What To Do When Charcoal Won’t Light? All Things You Need To Know

After igniting the barbeque smoker with a fire starter or a match, the charcoal may first ignite, but it will quickly go out.

What hinders the fire? What should you do y when charcoal won’t light? How to hold a barbeque party successfully?

Today, Bestgrillhub will share all the tips to tackle your problems at ease. Let’s join us, and you can start planning your party straight away! 

Why My Charcoal Won’t Light?

You can blame the smoker, weather, or the charcoal itself for not lighting. Once you’ve figured out the causes, you can find the solutions straight away. 

The charcoal is wet.

You can’t barbecue with moist coals and damp wood. Because charcoal accumulates moisture and water, it’s nearly hard to light a fire with it.

Coal collects water vapor from the air through its holes, so it’s likely to get wet if stored in humid circumstances.

The charcoal is wet
The charcoal is wet

You don’t pack the charcoal properly.

When grilling, the method you lay the coals will directly impact the temperature and duration of the fire. If you arrange them evenly on the bottom of the smoker, they can’t even ignite. 

Heat does not uniformly disperse itself across the grill but instead climbs to the top. You may need to re-stack your coals to allow the heat to flow upward.

If you put firewood and newspaper underneath the ember to get it started, the ember may compress into a thin layer afterward, causing the coal to die.

The vents are not open.

If you’ve performed all the steps and the carbon still won’t ignite, you may have accidentally blocked the vents.

The vents allow airflow through your grill, keeping the temperature consistent throughout the grilling cycle.

Because the fire needs oxygen to spark, the ember may not obtain the required airflow if you’ve blocked the air vents.

All you have to do is release the vents. Depending on your targeted temperature, you may modify the vents or shut them entirely once the coal has set fire and burnt steadily for a while.

The charcoal is smothering.

If the coal isn’t burning, another fast and simple adjustment you may make is to make sure it has enough breathing space.

You will block circulation to the carbon if you use too many wood chunks or insert them before the coal has entirely burnt up.

Wait until the coal has burnt for at least 15 minutes and produced an ashy white layer before adding anything else to prevent suffocating it.

You use non-uniform-sized charcoal.

You may have heard about lump and briquettes if you are familiar with barbeques. They have a lot of similarities, but you also notice some differences. 

Briquettes made of carbon can fire rapidly and remain lit. They’re all the same size, which aids with consistency.

The burning process might be a little more complicated regarding lump charcoal, which is a more natural choice. 

The lump burns a little faster, but it emits very little smoke and maintains a nice, intense, and consistent heat throughout the cooking.

Your smoker is dirty.

The key to kindling a fire on your smoker is to keep it clean. If you don’t wipe the smoke out after you set out the coal grill, it will gather at the bottom of the barbecue and, if it collects too much moisture, will turn into a paste.

When you put your coal to the paste, it catches the moisture, making it very difficult to kindle a fire.

Even if you don’t believe it’s necessary, clear the ash off of your barbecue every time you cook–if you don’t, your next barbecue may be a catastrophe. 

Likewise, if oil accumulates on the grates, the coal will not fire. The fat drips and melts as the coal warms up, dampening the wood and spoiling your cookout.

Grease may jam vents and impede airflow within your barbecue or smoker.

Furthermore, a buildup of oil can influence the flavor of your meat and cause further problems. 

Every time you cook, make sure to clean the dried oil and ash from the grill so your food can be as tasty as possible.

smoker is dirty

The weather is harsh.

When the wind blows through the vents, it stirs the flames or even smashes them out if you’re attempting to ignite them.

Similarly, if rain falls directly on your barbecue, it will get inside and give you a headache when lighting up the coal.

What Do You Do When Your Charcoal Won’t Light?

If you’ve tried all other theories for why the coal won’t ignite, there are a few steps to make the process go more smoothly.

Employ a chimney

employ a chimney

If you’ve tried all other theories for why the coal won’t ignite, there are a few steps to make the process go more smoothly.

Once you get a hand at a carbon chimney, the entire coal lighting procedure becomes a breeze. A chimney piles your wood vertically while providing adequate airflow.

You can get any amount of coal burning by kindling a little bit of newspaper at the base of the chimney or utilizing a fire stoker.

Chimneys are more efficient, cleaner, eco-friendly, and considerably safer and longer-lasting.

Use quick light charcoal.

The significant advantage of quick light coal is that it ignites immediately. The manufacturers advertise a 10-minute lighting time before they’re ready to work. 

You should always check to see whether the carbon has a tiny coating of white ash on it. You may burn some or all of the chemicals.

Although it’s safe, it’s not the most natural solution. You’re restricted to the amount of coal in the sack rather than picking your own amount or putting more during the cooking process.

Extra Tips For Lighting Charcoals

Charcoal is essential for any barbeque party, and grilling turns out to be a breeze if you follow the following tips. 

Get started

Many people find it hard to start a fire in their smoker. If you are among them, these tricks can help.

Choose the right tool.

Using fire starters is the most convenient way to ignite a charcoal grill. It takes around 40 minutes for it to warm up entirely.

On the other hand, Lighter fluid is perhaps the most common way. However, you should be careful while using the fluid. 

Choose the right charcoal.

Finding whether you want huge lumps or tiny chunks is part of choosing the proper coal. Whether you desire hardwood, cedar, or oak, they are all easily accessible. 

Arranging the wooden pieces is more complicated than it sounds. You can’t just throw everything into the fire. It would be best to place the pieces in ascending order of size.

You’ll get the finest smokiness and outcome in this manner. The way you lay your charcoal also determines whether you can distribute the heat evenly or unevenly.

You can learn more tips for igniting your barbecue grill from this video

Keep the barbeque lit.

If you’re having trouble keeping your grill lit, there’s a chance you’re doing something wrong. 

Here’s a quick guide to keeping your grill lighted and always ready to use.

Use dry coal

The coal must be dry. When we keep wood in the garage on hard floors, it sometimes becomes moist and wet.

Using such coals might cause the barbecue to smoke severely. They can’t even work normally. 


Dampers are essential for keeping the grill lit. One or two dampers come with every charcoal barbecue to keep the fire burning by controlling and regulating the airflow. 

Pampers allow oxygen to pass through the coal. There will be more fire if there is more oxygen. 

As a result, always leave the vents open and let the oxygen do its job. 

Keeping the grill always hot is important
Keeping the grill always hot is important

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about lighting coals. Let’s check!

1. Why can’t I keep my charcoal barbecue lit?

Because carbon is absorbent and highly dry, it collects moisture. This carbon will take a long time to light.

However, there is some good news: most varieties of carbon can dry if you leave them in the sun for three to four hours. 

2. Should I close the lid after igniting the coals?

While you set and ignite the carbon, keep the lid open. Close the top after the coals are evenly well-lit. The majority of coal grills get hotter shortly after lighting. 

3. Can I reuse coals?

Yes, you can. Before reusing, look for the larger chunks and clean as much ash as you can. Also, keep your old coals in a cool, dry place.


There are many reasons for making the charcoal stop lighting. Identifying the cause helps you solve the problem easier and quicker. 

Hopefully, you will find this article helpful. For any further information, please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading!






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