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You might be wondering if you should throw away the charcoal that you have been storing for years, or you might be wondering what is the safest way to store it.
If your question is, “Does charcoal go bad?” The short answer is no, as long as you store it properly in a cool, dry place.
In this article, we will look at how you can tell if your charcoal has gone bad, how you can store it to keep it fresh as long as possible, and how you can use up old charcoal safely.
No further ado; let’s jump right into it!
What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is the black, carbon-rich residue left when wood or other organic matter is burned in an oxygen-deprived environment. Its properties vary depending on the type of charcoal used.
When it comes to charcoal, there are two main options: lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes.
Lump charcoal is made directly from hardwood and produces far less ash than briquettes.
The benefit of lump charcoal is that it’s more natural than briquettes because it contains no additives or lighter fluid like match light charcoal.
However, due to its “random” shape, each piece of lump charcoal has a different thickness, resulting in uneven heating when burned.
Especially with big pieces, if they don’t get charred properly in the center in the first place, they will pop and crackle while burning, which can be annoying and sometimes dangerous.
Many people think that briquettes are artificial, but they are just ground-up lump charcoal mixed with sawdust and a little corn starch to hold them together.
One benefit of briquettes over lump charcoal is that they all have the same size and shape, so they burn more evenly.
Some brands also add grooves to their briquettes’ outer surface, allowing more airflow and making them burn faster and hotter.
But some brands add more binding agents than they need to, which makes their briquettes taste bad and leave behind a lot of ash.
That’s why it’s critical to ensure that the brand of briquettes you buy is high quality.
To make things easier, I’ve written this buying guide to help you find the best, high-quality charcoal briquettes for your barbecue.
Does Charcoal Go Bad?
Lump charcoal will never go bad because it is simply burned wood; as long as it is kept dry and properly stored, the shelf life of your charcoal is infinite.
Briquettes, on the other hand, contain sawdust, coal, and a variety of other additives. When all of the additives get wet or spoil, the entire mixture will become a mushy powder.
What Makes Charcoal Go Bad?
Humidity is charcoal’s worst enemy!
In humid conditions, the charcoal will absorb moisture from the air and become a sticky, gooey mess that won’t light.
If you live in an area with high humidity or store your charcoal outside, it’s best to keep it inside an airtight container where the humidity is lower.
In addition to humidity, there are also mold spores that can attack charcoal and make it more susceptible to decay.
How to dry out wet charcoal
If you’ve ever had a wet pile of charcoal, you know that it’s not able to light. You can do some things to help your charcoal dry out and get ready for use.
However, this is not always the case. If your charcoal is still in good shape, it’s still OK.
Here’s how to dry wet charcoal while it’s still in shape:
After separating the wet charcoal from the rest, spread the wet one on a dry surface to let them dry as quickly as possible. Letting them stay wet and stacked will invite mold and rot.
Then let it dry in the sun all day. Then flip the charcoal over and let it dry in the sun for another day. When it’s completely dry and ready to use, place it in a storage container.
It’s easy peasy, isn’t it?
One tip for using the wet-then-dried charcoal effectively is to put new briquettes in the chimney starter and stack the old ones on top.
But if your charcoal has already turned to dust, it’s too late to save it. You have to buy fresh charcoal and say goodbye to the old one.
How To Store Charcoal Properly
No matter how high-quality your charcoal is, it’s important to store it properly. If you leave it out in the open air, it can become discolored or develop a bad odor. Here are some tips for keeping your charcoal fresh:
1. Choose The Right Storage Spot
Store your coals in a cool and dry place—a garage or basement is ideal, but if that’s not an option for you, then keep them somewhere where they won’t be exposed to direct sunlight or extreme heat.
2. Choosing The Right Container
If you want to keep your charcoal for longer, then it’s worth investing in some kind of storage container that can be used for long-term storage. You want to choose a container with an airtight lid to keep out moisture and humidity.
One of the most common ways to store charcoal is in a caddy like the ones that are available from Kingsford.
These caddies are made of plastic and have a handle for easy pouring.
They are 100% weatherproof, so they’re perfect for storing your charcoal in an outdoor space.
Metal or plastic garbage bin
If you want to prevent fire, then storing your charcoal in a metal garbage bin is the best way to go. A 20-gallon one can hold up to 24 pounds of charcoal.
Not only will it keep out moisture and humidity, but it’ll also prevent the charcoal from coming into contact with any flammable materials.
It is important to remember that most garbage bins don’t have airtight lids, so make sure you line the bin with a plastic bag before pouring the charcoal in.
After the charcoal has been placed in the bin, fold the bag over itself and seal it tightly.
A 5-gallon bucket is a great choice if you want to keep your charcoal in a small space.
This is especially helpful if you live in an apartment or don’t have enough space for a large container like a 55-gallon drum!
The lid on these buckets lets you close it off when it’s not in use, so you won’t have to worry about spilling the coals everywhere.
But also make sure to insert a plastic bag before pouring charcoal in.
You can get 5-gallon buckets at Safeway bakery, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy’s,…
These places usually give away buckets—just ensure they’re not too rusty or damaged before taking them home!
If you don’t live near one of these places, you can usually buy 5-gallon buckets on Amazon at a very reasonable price.
Waterproof ammo box
These are great for storing charcoal. They’re waterproof, so you can put your coals in there without worrying about them getting wet.
You can also stack them on top of each other if you need more space.
It’s best to use a metal ammo box like this one from Amazon rather than a plastic one because plastic is more likely to break down over time and let air into the container.
3. Make sure that you have a good supply of replacement coals.
The longer you store your charcoal, the less effective it will become. Make sure that you have a good supply of replacement coals so that when you’re ready to light up again, you have something ready to go.
If you are wondering “does charcoal go bad”, I hope this article has helped answer your question.
As you can see, charcoal can last forever if stored properly. But it’s important that you understand how to store your charcoal. If you follow the tips above, your charcoal should last a long time.