How do you keep a charcoal grill going for hours?

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Achieving perfect cooking temperatures for the grill grates is a technique that cannot be mastered overnight. If you wish to keep a charcoal grill hot for long, you need to keep the fire burning. This will help you learn how to grill at optimum temperatures and keep the fire going for sustained periods of time.

Guide to maintaining the perfect charcoal grill temperature

Ready to drive into prolonged charcoal grilling? Firstly, begin at medium heat and continue cooking at an ambient temperature.  Then, you can keep your charcoal grill burning by following this step-by-step guide.

Stoking the charcoal grate

Charcoal grills need to be hot before you begin cooking on the grate. We recommend you use a stick for this purpose. If a charcoal chimney provides indirect heat, you can shift the coals on the other side.

charcoal grill grate

Simply let the coals burn and set up the cooking surface alongside. Ventilation is important as oxygen will help your grill reach a high temperature. Using quality charcoal also helps as then the flame will stay lit without producing a lot of ash or embers. Using newspapers might help as well. 

Adding lighter fluid

Lighter fluid ensures that even low quality charcoal bits get used up while grilling vegetables or pork chops. Cheap charcoal needs high heat to burn. Focus on adding coals after the flame is ready. Do not fill in the grates else the wire rack and drip pan might get too hot. 

Tip :The smell of the coals changes when they smother. The charcoal grill will last long only if the briquettes burn in high heat. A fully open lid helps the grill to heat up evenly. Do not store soaked coals for long, as they might get ashed too soon and it would be impossible to check when they preheat. 

Cooking grate temperatures: High, low & medium

Use a thermometer to measure the accurate temperature. Some grill grates come with a built-in thermometer on the lid, making it easier to adjust the intensity of heat.  With time, you can master the process of cooking at a high temperature. Adjusting cooking time is a common practice. 

While you monitor the temperature using the thermometer, ensure that the dampers are open. If you still wonder which food items need high heat, low heat, or medium heat, your job will be easy now.

Hot dogs, meat and steaks need high heat. On the other hand, fish, burgers, chicken ribs and sausages need medium heat. You can easily cook onions, eggplant, and other veggies at low heat. 

Cleaning the grill grates

cleaning a grill

Keeping your grill clean is the best way to have a great grilling experience. Pellet grills take a lot of time to clean. Whichever type of smoking technique you apply, remember to install the drip pans. It might be tricky to clean the difficult areas (located near the bottom).

Cleaning time will automatically be reduced as the tray collects all the ashes. Do not leave your tongs around, and make sure the center is not covered.  If food bits are sticking to the wire rack, you can use steam to clean them. The vent is also exposed to a lot of dirt. Remove the residues after cooking by wiping it with a newspaper. 

Which lump charcoal to use & how much?

Wood charcoal is the best for charcoal grilling. It lowers the risk of any fire hazard as food can be cooked easily at low heat. Low heat does not lead to excessive ash production as wood has natural grilling properties as well. Wood charcoal is inexpensive and burns completely. 

While you are stacking, more charcoal will be consumed. Depending on the placement of vents and availability of more oxygen, the ideal amount is 20 pounds. A chimney consumes a small amount of lump charcoal while smoking. 


Should I keep my charcoal grill lid open?

Yes, only if you wish to maintain medium heat. Create a layer of oxygen if possible. You can adjust the vents to supply more oxygen. The lid helps in controlling flames and reducing smoke. If you keep opening the lid, the food might lose flavor even before setting up the new batch for barbecue.

How to light charcoal faster?

Search for an area where the airflow is low. Once you are done setting up the charcoal grate, shift the pile of coals on one side and open the vents. 

If you wish to preheat frozen food, use dampers as well. You can even soak the coals in lighter fluid long before lighting them. Ignite using your lighter and continue with the chimney starter. We recommend setting up a charcoal chimney so that it stays lit for long. 

How do you know when charcoal briquettes are ready?

You should not let the charcoal burn for long during outdoor cooking. As soon as the coals give out white ash, the grill is ready. The fluid or fuel traces should no longer be visible on the briquettes. 

Make sure the ashes are spread evenly as the coal stays hot. Now, you can easily shift the charcoal from the stack and arrange them as per your cooking needs. Do not remove the ash immediately. A pyramid can also be created out of the coal blocks. Keep replacing old charcoal with fresh lumps.


It is highly recommended to track the grill’s temperature to cool down or heat up for different foods. It is easy to make the grill last a lot longer if there is no wind; don’t forget to adjust the vents properly to maintain proper airflow. 

Make sure your charcoal grill is of a high-quality brand and avoid old worn out charcoal. All you need is the right amount of lump charcoal (briquette style charcoal is preferred), good quality lighter fluid, a chimney starter, and some wood chips. 

Take necessary precautions so that you don’t injure yourself while adding lighter fluid. Some additional tips to ensure your grills stay lit –

  • Control production of smoke
  • Collect ash properly
  • Let your briquettes burn while preheating
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