When Is Charcoal Ready to Cook On? (In-Depth Discussion)

What are the most effective ways to ensure a successful charcoal grilling experience? To ensure efficiency, you have to follow a proper method when cooking. In order to achieve the most effective results from a charcoal grill, it is necessary to know how to cook on it. It is also necessary to know when it is actually ready for use.

Nowadays you might be able to find a top-notch charcoal grill for less than $200. However, if you don’t know the actual method of cooking and fail to match the proper timing, you will never get the desired outcome. Do not worry! You can count on me.

Find out when charcoal is ready to cook on and how to use a charcoal grill. Be sure to read the full article.

When is charcoal ready To Cook On?

As a general rule, charcoal is ready to grill when it turns white. If you are among those who think so, you may often experience unevenly cooked and uncooked food.

According to my experience, there are certain things that indicate that the charcoal is ready to be used. To cook food effectively, follow these steps:

If you find that the charcoal is evenly burned and heated, wait until it has reached an even temperature. Make sure all food is safe before placing it on the grill grates.

Initially, you may see the charcoal turn white, but it does not mean the charcoal is hot both inside and outside. In fact, the charcoal remains cool on the inside. Therefore, you should wait until you see two-thirds of the charcoal turn white.

Pro tips: One of the easiest and certain ways to understand that the charcoal is evenly hot both outside and inside is to look for the smoke. If you see no smoke coming from the charcoal, it is fully burned and has reached an even temperature.

If you want to light charcoal with minimal smoke, read my article on it.

  • Move the charcoal around: It is not only about waiting until two-third of the charcoal turn white, as even the distribution of charcoal inside the grill is also important. At this stage, you have to move the charcoal around using a grill tool of any sort. Do it carefully and ensure that the charcoal is scattered in on the entire basin. Doing so will further add to the evenly heating capacity.
  • Notice the thermometer frequently: It is not always possible to keep track of the temperature if you remain indifferent about it. Therefore, keep your eyes open and take notice of the temperature gauge very often.
  • Use a meat thermometer: It is not about the charcoal temperature only. You should also be careful about the inside temperature of the grill. It will give you a rack if the food temperature, thus helps pervert the food from overcooking or undercooking.
When Is Charcoal Ready to Cook On? (In-Depth Discussion) 1

What about using lighter fluid to light the charcoal?  

You can definitely light your charcoal using the lighter fluid method. However, in the same way, you have to be careful whether the charcoal is ready or not to cook on.

Simply, the charcoal is ready when it takes a fully gray tone. The coal usually seems to take a cover of gray ash; it happens when the fluid burns off totally. Eventfully, the coal keeps burning and the ash starts to spread gradually to cover the entire briquette. The whole process usually takes 12-15 minutes.

Pro tips: When two-thirds of the coal is covered with gray ash, the charcoal is all set to cook on. You can just spread the charcoal a bit more and start cooking calmly.

What about using a match light to light the charcoal?

Nowadays some people also prefer using match lights to light up the charcoal.  If you are wondering how to be sure whether the charcoal is ready to cook on or not, the answer is “when it gets a gray tone.

The same technique goes for it that I mentioned in the lighter fluid technique. You just need to wait until two-third of the coal is covered with gray ash. When you light up the coal, the flames disappear at a point then the coal starts to turn gray and gradually spread to the entire briquette. The whole process takes up to 12 minutes. Then you can just spread the coal and cook on it.

Pro tips: Like the lighter fluid method just let the whole flames subside then you will see the coal turning gray.

What happens if you cook when the charcoal is not ready to cook on?

I have mentioned the chances of unevenly and partially cooked food earlier. If you place certain food on the grill, the very moment the coal turns ashes, it will leave you with unevenly and partially cooked food eventually. For instance, if you try to cook food like steak or hamburgers, uneven or improper heating will leave it partially cooked.  You might find it cooked outside, but the inside is not cooked.  

You can try to avoid such occurrences by leaving the food on the grill for a longer period. It may ensure that the food is fully cooked, both outside and inside. Yet you cannot just strike out the chance of partially cooked food.

Therefore, the Importance of knowing the actual period for cooking is vital if you want to cook food satisfactorily.


No matter what method you follow to light up your charcoal grill, it is always important to cook on charcoal detecting the actual period of cooking.  If you do not know when the charcoal is ready to cook on, you will end up with an unsatisfactory cooking experience. That is why, basically, I suggest knowing the process fully before you move on to cooking on charcoal.

Follow my comprehensive guideline and cook efficiently on your charcoal grill.


Tina Jordan here. Cooking delicious dishes for my family has always been a passion for me. Kitchen and cooking go hand in hand. I have spent a lot of time in my kitchen (still do), so I have a very clear understanding of kitchen gadgets.

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