If you are wondering whether you can reuse the charcoal used for your charcoal smoker, then the answer is “yes.”
By reusing the charcoal, you will save money and reduce the waste and the negative impact on the environment.
Read on to find out whether you can reuse charcoal, how to do it properly, and different tips for making your charcoal use more efficient and economical.
Can you reuse charcoal?
Yes, you can reuse the charcoal after you are done with your cooking and use the leftover coal for future smoking and grilling sessions. It will help you save money and is beneficial for the environment too.
This is especially true when grilling and searing food hot and fast when you prepare the meat quickly, and most of the charcoal remains only partially or wholly unburnt.
The best way to ensure that you don’t waste any charcoal is to extinguish the fire in the smoker or grill as soon as you are done with the cooking.
You can do this by closing the vents and lid, which will stop the oxygen supply and thus will kill the fire leaving the unburnt lump coals or briquettes to be recycled next time you are smoking a brisket or grilling a steak. Let the coal cool down completely before taking it out. Then you can use an ash basket or mesh screen to sift the used coals from the white ash, and then store away the unburnt ones for next time you fire up the grill.
If you need to extinguish the fire immediately after using the grill, you can use tongs to pick up the hot coals and then drop them in a bucket filled with water. Then take them out and let them dry in the sun so that they will be ready for recycling.
Will your old charcoal really work?
If the coal is only partially burnt or hasn’t been burnt at all during the previous use, and has been dried and stored properly, then it should work for smoking and grilling food once again.
Still, just like with everything else which is used, there can be some limitations when reusing charcoal.
Since the leftover pieces are smaller than usual, chances are that the airflow in between them will be limited, which can affect the ability to reach a higher temperature for cooking, grilling, and searing.
Old charcoal is perfect for achieving lower temperatures of about 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you want to reach higher temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit or more, then it is advisable that you use new charcoal.
One great tip is to start the fire using a chimney starter and add some new charcoal first, and then add the smaller used pieces.
If you don’t like the idea of reusing charcoal for cooking but still want to recycle the leftover coal, you can use it for other needs, such as for fertilizing your garden, help reduce the odors in your home, use it for polishing silverware, and even use it for brushing your teeth.
Charcoal is also highly efficient for resolving diarrhea, stomach upsets, and the ingestion of toxins, so you can add some of the leftover charcoal to your medical kit at home as well.
How to store old charcoal
The most important thing to know about storing used charcoal is that you will need to remove as much of the white ash from the leftover solid pieces before storing it.
Too much ash will inhibit the ability of the charcoal to burn.
Use a basket or thin mesh to sieve and shake off the white ash. You can test which lumps of coal are suitable for reuse by touching and squeezing them lightly. If they are solid, then they are good to be stored for recycling. If they are soft and fall apart, then they should be discarded with the ash.
Once you have selected the reusable coals and removed as much of the ash as possible, you can proceed to store it.
You can keep the coal directly in the smoker or use a metal bucket or other container with a lid to store it.
If you need to urgently extinguish the coals with water, do not do it by pouring water directly on them in the smoker because this can lead to clogging of the vents and rusting of the metal. Instead, use a tong and drop the coals into a metal bucket filled with water, and then leave the unburnt ones out in the sun to dry.
How to start a smoker with old briquettes
As we already mentioned earlier, you cannot expect the used charcoal briquettes or lump coal to perform as well as fresh ones, so it is recommended that you start the fire by filling the chimney starter with some fresh coal first and then add the older and smaller pieces.
You can then cover them with a few more fresh lumps or briquettes and proceed to light your fire.
By arranging them in such a way, you will ensure that the smaller used pieces don’t fall out and that there is better airflow in between them. This will allow you to reach the desired high temperatures.
If you have stored the used coals in the smoker, then you can use a chimney to add some fresh ones on top for a better result.
Briquettes or lump charcoal?
When it comes to recycling charcoal, briquettes are more likely to remain whole and in larger reusable pieces than lump charcoal.
As a whole, briquettes are more suitable for low and slow smoking and cooking, and lump charcoal is more efficient for producing higher temperatures for searing and high and fast cooking.
But either type of charcoal can be recycled if there are remaining unburnt pieces.
We hope that we have helped you understand how to reuse the leftover unburnt charcoal from your grill and smoker.
You can save tons of money and reduce the negative environmental impact and waste if you recycle as much of the charcoal as possible after use.
Remember to reuse only the solid leftover pieces, remove as much of the ash as possible, store the coal in a dry place, and mix it with fresh coal when lighting it up again if you want the best results when using it again cooking needs.
Even if you don’t use it for cooking, we have provided you with some other useful tips to make the best of any leftover coal.