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How to make charcoal burn longer

To make your charcoal burn longer use a technique we like to call “the ring of fire”. Typically you will get about an hour of good grilling time out of a pile of charcoal and you would need to add more coals to extend your cooking time. Or you could start with a large pile of unlit coals and add hot coals and control the heat with your dampers. Getting you several hours of low and slow cooking time. With this technique you can achieve almost 300 degree temperatures and hold them for more than 4 hours.

For the purpose of this article here are some specifics about the equipment we will be using. The grill is a typical 22 inch Weber kettle grill and we will be using Kingsford charcoal. It is also worth noting that this was a cool 30 degree day outside with little wind and it began to snow about half way through.

We begin by pouring our charcoal into a semi-circle around the outer edge of our charcoal grate leaving an 8 to 10 inch gap between the ends. even out the coals around the grill as best you can. Leaving all of our vents wide open. We used about 5 pounds or around 100 briquettes of charcoal for this. The same amount a large charcoal chimney would hold.

We light one end of the ring, in this case we used a Royal Oak Tumbleweed fire starter (read more about them here). If you want to get up to temp quicker I would suggest a larger pile of coals on the end you are lighting or use half a chimney load and adjust your semi-circle end accordingly, to get it started.

Royal Oak All Natural Fire Starters Natural Wood Tumbleweeds - 16 Pieces

The way we did it, the end coals lit immediately and it took about an hour for our grills temperature to reach a decent 275 degree temperature. As more and more coals light the temperature will climb slowly and steadily for about the first 2 hours. If your cook requires a lower temperature close the bottom vent about half-way, this would also extend your cooking time. If your looking for more heat complete the charcoal circle and light it in the center so both sides burn at once.

Below our chart of length of time elapsed and grill temperature. These temps were verified not only with our lid thermometer but with a laser thermometer as well. At the 2 1/2 hour mark it began to snow.

Time ElapsedGrill Temperature
30 Minutes150
1 hour275
1 1/2 hours295
2 1/2 hours290
3 1/2 hours260
4 1/2 hours250
5 1/2 Hours250

Shortly after the 5 1/2 hour mark the grill began to rapidly cool.

As you can see making your charcoal burn longer only takes a few minutes of preparation and it will let you grill all day.

Make charcoal burn longer tips:

  • Larger layers of coals will result in higher temperatures
  • Natural lump will burn hotter and result in shorter cook times.
  • Leave top vent fully open at all times
  • Adjust your lower vents to stay in your temperature zone.


aka Sultan of Sizzle

I have been blogging about and selling grilling tool for over 12 years. A Certified Food Safety Professional, KCBS member, award winning writer and have over 10 years experience in the food service industry.

“I have experienced some of the best food this country has to offer and nothing is better than the food that comes off my own grill!”

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