Can You Add More Charcoal While Cooking Or Should You Wait?

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Meat Cooking on Hot Grill

Is it safe to add more charcoal to the grill while you’re in the process of grilling your food? If not, how do you keep the fire burning hot enough without adding more? And if so, what’s the best way to add the extra coal without ruining the food? 

If you’ve ever wondered about these things, you’re not alone. I used to wonder about it, too. That’s why I decided to do a little bit more research on the subject—and share my findings with you. 

Can You Add More Charcoal While Cooking?

Yes, you can add more charcoal to the fire while you’re cooking. Add only a single layer of extra coals at a time, and repeat every 30 minutes as needed. To reduce the risk of burns, use a set of tongs or a chimney starter to transfer the coals to the grill. 

Why To Add More Charcoal 

If you want to add more charcoal to your grill, it’s probably because the fire isn’t staying hot enough. That’s not just inconvenient—it can be dangerous. Consuming undercooked meat can result in illness, so you need those coals to keep burning steadily. 

You also might want to add an extra dose of smoke flavor to the ingredients. If the fire isn’t providing enough smoke as it is, adding more charcoal can increase the output. 

Basically, more charcoal translates into more heat and smoke. These elements are essential to any successful cookout, so it makes sense that you might want to add more. 

Adding More Charcoal in Grill

Can You Add More Charcoal While Cooking? 

The prospect of adding more charcoal to an already-hot fire can be daunting to beginners. Trust me, I know. 

I was hesitant to do so at first—not necessarily because I was afraid of getting burned, but because I thought the disturbance would send clouds of ash flying everywhere. Needless to say, if this happened, it would have ruined the meat I was grilling. 

Fortunately for us all, it is possible to add more charcoal to the grill while the fire is still going. In fact, it’s a good idea, because it will promote a strong sear and intense smoke flavor all at the same time. 

Why Is My Charcoal Going Out So Fast? 

Sometimes, charcoal has a hard time staying lit, even if it seemed fine at the outset. There are a few reasons why this might be the case. 

First of all, the charcoal might be inferior to begin with. That’s another reason why we recommend using all-natural, high-quality product. 

Even if you use the good stuff, it won’t last forever. Old charcoal tends to die out faster than it would when it was fresh. Replenish your supply if you suspect that this is the case. 

Poor ventilation is another culprit. The fire can’t survive without adequate airflow. Make sure the vents aren’t clogged before you begin, and adjust them as needed. 

I’ve had my coals go out several times because I failed to light them properly. Because of this, I try to avoid lighter fluid and use newspaper and wood chips as kindling instead. It helps keep the coals lit and reduces the amount of chemicals that I’m using. 

Burning Charcoal

Finally, if the charcoal was wet when you lit the barbecue, it will have a hard time staying hot. Wait until the charcoal has had a chance to dry before you attempt to use it. 

When to Add More Charcoal 

Start adding more charcoal to the fire as soon as it dips below your target temperature. For example, if you’re trying to cook your meat at 300 and the temperature drops to 270, it’s time to add a layer of coals. 

After the first addition, plan on adding another 5 to 10 briquettes every 30 minutes or so. 

Tips on Adding Charcoal to a Hot Grill 

Avoid Match-Light or Quick-Light Charcoal 

These types of charcoal contain chemical additives that make them unsafe for this process. When you add them at the start of the cookout, the chemicals burn off, but they won’t have a chance to do that if you add them while the food is already cooking. 

Whenever possible, stick with all-natural charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. We would recommend using these types of products even if you’re not intending to add more charcoal during the cooking process. 

Take it Slow 

Add the new charcoal slowly. One coal at a time is the best way to go, as this minimizes the risk of disturbing the ashes. This will also allow you to disperse the coals more evenly, thereby creating better heat distribution. 

Use Tongs 

Using your hands to distribute coals is both messy and hazardous. Instead, use a set of heavy-duty heatproof tongs to move one coal at a time. Remember that if you get burned, it will ruin more than just the barbecue. 

Avoid Flare-Ups

Try not to add more than 5 or 10 coals to the fire at any given time. If you add too many, the fire could get too hot. Even worse, the increase in heat could cause flare-ups, which can impart a bitter flavor to your grilled meats and vegetables. 

Check the Time 

For optimum results, you should add more coals every 30 minutes or so. Depending on the total grilling or smoking time, it might not be necessary to add more than one new batch, but for longer cooking applications, you’ll need to repeat the process. 

Glowing Chimney Starter 

Use a Chimney Starter 

If you have a chimney starter, you can use that to transfer the new coals instead of tongs. Load the starter with 5 to 10 briquettes, then use newspaper or another fuse to light the coals. Once they’re ready, you can add them to the existing fire. 

Step Away From the Lighter Fluid 

Don’t ever add lighter fluid to coals that are already burning. This will cause dangerous flare-ups that could harm you as well as the food you’re cooking. If the coals aren’t igniting, try opening the grill’s vents to promote airflow. That should do the trick. 

The Bottom Line

Adding more charcoal to a hot grill is similar to tending any fire. You just have to be careful when handling the coals, and not go overboard. Once you’ve gotten used to this step, it will become like second nature. 

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


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