does charcoal go bad

Does Charcoal Go Bad? A Complete Review

The sun is out, your friends are around, let’s have a barbeque! So you throw some charcoal on the bbq, get some firefighters, strike a match and…… nothing. Why won’t it light? You have had the bag of charcoal in a corner of the garage for years so you start to wonder ‘does charcoal go bad?’

In this post, we will find out whether charcoal goes bad over time and if charcoal goes bad when it gets wet, but before that, we need to learn a thing or two about charcoal.

What is charcoal?

If you burn wood slowly without oxygen, all that left is charcoal. Charcoal serves as fuel for smoking and grilling food. It is composed of pure carbon known as “char”. This process of making charcoal can take days. Let’s move forward to types of charcoal.

Types of Charcoal

Here are given some important types of charcoal used in food industry.

1. Lump Charcoal

lump charcoal

Lump charcoal is the purest charcoal made from hardwood. It is entirely natural charcoal made without any additives. It is eco-friendly and burns pure and hot. It lights up very fast and is the best charcoal for grilling and smoking food. It is a bit more expensive than other charcoal types.

2. Charcoal Briquettes

charcoal briquettes

Charcoal briquettes are composed of small wood pieces and other organic material and contain additives like sawdust. They burn steadily and maintain a stable temperature. They produce acrid-tasting smoke when they first start to burn but it soon vanishes.

3. Match Lighting Charcoal

Match lighting charcoal, as you can probably guess from the name, can be lit with just a matchstick. They have some additional chemicals added to aid fast ignition.

Does Charcoal go bad?

Charcoal doesn’t go bad unless you fail to store it properly. Charcoal is a highly stable substance and doesn’t need too much care for it to be stored successfully.  It will be abe to get through most mishaps unscathed but if it gets too wet then you are going to have trouble getting it lit.

More worryingly, some types of charcoal can ignite itself due to an unstable chemical used in its composition.

If you have a lot of charcoal, try to store it properly. You can also use some chemicals to prevent charcoal going bad if you have no use of it. Charcoal doesn’t expire unless it’s burnt properly. Both lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes can absorb moisture affecting their quality. Do not forget that lump charcoal has an indefinite shelf life.

How to Store Charcoal?

There are different ways to store your charcoal. These ways will not cost you much cash or take up much  space.

  1. Prevent charcoal from water
  2. Use a dry container
  3. Place charcoal in humid free area

1. Prevent charcoal from getting wet

Water and charcoal does not go together at all. Water can reduce the quality of the charcoal (both lump and briquettes). Don’t let the water reach anywhere near to the charcoal. Always keep it in safe dry place.

2. Use a dry container

If possible, having a dry container will be of much help for storing charcoal. It will keep the charcoal sealed in a dry place so no chance of it going bad.

3. Place charcoal in low humidity area

Humidity can slowly spoil your charcoal as its cancer for it. Store charcoal in a place with low moisture and humidity to protect the quality of it.

How to Choose a Container and Storage Spot for Charcoal?

Choosing a Container

charcoal container

Choosing a container for your charcoal isn’t a difficult thing to do. You just need to decide what type of container will go best with it. There are plastic containers and metal containers. The metal container is not porous and is fireproof. It will prevent the moisture from entering into the container and will protect your charcoal. The downside of a metal container is rusting which can be avoided if you place it somewhere dry and raised off the ground

An air-tight plastic container can also be used for storing the charcoal. It works best for long-term storage. Seal the plastic container with aluminum duct tape after placing charcoal in it. Now toss a handful of silica packs into the container to absorb excess moisture.

Choosing a Storage Spot

An out shed is a great place to store charcoal. Place the container away from door and window after sealing it. Avoid direct sunlight as much as you can. Choose the place which doesn’t expose it to excessive heat even during summer. Choose an area which is cool but not moist. The basement is another good place for storing charcoal. Use of a dehumidifier is always recommended before storing charcoal.

You can check the “Best Charcoal for Smoking here“.

How long does charcoal last?

A lump charcoal usually last for three to four hours in case of a closed grill. The total lasting time of charcoal varies depending on many factors. Charcoal briquettes usually last for longer than lump charcoal. In case of an open grill, it will give you a burn time of 45 minutes on average.

Charcoal will last indefinitely as long as it is stored in a good container and kept in a cool dry place. Charcoal with Mesquite has a shelf life of 1–2 years if stored properly, meaning the bag is unopened, free of tears or sealed tightly.

Can you reuse charcoal?

If you want a short answer than yes, you can reuse charcoal. You can and should reuse your charcoal, and save your money. Being able to reuse charcoal is a nice advantage of using a charcoal smoker over other types of grill. Once you have finished cooking, it is a good idea to shut off the vents completely and extinguish the burning charcoal. By doing this, you’ll be able to save as much charcoal as possible for your next cook.

Charcoal briquettes are also reusable if you ignite them properly. These smaller coals nestled tightly together, greatly restricting airflow and delaying or even preventing the coals from igniting. However, we found that it does work to replace up to half of the fresh coals called for in a recipe with used coals.

Does Charcoal Absorb Moisture?

Charcoal does absorb moisture mainly from the air. All kinds of charcoal are no exception to it. Moisture is cancer for charcoal. Make sure you make arrangements to keep the moisture away from charcoal. Place charcoal in the can and put the lid on. Place in the areas of your house that get the most humidity, such as bathrooms, basements, closets, attics or sun rooms.

You can use dehumidifiers for this purpose. To make one, just put some charcoal briquettes in a coffee can, punch a few holes in the lid, and place in the humid areas. Replace the charcoal every few months.

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