I know how frustrating it can be when your charcoal gets soaked by rain or accidentally doused in water before lighting. I’ve had my share of soggy briquettes that were impossible to ignite.
However, through trial and error, I’ve learned that wet charcoal can be salvaged if you take the proper drying measures.
In this article, I’ll draw from my experience to explain how moisture impacts charcoal, the dangers of using wet charcoal, and, most importantly – the steps you must take to rescue soaked charcoal briquettes.
With patience and the right technique, you can dry your charcoal and prepare it to fire up your next backyard barbecue.
I’ll share tips on how long the drying process takes. These signs indicate the charcoal is ready for grilling again, and storage methods to keep your charcoal moisture-free. Let’s get into the details so you can stop worrying about rain ruining your next cookout.
What Happens If My Charcoal Gets Wet?
It can be frustrating if your charcoal briquettes get wet before or during grilling. Wet charcoal takes longer to light and may not burn as hot as dry charcoal. The good news is that you can still use wet charcoal; it requires more patience and technique.
- Remove any excess water from the charcoal. Spread the briquettes and let them air dry as much as possible before using.
- Use a chimney starter to light the charcoal. The confined space of the chimney and the airflow from the bottom will help the briquettes ignite faster. You may need to let the chimney sit longer before the coals can be dumped into the grill.
- Once on the grill, remove the lid so moisture can evaporate. Stack the coals close together to concentrate the heat.
- You can add more dry charcoal if the wet briquettes need more light. The coals may take 15-30 minutes to burn hot enough for proper searing due to the moisture.
Be patient and let them fully ignite. With some extra time and effort, wet charcoal briquettes can still be used for grilling.
What to Do When Your Charcoal Gets Wet?
Getting your charcoal wet before a barbecue can damage your plans. But with a few best practices, you can still use wet charcoal and get the fire going.
Prepare the charcoal. Spread out the wet briquettes in a single layer and let them air dry as much as possible. This allows excess moisture to evaporate.
Consider using a fan or placing them in direct sunlight to speed up drying time. Use a charcoal chimney starter to ignite the coals.
The confined vertical shape and bottom air vents help circulate air and promote faster lighting. Allow extra time for the coals to be fully ashed before pouring them onto the grill.
Once grilling, arrange the charcoal into a tight pile to concentrate the heat. Keep the grill lid off initially so moisture can continue evaporating.
Consider adding a small amount of dry charcoal to help ignition further. Be patient, as wet charcoal may take 15-30 minutes to reach optimum searing temperature.
With some simple preparation and technique adjustments, you can still achieve grilling success even when the charcoal gets soaked.
Allow extra drying and lighting, use a chimney starter, and keep the coals contained. You’ll be serving up delicious barbecue in no time.
How To Light Wet Charcoal in Grill?
Here are some tips for lighting wet charcoal on a grill:
1. Remove excess water. If the charcoal is damp, spread it on the grill and let it sit for 15-30 minutes before lighting. This will let some of the moisture evaporate.
2. Use a chimney starter. Place the charcoal in a chimney starter and light it as usual. The confined space and upward airflow will help the charcoal light despite the moisture.
3. Use extra starter fuel. Add extra starter fluid, gels, or paraffin fire starter cubes before lighting. The additional fuel will help overcome the wetness.
4. Use a propane torch. A cooking torch can supply a strong, direct flame to light the coals. Focus the flame on one area to get a portion lit before spreading.
5. Layer with dry charcoal. Top the wet coals with a layer of dry charcoal. Light the dry layer and let the flames spread downward as the wet layer dries out and ignites.
6. Let the coals burn hot. Once lit, let the coals burn with the vents wide open to evaporate any remaining moisture before adjusting for cooking.
7. Shield the coals. If there is wind or rain, use foil shields around the grill to protect the coals while lighting.
8. Use a grill with a lid. Close the lid while igniting the coals. This contains the heat better to dry and light the coals.
The key is exposing the coals to high, direct heat to overcome the moisture. With patience and the right method, wet charcoal can still be lit and grilled.
How Can You Dry Out Charcoal?
If your charcoal briquettes have gotten wet condition, you can still dry them out for grilling using a few simple methods.
Spread out the charcoal in a single layer on a baking sheet or other flat surface. Allow them to sit at room temperature so any excess moisture can evaporate.
Turn the briquettes periodically so all sides are exposed to air. You can place them in direct sunlight to speed up the drying time. For faster results, use household items to dry the charcoal actively.
A fan blowing directly on the briquettes will remove moisture quickly. You can also place the wet charcoal in a low oven, around 200°F, for 30-60 minutes.
The indirect heat helps draw moisture out. Or put the briquettes into a chimney starter and light them – the airflow through the chimney will dry them effectively.
No matter the technique, the goal is to remove as much excess moisture from the charcoal as possible before lighting. Well-dried briquettes will ignite faster and burn hotter on the grill.
Take the time to dry out wet charcoal properly before your next barbecue for the best results. You can rescue soaked briquettes and get grilling again with a little effort.
Can You Use Charcoal After It Has Gotten Wet?
Using charcoal that has gotten wet or soaked with moisture in your grill is not recommended. Wet lump charcoal is difficult to light and may not burn properly.
The absorbed water can cause the briquettes to explode from built-up steam when attempting to ignite. This poses a safety risk.
Instead, discard charcoal soaked or saturated with rain or other water sources. Only use dry lump charcoal or briquettes for grilling.
To prevent moisture exposure, store charcoal in a covered, dry area. Suppose the charcoal is only damp on the surface. In that case, it may be dried out sufficiently by placing it in direct sunlight for several hours before transferring it to the grill.
However, avoid using any thoroughly wet charcoal even after drying attempts. For best results, always start grilling with charcoal fresh, completely dry charcoal. The use of wet charcoal can negatively impact performance and safety.
The Proper Way To Store Charcoal and Keep it Dry?
To keep your charcoal dry and ready for use, follow these proper storage guidelines:
- Store charcoal in a cool, dry location. An ideal spot is a covered outdoor area like a shed, garage, or patio.
- You can also keep bags of charcoal in a basement or storage room inside your home as long as there is no moisture present.
- Avoid storing charcoal in areas prone to water exposure, like an uncovered deck or open carport.
- Place charcoal in sealed plastic, metal, or zip-close bags. Airtight containers prevent moisture from seeping in and getting the charcoal wet. Clear plastic bins or galvanized steel cans with lids protect charcoal during storage.
- Keep storage containers off concrete floors. The coolness of concrete can promote condensation inside containers. Place charcoal containers on wood shelves or pallets for air circulation underneath.
- Inspect charcoal bags periodically and replace any that have gotten wet or damaged. Properly stored, dry lump charcoal or briquettes can last over a year before needing replacement.
Following these guidelines will maintain freshness and ignition ability.
How Do You Know When Charcoal Goes Bad?
Here are a few ways to tell if charcoal briquettes have gone bad:
1. Look at the color
Fresh charcoal is black. If the briquettes have turned gray or white, they have likely absorbed moisture and will not light charcoal or burn.
2. Check for crumbling
Charcoal briquettes should be sturdy and hold their shape. If they crumble easily when handled, they are past their prime.
3. Smell the charcoal
Fresh charcoal has little to no smell. Old charcoal may smell musty or have an off-odor, indicating it has absorbed moisture or gases over time.
4. Try lighting a few briquettes
If old charcoal doesn’t light easily or burns poorly, it’s time to replace it. Fresh charcoal should ignite within 5-10 minutes.
5. Check the expiration or best-by date
Some charcoal bags have a date stamp. If the date has passed, the charcoal is likely too old to use.
6. Consider how long you’ve had it
In general, commercially packaged charcoal lasts about 2-3 years from the production date if stored properly. Homemade charcoal has a shorter shelf life of 1 year or less.
Pay attention to these signs of aging for the best grilling results. Promptly discard charcoal past its prime to avoid unpleasant flavors or difficulty starting your grill.
In my experience, charcoal that has gotten wet can still be used if you take the proper steps to dry it completely.
While brief water exposure doesn’t ruin charcoal, you must ensure it is fully air-dried before lighting it.
I recommend spreading the wet briquettes in a single layer in direct sunlight and letting them dry for 2-3 days, flipping periodically to dry all sides.
Never use charcoal that still feels damp or cold to the touch. Properly dried charcoal will light quickly and burn hot for grilling.
With a little extra time and care to dry wet charcoal fully, you can safely salvage it and get excellent results on the grill.
Be vigilant about checking for moisture, as wet charcoal can impact smoky flavor and pose safety risks. Charcoal can withstand occasional water encounters with the right drying and storage methods.
Yes, wet charcoal briquettes can be reused if dried thoroughly. Spread the wet charcoal and let it dry in the sun for several days, flipping occasionally. The charcoal must be completely dry before use, or it will not light properly and may impart off-flavors. Dry charcoal burns best for grilling.
Burning wet charcoal is dangerous because it can produce toxic carbon monoxide fumes. When charcoal absorbs moisture, it does not burn cleanly or efficiently. Using wet charcoal grills or indoor spaces, releases increased levels of carbon monoxide, which is odorless, colorless, and highly poisonous. Never use charcoal that feels moist, crumbles easily, or has been soaked by rain or water. Only burn dry charcoal in well-ventilated areas.
Charcoal should not be left soaking in water for extended periods. While brief rinsing can help remove dust, leaving charcoal submerged for over 30 minutes can cause it to absorb excess moisture. This makes it difficult to light and can create dangerous smoldering conditions. For best results, charcoal should only make brief contact with water. Tap to shake off excess liquid before stacking to air dry completely before lighting, about 24-48 hours.
Grill charcoal showcases hydrophobic tendencies, repelling water due to its porous composition. This unique feature helps maintain its high heat capacity when used for barbecues and outdoor cooking. However, prolonged exposure to water can cause waterlogging, affecting its performance. Understanding grill charcoal’s reaction to water is vital for optimizing grilling experiences.