Portable Charcoal Grill: How to Effectively Use Charcoals

Effectively Use Charcoals

To cook the food by grilling, you can solicit several techniques. The top scheme you should follow is how to effectively use the charcoal. This will profit you in many ways, apart from saving time and money.

You can effectively use charcoals by knowing the methods and instruments to light up this material. Another potent idea is to learn the longevity of the coal, and how to keep your grill hot. We advise you to save the used coals, and reuse them in future cooking.

In this article, we will be discussing how to use a charcoal grill, to lengthen the life of the charcoal, and the proper quantity for specific cooking. There are also topics that we will talk about, such as how long a charcoal grill stays hot, and how to reuse the coals.


Away from your kitchen and all your handy kitchen tools and appliances, cooking while you’re camping is definitely a challenge. One of the best ways to make this task easier is by using a portable camping grill. There are a lot of grills out there to choose from and we listed and reviewed our top recommendations in our article on the best portable camping grills


How do you use a small portable charcoal grill?

To use a small portable charcoal grill, you need to light the charcoal first by using lighter fluid, chimney, and electric fire starter. You can grill your food through direct and indirect grilling techniques. Direct is for smaller meats, while indirect is for large ones.

How to light a charcoal grill?

There are three ways to start the charcoal grill, and these are with the use of a lighter fluid, a chimney, and an electric fire starter.

  • Lighter fluid

    To use this, you need to spread the fluid all over the charcoal in your grill. Let the fluid absorb for half a minute, then light up the coals.

  • Chimney

    You can use papers as fire starters at the bottom of the chimney. Lit them with charcoal in the chimney. Lastly, place the coals in the grill if the fire is already visible.

  • Electric fire starter

    Place and organize the charcoals onto the grill. Then light off the electric fire starter in the coals until the flame ignites.


Methods to cook in a portable charcoal grill

There are two ways to grill, and it is through direct and indirect grilling.

Direct grilling

You will be grilling meats directly into the heat. The first thing you should remember is to utilize the grill vents to manage the heat. Open to increase, then close to decrease. The middle area of the griller is the hottest, so you can place your food on the sides.

Do not constantly rotate the meat, and wait to make it brownish before turning.

Indirect grilling

This method is used to cook large chunks of food, like a whole chicken, for example. You should be controlling the heat in moderation by placing the charcoals on the side of the griller. Leave a space in the middle, then put the meat on it, and cover it with a lid. Monitor the process to avoid it from burning or from being raw.


How much charcoal for a portable grill?

The amount of charcoal for a portable grill is determined through the type of cooking. For direct grilling, 15 to 20 coals will do, while for indirect grilling, you will be needing 30 or more. If you are planning to slow cook small meat, you can use a small quantity of charcoal.

The key logic on the use of charcoal is the amount. If you add charcoal, that equals to adding more fire, while if you remove some, it will reduce the heat. You should also be cautious about the ways you are going to use when grilling different kinds of food.

As we have previously mentioned, while cooking small-sized foods, direct heat is recommended. Usually, you need more charcoal with this method since we light up the high flame. About 15 to 20 coals are enough for this.

In terms of indirect grilling, you are required to sustain the low heat in order to cook the food. But, you need to maintain it for a long period of time, so you will be needing more charcoal. We suggest you utilize a minimum of 30 coals.

Always remember to add more coals if needed to cook the meat effectively.


How long do you let charcoal burn before grilling?

Before grilling, you just have to prepare your charcoal by flaming it until it is covered with ash. A total of 15 minutes is required before you can attain this result. Be reminded to avoid over burning your coals.

Almost all of the techniques we have tried lead us to one main idea. That is to let the charcoals be covered in ash. This is the best sign to know if the grill is ready to be used.

For the chimney method of fire starting, it will take about 10 minutes to see the flame igniting in the coals. We suggest you lit up small amounts of coals first, then add more if it is already flaming. About 15 minutes is needed for this.

Similarly to the chimney method, lighter fluid can prepare your coals for grilling for about 15 minutes. You just need to wait for the ash to cover the coals. That indicates that you can start grilling your meat.

We have tried different ways to light up the charcoal, and we discovered that most only take 15 minutes in order for the coal to be covered with ash.


Just like any other camping equipment, you need to maintain and clean your grill properly to make them last longer. If you don’t know how to properly clean your grill, follow our grill cleaning techniques to effectively clean your equipment after each use. 


How long will a charcoal grill stay hot?

A grill can stay hot if you add coals if they are totally burned. But, a coal brisket is capable to stay for around 40 minutes to 1 hour if used under medium temperature. If used for high flames, then it will be burned faster.

If you are going to cook using moderate temperature, then your coals can stay for a maximum of 1 hour. There are also types of charcoal briquettes that are burned easily even for a short period. But, the usual limit of coal is around 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Another logic in this area is that if you are going to flame up or need a high temperature, then you need to maintain it by adding charcoal if they completely burned. That is the way to sustain the heat.


Tips to make your charcoal last longer

To make your coals last longer, avoid exposing them to the wind and closing the lid. Use the briquette charcoal and chimney method. Warm-up your grill, and place a fair amount of food when cooking to sustain the life of the coal.

  • Change the position of the coals. It is advisable to spread the coals into the grill to avoid them from burning fast.
  • Don’t expose your grill to the wind. It will burn the charcoal faster if you apply more air, thus lessening the longevity of coal.
  • Avoid trapping the heat. Some recommend to close the lid, but it can imprison the heat and fire inside, which can burn the coal easily.
  • Brisket charcoal is better. As we discussed above, they can last for an hour maximum.
  • Warm-up your grill. That will make cooking fast and effective.
  • Add some wood. It will help your charcoal maintain the fire, as the flame will also burn the wood.
  • Apply the chimney method. Lighter fluid is recommended, but if you need to carry on the coal for a long period of time, then light it up with this technique.
  • Grill a fair number. Cooking a certain amount of meat will require a fair quantity of coals too.


Can you reuse charcoal?

Yes, you can definitely reuse charcoal. This way, you can save money and avoid buying more coals for your next cooking. After using the charcoal, all you have to do is put it out from the flame, store it, and then add it to your future grilling activities.

So, don’t throw the used charcoal after you’re done grilling. Instead, we recommend you extinguish it, and set it aside to use it in your upcoming cooking. That is truly the best way to bring convenience to you in preventing you to spend money on new coals.

You can reuse the charcoal by adding it to new coal. Of course, sometimes, it is difficult to start the used coals, as they were previously extinguished and absorbed water. So, to start it again, apply the chimney method by using few coals, then mix it with the used coals.



Grilling with charcoal is probably one of the most common ways to cook food outdoors. Utilizing this cooking method may seem simple, but there are techniques that you should follow in order to properly cook your food and make the most out of the resources that you have. 

Utilizing charcoal in the right way to benefit yourself is the smartest idea that everyone should practice when grilling. You can’t just simply burn it carelessly just to enable you to cook your food. There are things that you need to consider in order to save money, and extend the life of the charcoal for a more successful outcome. Be watchful and clever on the ways you are going to apply this in the grilling process.

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