is a common issue with some brands. I grill a whole lot and here are my stats after several comparative years:

  • Regular Charcoal Briquettes – 2 years – 24 bags, 20 pounds each bag
  • Royal Oak Hardwood Lump (natural hardwood) – 2 years – 5 bags, 30 pounds each bag

So, there you have it. I have a more thorough article on this topic of “Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal“. Leave me a comment on your experiences with charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal.

keeping hot coals royal oak 30 lb lump
Keeping hot coals using royal oak 30 lb lump

Use of Lighter Fluid During Grilling

The use of lighter fluid during grilling is quite popular. It provides the fastest way to light charcoal yet, with experience, you can light charcoal with other methods as well. For using lighter fluid, follow the instructions that come with your lighter fluid and your grill’s manufacturer. The following are the steps that I used before I stopped using it about 15 years ago:

  1. I prepared the charcoal in a mound, after removing the top grilling grate.
  2. Then, I squirt the charcoal pile with lighter fluid, following the directions on the bottle or what your grill manufacturer recommends. For about about 40-60 briquettes, I move the bottle around the pile while squirting over all briquettes that are exposed, for about 5 to 7 seconds.
  3. Then, I absolutely wait one to two minutes.
  4. After the waiting period, I then light it, and I continue to leave the grill’s lid off.
  5. After the flame dies down in a few minutes, I ensure all the vents are open and I cover the grill to let more of the coals to catch. That might be about 5 to 10 more minutes.
    • SAFETY TIP: I absolutely never squirt lighter fluid on or near hot coals!
  6. Then, the grill lid comes off, after at least about half of the coals appear hot and red.
  7. I then safely disperse the hot coals to the desired coverage, and place the top grilling grate back onto the grill. Let the grilling begin!

Insulated Grills That Hold Heat

The insulated grills that hold heat are usually going to be the more expensive, premium grills. The advantages are often that you can control the temperature better. You can also use less charcoal as it holds heat better. And, in addition to that, they can reach very high temperatures such as 750⁰F or more, which are excellent for pizzas, by the way.

You might not want to pay a high price for a kettle or Kamado grill if it doesn’t have those premium thermal properties. There are unfortunately, some off brand makers that successfully sell them to unsuspecting buyers. However, if you’re getting a kettle style of grill that doesn’t have the premium pricing then, that’s perfectly acceptable, since it’s a very popular style.

The Green Egg Grill line of Kamado Grills became very popularized and perpetuated a kettle-shaped trend. They are among the best charcoal grills that can maintain good heat and provide a good method of adding more lump charcoal.

For the premium Kamado Grills or others, there are minimally desired levels of insulation properties that might include any good thermal material such as ceramic. Then the other property to consider is the thickness of that thermal material.

How to Keep Charcoal Hot for Hours

Anyone can learn how to keep charcoal hot for hours. While it varies on what temperature you’re wanting to maintain for each grilling or smoking scenario, you primarily just have to get acquainted with how often to check for adding more charcoal. Start with checking every 30 minutes and, over time, you’ll know if it can be extended to 45 or 60 minutes before refilling. And, if you’re smoking at a lower temperature you can go longer.

You don’t let it get too low of burning charcoal and you allow it a little time to start burning the newly added charcoal. Thoroughly understand the methods discussed in this article should be helpful but you’ll really need to have some familiarity with your grill and its venting to get a good handle on it for long term grilling or smoking. One of the easiest grilling methods for adding charcoal is when the top grill grate is removed when using a rotisserie. Nothing’s in the way and you can dump charcoal in quite easily every now and then during the roasting period.

Popular Charcoal Grilling Articles

Here are some popular, related charcoal grilling articles and recipes:

Conclusion of Keeping a Charcoal Grill Hot

Now you’ve seen a good set of methods that are used on keeping a charcoal grill hot for grilling or smoking. You’ve also seen the idea that lump charcoal requires less frequent refilling during longer grilling sessions.

It’s time to start keeping mental (or written) notes of what it takes to maintain certain temps on your grill. It’s also great to know about how often you’ll need to check to refill your charcoal during longer sessions like for ribs on the grill, pulled pork on the grill, or rotisserie chicken on the grill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *