Charcoal Won't Stay Lit

Charcoal Won’t Stay Lit? Here’s What You Can Do

As someone who loves grilling and smoking meats, I know how frustrating it can be when your charcoal won’t stay lit. There’s nothing worse than trying to cook up a delicious meal only to be thwarted by a lack of flame. But fear not, there are several reasons why your charcoal may not be staying lit and, more importantly, several solutions to the problem.

I will also discuss several easy tips and tricks that can be used as preventive measures to ensure your charcoal stays lit and your meals come out perfectly cooked every time.

Why Charcoal Won’t Stay Lit? Common Causes

Why Charcoal Won’t Stay Lit? Common Causes

As a grill enthusiast, I know how frustrating it can be when your charcoal won’t stay lit. Here are some common causes and solutions:

Check out this article for all the juicy details about: How To Use A Charcoal Grill Like A Pro?

Poor Quality Charcoal

Not all charcoal is created equal. Poor quality charcoal may contain too much dust or not enough binding agents, causing it to break apart and not stay lit. To avoid this issue, always buy good quality charcoal from reputable brands.

Key Takeaway: Not only invest in good quality charcoal to ensure it stays lit but have an understanding of different types of charcoal before you make a choice.

Insufficient Airflow

Charcoal needs oxygen to stay lit. If there isn’t enough airflow, the charcoal will suffocate and go out. Make sure to arrange the charcoal in a way that allows for proper airflow. You can also use a fan or blow on the charcoal to increase airflow.

Pro Tip: Proper airflow is crucial for keeping charcoal lit.

Moisture in Charcoal

Charcoal absorbs moisture easily, making it difficult to light and keep lit. Make sure to store your charcoal in a dry place and avoid exposing it to rain or other sources of moisture. If your charcoal is already damp, try drying it out in the sun or using a chimney starter.

Improper Lighting Technique

Lighting charcoal properly is essential for keeping it lit. Avoid using lighter fluid or gasoline, as they can cause flare-ups and make it difficult to control the fire. Instead, use a chimney starter or electric starter to light the charcoal evenly.


Use High-Quality Charcoal

When it comes to charcoal, quality matters. Cheap charcoal may seem like a good deal, but it often contains fillers that can impede airflow and prevent it from staying lit. Invest in high-quality charcoal made from natural materials to ensure the best possible burn.

One of my favorite brands is Royal Oak, which is made from real hardwood and burns evenly and consistently. Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to charcoal!

Ensure Proper Airflow

Airflow is crucial to keeping charcoal lit. Without enough oxygen, the fire will quickly die out. Make sure your grill or smoker has enough ventilation to allow for proper airflow.

If you’re using a charcoal chimney, make sure the holes in the bottom are clear and unobstructed. When stacking charcoal, leave plenty of space between the briquettes to allow for airflow.

Bonus Tip: Proper airflow is crucial to keeping charcoal lit. Make sure your grill or smoker has enough ventilation and leave space between the briquettes when stacking charcoal.

Store Charcoal in a Dry Place

Moisture is the enemy of charcoal. Wet charcoal won’t light no matter how much you try. Make sure to store your unused briquettes in a cool, dry place to avoid moisture getting to them.

If you accidentally get your charcoal wet, you can dry it out by spreading it out in a single layer and allowing it to sit in the sun for a few hours. Just make sure it’s completely dry before using it.

Pro Tip: Store your unused charcoal in a cool, dry place to avoid moisture getting to it. If your charcoal gets wet, dry it out before using it.

Use Proper Lighting Technique

The way you light your charcoal can make a big difference in whether or not it stays lit. Avoid using lighter fluid, which can leave a chemical taste on your food and can also cause flare-ups.

Instead, use a chimney starter or an electric starter to light your charcoal. Once the charcoal is lit, wait until it’s covered in a thin layer of ash before spreading it out and adding your food.

Key Takeaway: Use a chimney starter or electric starter to light your charcoal and wait until it’s covered in a thin layer of ash before adding your food.

Choose the Perfect Grill to take your grilling game to the next level: Classic CharcoalConvenient Gas, or Flavor-Infusing Smoker. We’ve got you covered! Check out all the details here: Which Grill Is Perfect for You?

Tips and Tricks

As a grill master, I know how frustrating it can be when your charcoal won’t stay lit. There are some preventative measures you can take to ensure that your charcoal stays lit, and your grilling experience is enjoyable.

Preheat Charcoal

One common mistake people make is not preheating their charcoal. It’s important to let your charcoal heat up for at least 15-20 minutes before you start cooking. This will ensure that your charcoal is evenly heated and ready to cook your food.

Use a Charcoal Chimney

A charcoal chimney is a great tool to help you get your charcoal started. Simply fill the chimney with charcoal, place a few pieces of crumpled newspaper in the bottom, and light the newspaper. The chimney will heat up the charcoal quickly and evenly, making it easier to get your charcoal lit.

Add Charcoal While Cooking

If your charcoal starts to die down while you’re cooking, don’t panic. Simply add a few more pieces of charcoal to the fire. Just be sure to let the new charcoal heat up for a few minutes before you start cooking again.

Use a Lid to Control Airflow

A lid is an essential tool for controlling the airflow in your grill. If your charcoal is burning too hot, simply close the lid to reduce the airflow. If your charcoal is burning too cool, open the lid to increase the airflow. It’s a simple trick, but it can make a big difference in the temperature of your grill.

Remember, the key to getting your charcoal to stay lit is to make sure it’s evenly heated and has enough oxygen to keep burning. By using these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to get the perfect flame every time.


Charcoal Grilling is an art that requires patience and skill. But sometimes, even the most experienced grill masters can run into problems with their charcoal not staying lit. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you troubleshoot this common issue:

Final Thoughts

After trying out different methods and troubleshooting steps, I have learned that there are several reasons why charcoal won’t stay lit.

One of the most common reasons is that the charcoal is wet, and it needs to be completely dry before lighting. Another reason could be that there isn’t enough air circulation, which can be solved by adjusting the vents on the grill or smoker.

I have also found that the way the charcoal is arranged can make a big difference. Stacking the charcoal and lighting the bottom layer can help the fire move upwards and keep it going. It’s important to remember that it takes about 15 minutes for the charcoal to start burning before you can start cooking.

If you’re using different types of charcoal, it’s possible that they’re not compatible and won’t light properly. Make sure to use the same type of charcoal for best results. Lastly, keeping your grill or smoker clean and properly ventilated is key to ensuring that the charcoal stays lit. Regularly clean out the ash and debris, and make sure the vents are open and not blocked.

Overall, with a little bit of patience and troubleshooting, you can enjoy perfectly cooked food on your charcoal grill or smoker.

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