Does charcoal go bad?

You’ve gone to get the charcoal out of the shed and it’s been stored for over 6 months or even as long as a year, sound familiar? It’s wise to check if charcoal does expire before you use it.

Then all the questions follow does charcoal go bad? Can charcoal go bad? With this guide, all of your questions are answered.

Does charcoal expire?

The truth is charcoal does not expire and can be kept indefinitely(forever) providing it is stored in a moisture-free area. Lumpwood and briquette charcoal are man-made. Lump wood is almost entirely elemental carbon. Briquettes however have additives that do expire.

First, everything has a shelf life and knowing how quickly you use and burn through your charcoal will determine if you should buy older shelved charcoal. This can only do another slow user of charcoal a favor if newer charcoal is on the shelf.

If your charcoal has additives to aid in faster ignition, this is the only part of the charcoal that will expire and become less potent after some time. The charcoal will still be usable however it may be more difficult to light and keep lit. Especially true in inferior quality charcoal that relies on additives to keep them lit.

How long can you keep a bag of charcoal?

In theory, charcoal can be kept forever however an opened bag with additives can easily be kept for 1 – 2 years without much of an effect on these additives.

Opened charcoal is fine to store for as long as you like, providing it remains completely dry and does not attract any moisture. However, over time the additives in the charcoal will start to deteriorate after around 6 – 9 months.

Does charcoal go bad?

Aside from the fact charcoal doesn’t have an expiration date, it can in fact go bad for several reasons.

  1. Exposed to moisture in the air i.e Mildew
  2. Wet charcoal from the rain

This exposure to damp can cause the charcoal to go moldy. Grilling with moldy charcoal could give the smoked or grilled food a bad taste. Not a good idea to ruin a nice big chunk of meat for the sake of cutting some corners with charcoal.

Does charcoal go bad if it gets wet?

Yes, charcoal does go bad if it goes wet. Moisture from any cause seeps through all of the pours(tiny holes) in the charcoal. Wet charcoal is impossible to light and damp charcoal is impossible to keep lit. If you do manage to get wet or damp charcoal lit it won’t perform correctly.

Damp charcoal will lack the heat of new fresh dry charcoal and will produce a lot of smoke. Lit damp charcoal will burn inconsistently and is difficult to keep lit.

But there isn’t a need to toss damp charcoal out straight away.

As long as the charcoal is not completely soaked it can be dried and used. Surface dampness can be dried with a towel. Partially damp charcoal can be dried in the sun for a few hours on a bright sunny day. The only downside to dried charcoal is it can become quite brittle meaning a lot of the burn time is lost, as it ends up in smaller pieces.

It is perfect when mixed in even amounts with new charcoal.

No attempt should be made to dry moldy charcoal and it should be disposed of. Sometimes, it is better to cut the losses and dispose of the moist charcoal instead of going through all effort drying for it to ruin your barbecued food.

How to store charcoal correctly

If it’s possible, store charcoal in an airtight container, this will give the charcoal its best chance of lasting without going bad.

If it’s not possible to store in an air-tight container, a cool dry place will be sufficient. However, it would be a good idea to check the charcoal regularly to ensure it is not getting damp at least every month or so.

Some charcoal brands like Weber have re-sealable charcoal bags which will help stop the dampness. Transfer charcoal into these bags for storage if you have some ones lying around.

Bottom line

The bottom line is charcoal does not expire but the answer to the question does charcoal go bad? The answer is yes! Storing your charcoal and checking it occasionally will stop the charcoal from going bad.