Skip to main content
Cooking Tips

Don’t Burn Money: Reuse Your Charcoal

Thrifty cooks reignite coals for a second round of grilling.
By Published Aug. 1, 2022

Whether you grill with lump briquettes or more expensive hardwood charcoal, quick-cooking recipes like our Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks can leave you with a fair amount of only partially used coals at the end of cooking. We wondered if we could, in the name of frugality, immediately extinguish the coals by cutting off the air supply and save them to reignite in a future round of grilling?

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

We discovered that the answer is yes but with one caveat. Trying to light a chimney starter filled entirely with used coals was a nonstarter—these smaller coals nestled tightly together, greatly restricting airflow and delaying or even preventing the coals from igniting. But you can replace up to half of the fresh coals called for in a recipe with used coals. 

How to Store Used Charcoal

As soon as you’re finished grilling, cover the grill and close the vents. Once the coals are cool enough to handle, dump them into a small, metal lidded container such as a garbage can. 

How to Reuse Charcoal

Before you light a new fire, place your previously used, cooled briquettes into a charcoal chimney starter and shake and rap it over the trash to dislodge ash which would impede the coals from properly igniting. Temporarily remove the coals from the chimney starter. Then, to maximize airflow, place 1 part of fresh coals in the chimney first and top them with 1 part of the used coals.

Favorite Grilling Recipes

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.