How to put out a charcoal grill – advice from the experts

I spoke to a grill master to learn how to put out a charcoal grill

White-hot charcoal briquettes
(Image credit: Getty Images / Kesu01)

There's no better way to grill than over charcoal. The hot coals make for delicious, smoky food that other grills can't match. 

However, a long day grilling always means that you're left with white-hot charcoal briquettes. It always feels pretty dangerous to let them cool off. 

I've tested dozens of the best grills in my career so I know exactly the best way to put out a charcoal grill after putting one to the test. I also spoke to an expert grill master for his advice. 

How do you put out a charcoal grill?

Grilling meat and kebabs on a charcoal

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jan-Otto)

Charcoal grills are easy to put out. The only thing you need to do is close the lid, close the dampers, and wait for the fire to extinguish. Grill master Brandon Roy told me that 'The best and safest way to extinguish your coals is to close all of the dampers on your grill and cut off the supply of oxygen.' Fire needs oxygen to burn, so if you limit the air supply, the charcoal will slowly extinguish.

It's the most efficient and safest way to put out a grill, and it's also the most economical. Brandon Roy told me that 'If you close the dampers immediately after you're done cooking, you’ll probably be left with some unused charcoal for next time' It's a simple cost-effective way to tidy up after grilling.

A headshot of grill expert Brandon Roy
Brandon Roy

Brandon Roy is a YouTube personality and self-taught backyard BBQer. He offers tutorials, tips, and more to help anyone become a grill master.

Can I put out the coals with water?

Grilling beef burgers on a charcoal grill

(Image credit: Getty Images / BreakingTheWalls)

Hypothetically, the fastest way to put out a grill might also feel like the most obvious: dump a load of water on the coals. However, avoid doing this. The coals will evaporate the water into hot steam which could easily scald you if you stand too near. Introducing water to a grill also makes it more likely that your grill will rust or crack. 

What's more, even if you avoid scalding yourself and your grill is unaffected by the water, the end result is very messy. Grill master Brandon Roy told me that pouring water over your coals 'makes more of a mess than anything', and the resulting ashy sludge is difficult to clean. 

Can I leave embers to cool overnight?

It's perfectly safe to leave embers to cool overnight. As long as your grill is safe to use with no rust holes or scratches, you can let embers cool down overnight. You will likely have to do this if you own a Kamado grill because these are very heat-efficient and can maintain a fire for hours. 

What should I do with the ashes afterwards?

A close up of charcoal from a grill

(Image credit: Getty Images / Pawel Kacparek)

Grill ash is one of our favorite unusual compost ingredients. Compost needs nitrogen-rich green material and carbon-rich brown material to work, and there are few things as carbon-heavy as used charcoal. It's a fantastic source of nutrients for your plants and lawn. We recommend sieving the ash to ensure you catch hidden chunks of food, as these can attract pests. 

If you aren't a big gardener, you can scoop the ashes up into some aluminum foil and throw it away with the rest of your garbage. Again, make sure the ashes are fully cooled before you throw them away because they could still cause a fire. 

Charcoal ash FAQs

Is charcoal ash good for my lawn?

Charcoal ash can be good for your lawn, but only if you use it sparingly. Some people use it to supress weeds, but if you use to much, you'll raise the pH of your grass and you could potentially harm the plants. 

For more advice about grilling and charcoal, take a look at my coverage of how long grill charcoal lasts, and how much to spend on a charcoal grill

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.