Why Your Charcoal Won't Stay Lit: Common Culprits and Solutions

Why Your Charcoal Won't Stay Lit: Common Culprits and Solutions

Charcoal grilling is a beloved tradition for many barbecue enthusiasts. Still, there's nothing more frustrating than your charcoal refusing to stay lit. You've got your grill set up, the perfect cut of meat ready to sizzle, and the guests are hungry. However, your charcoal won't cooperate. This article will explore why your charcoal won't stay lit and how to address them. Whether you're a seasoned grillmaster or a beginner, understanding these factors can make your grilling experience much smoother.

1. Charcoal Isn't Dry

The Culprit: One of the most common reasons for charcoal not staying lit is moisture. If your charcoal is damp, igniting and maintaining a consistent flame will be challenging.

The Solution: Always store your charcoal in a dry place, away from rain and moisture. Consider investing in airtight containers or bags to keep it dry. If you suspect your charcoal is wet, you can try spreading it out in the sun to dry it out before use.

2. Insufficient Amount of Air

The Culprit: Charcoal requires a good supply of oxygen to burn efficiently. If the airflow to your charcoal is restricted, it will struggle to stay lit.

The Solution: Ensure your grill vents or dampers are open for airflow. You can also shake or spread the charcoal in the grill to create space for oxygen to reach the coals. Consider using a chimney starter to ensure good airflow when lighting your charcoal.

3. It's Not Stacked Vertically

The Culprit: The arrangement of charcoal can make a significant difference. If the coals are densely packed, they may smother each other, making it difficult for them to stay lit.

The Solution: When arranging your charcoal, stack it in a pyramid or mound. This allows for better airflow and ensures that the coals ignite more evenly. You can also leave space between the briquettes to allow for proper combustion.

4. The Wrong Type of Charcoal

The Culprit: Not all charcoal is created equal. The type of charcoal you use can affect how easily it ignites and stays lit. Some low-quality or self-lighting charcoals can be more challenging to work with.

The Solution: Opt for high-quality lump charcoal or briquettes. These charcoals are generally easier to light and provide a more consistent burn. Avoid charcoals doused in lighter fluid, as they can give off unpleasant flavors in your food.

5. Your Grill Vents Are Closed

The Culprit: Sometimes, it's a simple oversight. If your grill vents are closed or partially closed, they can restrict the airflow, leading to difficulty keeping the charcoal lit.

The Solution:

  1. Always double-check your grill vents before lighting the charcoal.
  2. Make sure they are open to allow for proper ventilation and oxygen flow.
  3. Adjust them as needed during grilling to control the temperature.

6. Too Much Humidity

The Culprit: High humidity can affect the lighting and burning of charcoal. When the air is humid, getting charcoal to ignite and stay lit can be challenging.

The Solution: You should be patient if you're grilling on a particularly humid day. Consider using a chimney starter, which can help generate higher temperatures and overcome the effects of humidity. You can also shield your grill from the wind, which allows the coals to stay lit.

7. Low-Quality Cooking Wood

The Culprit: Sometimes, it's not just the charcoal; it's the wood you use for flavor. Low-quality or green cooking wood can produce excessive smoke and even extinguish your charcoal.

The Solution: Invest in high-quality, well-seasoned cooking wood. Dry wood with a low moisture content burns cleaner and imparts a more pleasant flavor to your food. Properly seasoned wood is essential for successful grilling.

Where to Buy Cooking Firewood

To ensure your grilling and smoking endeavors go smoothly, it's essential to use suitable materials. The source matters whether you need high-quality charcoal, premium cooking wood, or both. Corrin Kiln Dried Firewood Co. is your trusted partner for top-grade firewood and charcoal.

Contact Corrin for the Best Firewood for Burning and Cooking

Please order online or call us at 302-656-6077 to take your fires to the next level. Remember, free delivery is available within 20 miles of 19801, with only $3 per additional mile.


A successful grilling experience hinges on the quality of your charcoal, the correct airflow, and proper preparation. If your charcoal won't stay lit, consider these common culprits and their solutions to ensure your next barbecue is a blazing success. Remember to source your firewood and charcoal from trusted suppliers like Corrin Kiln Dried Firewood Co. to enhance your grilling experience. Happy grilling!

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