When Is Charcoal Ready to Grill: Grilling Basics

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Ask any grilling expert, and they will tell you that learning when to light charcoal is key to making fantastic food. If you don’t want to cause an accident, it’s good to know the exact moment when to light charcoal.

There are several indicators to learn how, which is why we’ve decided to help walk you through the process. If it’s your first time using a grill, don’t stress. We will provide you with detailed instructions and teach you when it’s safe.

When Is Charcoal Ready to Grill?

Despite the similarity in cooking, a grill produces better-tasting food and gives it that traditional smokey flavor. Instead of using electric grills or smoker fans, charcoal can produce faster results in less time. However, learning to maintain and cook with charcoal can be tricky.

Cooking with charcoal incorrectly can lead to lethal situations that could potentially put you and your guests at risk. It’s better to avoid these risks by learning how to maintain a fire properly and knowing exactly when to light charcoal.

First, take a look at the coals once you open the bag and ensure that they are in proper cooking conditions. There should not be any rips, tears, or damages on the bag, and the coal should be perfectly dry. If not, we suggest skipping the coal and moving straight on to using other types of grills.

Secondly, learning when coal is ready is vital. At first impressions, many people make the mistake of thinking that the coal is prepared when the area above the coal is hot. While this may seem like it’s ready to go, it’s not.

The problem is you’re only feeling the radiant heat above the coals, not the fire within. Coals burn from the outside in, which can be confusing if you’ve never worked with coal before.

Why Is Coal Temperature Important?

One issue that can arise from using coal inefficiently is your cooking time will vary. Think about it like the way you want to cook a turkey in the oven. Cooking a turkey at the correct temperature is one step to ensuring you won’t be eating bad meat.

On top of that, you’ll want to ensure that you cook it to the right temperature, or else you could have some parts still be undercooked while the outside looks crispy.

The same method applies when cooking with a charcoal grill. If the coals are not heated to the right temperature before you place the meat on the grill, then you will get an uneven cook, and your food will either end up undercooked or overcooked. This leaves you with little satisfaction and a bunch of wasted meat.

Besides cooking, there are also higher risks of starting a massive fire and leading to damages. If you don’t want to risk setting your yard ablaze, then it’s worth checking the internal temperature using a radiant heat indicator. This helps ensure you have consistent levels of heat and prevents the fire from getting out of control.

When Is Charcoal Ready to Grill

What Else Affects Charcoal?

There are multiple reasons as to why the charcoal may not be ready. Learning the factors that go into creating a better environment can help produce better cooking times. If you want to learn, we will go over a handful of factors that affect charcoal readiness.

1. Charcoal Type

Believe it or not, there are multiple types of charcoal available on the market. It’s natural to assume that all charcoal is built similarly, but this assumption is not correct.

Selecting charcoal briquettes are ideal because of their ability to light and heat up quickly. This is mainly due to the fact that they have high petroleum and accelerant content.

Other forms of charcoal that work well for grilling are natural lump charcoal and premium binchotan and coconut shell coals. The reason for this being that they have a high response when exposed to oxygen, which causes the coal to light up quicker.

2. Oxygen Levels

One other problem to keep an eye out for is blocked vents. The coal needs a significant amount of airflow and oxygen in order to produce a high flame.

If the vents are blocked or poorly ventilated, then the coal won’t set fire. An easy fix is to make sure that the vents are cleaned out and free from dirt, grime, or any other particles blocking the way.

3. Other Factors

The last few factors are either outdoor temperature, wind, and altitude. If the outdoor temperature is freezing, then it will take your coals longer to heat up.

On the other hand, wind can blow and slow down the heating process. Lastly, altitude affects the coals ability to burn faster due to low oxygen levels.


When it comes to properly using coal, you need to take the necessary steps in order to get the best turnout. If you don’t want overcooked or undercooked food, then it’s best to check these factors to avoid any risks. Hopefully, we’ve helped you determine when is charcoal ready to grill.

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