When Are Charcoal Briquets Too Old to Use?

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Extend the shelf life of briquettes with proper storage.
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Charcoal briquettes are used for a consistent flame when grilling. They are prepared by compressing sawdust and binding agents together in uniform briquettes. If the briquettes are too old, they will not light. Determining if your charcoal briquettes have expired and how to keep them useable will ensure you have a ready supply of fuel for your next barbecue.

Types

Charcoal briquettes come in two types – with and without lighter fluid. Lighter fluid added to the briquettes makes lighting the charcoal easier, but some can discern a slight petroleum taste in their food when using lighter fluid-infused charcoal briquettes. Natural charcoal briquettes do not contain lighter fluid and use all natural binding ingredients. Brands differ in how easily they light and burn. Try several to find the brand name of briquettes you prefer to cook with the most.

Expired Briquettes

When briquettes are past their prime, they will not readily light. This happens because the lighter fluid in them has evaporated or the briquettes absorbed moisture from the atmosphere. Charcoal is porous and easily absorbs any moisture from the area. Like wet wood, wet briquettes will not light. If your container of charcoal briquettes has gotten wet or the briquettes will not readily light, they might be past their prime.

Storage

Storing charcoal briquettes properly ensures they will last indefinitely. Keep the briquettes in an air-tight container. Set the container in a cool, dry place. This prevents exposing the briquettes to excess moisture in the air. Unsealed briquettes are also prone to evaporation of the lighter fluid in them.

Saving Briquettes

If you notice dampness in your briquettes, you can dry them out in the sun. Spread out the charcoal briquettes on baking sheets and place in full sun on a dry day for one to two days or until the briquettes have dried out. If the lighter fluid has evaporated, add a squirt of lighter fluid to the charcoals before lighting them, and let the briquettes burn for at least 30 minutes before using them for cooking.

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Athena Hessong

Athena Hessong began her freelance writing career in 2004. She draws upon experiences and knowledge gained from teaching all high-school subjects for seven years. Hessong earned a Bachelor in Arts in history from the University of Houston.