Charcoal is a natural and porous material that can be used for many different purposes.
It can be used as fuel for cooking, in water purification systems, or to improve the air quality of your home.
This article will explore how to store charcoal, how long charcoal lasts so you know how to use it most effectively.
What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is created from wood that has been heated in a process called pyrolysis.
This process heats the natural gas or other hydrocarbon-rich material to 600 – 700 degrees Celsius and removes the oxygen, leaving behind an “exhausted” carbon residue with a porous structure.
The resulting charcoal can be produced on scales ranging from personal use (such as cooking) to mass production of fuel briquettes used by most barbecue grill owners.
You can find charcoal in its most pure form at your local hardware store.
Charcoal is used for various purposes, such as personal and professional cooking, producing items like activated carbon filters or crucibles that can withstand high temperatures without melting, and even making gunpowder during World War II.
Different Types of Charcoal
When it comes to cooking with charcoal, there are a few types that you should know about.
Charcoal is made from tree wood, so the type of wood will affect its flavor and burn time.
There’s a hardwood that burns for longer than softwood but has less flavor.
Softwoods are better if you want to cook over an open flame because they produce more smoke, giving food a nice smoky flavor without using liquid starter fluid-like grilling or barbecuing.
The most common type of charcoal used by restaurants is lump charcoal which contains various pieces of unprocessed wood compressed together into one piece.
It produces a high heat while burning quickly.
There are also briquettes (also called “ready-to-light” coals) made of processed charcoal and a binder such as coal dust, starch, or soybean oil.
These coals produce less heat than lump charcoals, but you don’t have to go through the messy process of lighting it yourself – they’re ready to be used when purchased.
The best thing about briquettes is that because they’re easier to light, they can provide better cooking control with more even heating from edge-to-edge on your grill.
Lastly, there are wood pellets which are created by compressing sawmill wastes into small uniform cylinders.
They burn at lower temperatures than other charcoal types but produce no ash, so cleanup is easy.
How to Use Charcoal?
We all know that charcoal is created by heating wood at a high temperature to break down the organic molecules.
It’s most often used for grilling food, but it can also be used in many other ways.
Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks from around the web that show how you can use charcoal:
- To create an instant smoky flavor on your foods, place a chunk or two into the grill before cooking. This will add significant depth of flavor without having to light any coals.
- Grill with a coating of oil using foil as protection if desired. When using this method, apply more heat over time until grease starts smoking which indicates optimum doneness.
- Be mindful of the type of wood you are using for your grill. Different types will affect the flavor profile and smoke characteristics like oak, mesquite, or hickory, which all contain a unique level of oils.
Charcoal is an excellent detoxifier and cleanser for the inside of your body.
It’s also a great way to purify water if you have no other method, as well as making fire starters.
You can use charcoal on the outside of your skin too.
It will draw out toxins from insect bites, acne spots, or any irritation that might be going on in general.
You mix it with coconut oil (or another type), then gently rub it onto the desired area until all traces disappear.
How to Store Charcoal?
Charcoal is a stable product and does not usually decompose quickly, but it can still be affected by moisture.
When storing charcoal in an enclosed space like a basement or closet, the interior must remain dry to prevent mold growth on the exterior of the storage containers.
To avoid this unpleasantness, store your bags of charcoal outside in well-ventilated areas where they are protected from rain or snow.
This will allow any volatile compounds that the charcoal may have absorbed to dissipate back into the air.
If storing for long periods (more than six months), they must be kept away from any heat sources such as stoves and fireplaces.
How Long Does Charcoal Last?
A charcoal grill works by heating hardwood to high temperatures until it becomes coals.
These coals are then used for grilling food, which sits on the grill grate above them.
Depending on the type of charcoal you use, your grilling time will vary.
The heat from a charcoal fire also varies depending on what type of wood is being burned and how much air can get to it, so chunks, or lumps as they are often called, burn for about four hours versus eight-ten with briquettes.
This means that if you want more smoke flavor in your food when barbecuing or cooking something like ribs where an extra hour makes a difference, then briquettes might be worth considering.
But for the average griller, lumps will do just fine.
They don’t produce as much smoke, but they’re usually less expensive and are also more convenient since you can use them in an instant by lighting a match or using a grill lighter to get them started.
Mesquite wood is another popular type of charcoal because it has such a great flavor, which comes from its natural sugars that caramelize when heated up, so your food tastes sweeter with minimal effort on your part.
How Long Should Charcoal Burn Before Cooking?
This is a question that many people ask.
The answer to this depends on the temperature you are cooking and how much food there is being cooked.
Generally speaking, it will take 10-15 minutes for one layer of briquettes when your grill or smoker reaches an ideal temperature (approximately 275 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you have four layers of coals, then add about 10 minutes more time than if you only had one layer of charcoal burning in the firebox.
A good rule of thumb might be about 20 minutes total before adding any meat to cook should do the trick.
Charcoal is a type of fuel that burns cleanly and produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, heat, light, and ash.
Different types of charcoals have different burn rates and heat variations.
Lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes which in turn burns faster than compressed coal.
The type you use for grilling or smoking depends on what kind of cooking process you want to achieve:
- A high-heat sear from lump charcoal.
- Slow-cooking over low temperatures from briquettes.
- Even smoky flavorings using compressed coal.
Charcoal typically lasts between 4 hours up to 8 hours before burning out completely depending on its temperature at start time, size/type, and outside conditions.