how long does charcoal last?

All ready for a BBQ session, but don’t know how much charcoal you will need? Some of the common questions that I get asked are how long does charcoal last? and how can I make the charcoal last longer?

Good quality charcoal lasts about 2-3 hours if you are grilling, smoking, or searing a stake. If you use briquettes, it will last around 5-6 hours. If your charcoal gets more oxygen, it’s gonna burn out quickly. That is why charcoal lasts longer in a smoker which gives it a low-oxygen environment.

The life of charcoal also depends upon the type of coal you use, there are a couple of common ones like:

  • Charwood: Also called Lump charcoal is a common choice for grilling. It’s pure wood without any accelerants, and it gives a smoky flavor to food.
  • Charcoal Briquettes: Very affordable and are great for slow roasting. It is ideal for slow roasting.
  • Coconut shells: These are made from dried coconut shells and are ideal for smoking, and slow cooking. It can last almost twice as long as charwood.
  • Binchotan coals: Expensive as compared to other types, but they are natural and dense, thus lasting for long. However, you won’t be getting any smoky flavor in your food.

How Long Does Charcoal Stay in Storage

Generally charcoal remains in good condition for about 6 months in storage. However, the storage conditions must be optimal because charcoal’s shelf life will be dependent on your usage pattern and storage.

If you are using charcoal to cook every couple of weeks, then it will last you over a year without any problems. However, if you use charcoal in cooking very seldom then it might dry out quickly.

To make charcoal last longer, always store it inside resealable containers like an airtight bag or a ziplock. It will help preserve the quality of coal. Also, make sure that it’s stored away from sunlight in a dry place.

If your charcoal smells like vinegar then it’s spoiled, and cannot be used. Make sure to dispose of it and get a new batch.

how long does charcoal last in storage

How Long Does Charcoal Last in Smoker

In a smoker, charcoal can burn for 15-18 hours, but if left unattended, it might burn out within 2 hours. So, how can you make charcoal last longer in a smoker?

When you are burning coal in a smoker, close the grill, and open the side and top vents to provide oxygen to the fire. Gradually close and open the vents every hour or so to reduce the air to coal, and make it burn for longer.

Proper airflow is very important if you want the heat to keep going for longer periods. For better efficiency of the coal, make sure all the vents are open and are not covered with ash. Some grills also have dedicated air control knobs that allow you to control the oxygen supply to the coal.

If you are making smoked turkey, or smoked poblano peppers, you can gradually add fresh coal to make sure it keeps burning for a long time, instead of loading it all at once. Keep track of the intervals to get a consistent temperature for your grill.

Make sure to light the charcoal in the smoker with some sort of lighter fluid instead of matches. Not only will your coal burn faster, but it will make the cleaning process much easier later on.

How Long Does Charcoal Stay Hot In the Grill

It really depends on different factors like the amount of coal you have used, the temperature of the coal, and the type of food being grilled. Typically, charcoal stays hot after grilling for about 30-40 minutes.

If your charcoal has a grey smoky coating on top, then it means they are cold and if you want to go for another round of grilling, you will need to add more charcoal.

How to Keep Charcoal Last Longer

Over time charcoal gets stale if not stored properly. Luckily, there are quite a lot of ways to store the charcoal to make sure it lasts longer and remains fresh.

1. Store charcoal in a cool and dry place

It is very important to store charcoal in a dry place with less humidity because humidity causes the production of mildew which gives a bad scent.

If you live in a hot, humid area, you can store it in an airtight bag as it will reduce the risks of mildew. Make sure it’s stored in a dry place.

2. Keep charcoal away from Water/ wet environment

Although charcoal is quite resistant to moisture, lengthy exposure can cause it to dissolve. It means you should not keep your coal in a wet area to make sure it retains its freshness.

4. Replace your charcoal often

Make sure to replace the charcoal often to make sure it stays fresh. It doesn’t have to be every week, but 2-3 months is a good time. It will make sure your coal won’t expire while in storage.


As you can see there are a lot of things that affect the life of your charcoal. However, if you are storing it properly, you can make it last longer. So, make sure to store your charcoal in an airtight container in a dark place, away from light, and it’ll be good for several months.

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