Can You Add More Charcoal While Cooking On A Charcoal BBQ?

So many of us start cooking on a BBQ, before releasing that more charcoal is required. Some people will start all over again, but this is often not necessary. In this article, we answer whether or not you can add more charcoal while cooking on a charcoal BBQ.

Yes, you definitely can add more charcoal while cooking on a charcoal BBQ. The best way to do this is by first lighting your charcoal using a chimney starter. You can then transfer the required amounts onto the barbecue. If this isn’t possible for you, unlit charcoal will work too.

We explain these methods in detail, so you’re never short on charcoal again! This article also contains some useful tips for keeping your BBQ at an optimal cooking temperature.

Can You Add More Charcoal While Cooking On A Charcoal BBQ?

How To Add More Charcoal To Your BBQ While Cooking

As mentioned in the introduction, there are two ways to add charcoal to your BBQ while cooking. Let’s dive into them and offer a guide on how to perform each:

Preparing The Charcoal With A Chimney Starter

A chimney starter allows you to light charcoal in a controlled way. They are perfect devices for starting a BBQ, but can also help you to add more charcoal. Chimney starters can often be picked up for less than £15.00 and require only a few simple steps to use:
  1. Add a sufficient amount of charcoal to the chimney starter. It’s recommended to fill the device completely, unless you have a very small BBQ.
  2. Light the charcoal. You can use firelighters, newspaper, lighting fluid or another method you prefer.
  3. Wait 15 minutes. This will allow the coals to reach a suitable temperature for cooking.
  4. Carefully apply the coals on top of the existing ones. Try to make sure that the charcoal is spread as evenly as possible. Wearing heat resistant gloves for this step is crucial.

You’ll want to start this process when you notice a decrease in temperate, or if you see that some charcoal is no longer alight. Some areas may require a heavier distribution, depending on the state of the existing coals.

Adding Unlit Charcoal Directly

This process is even more straight forward. Simply place some new charcoal on top of the previous batch. The flames from the lit coals should have no trouble igniting the new ones, if they’re added evenly. Following a 1 to 1 ratio of introducing new coals is key, while adding a smaller amount is fine too. Obviously, you’ll want to use grill tongs for this, as merely throwing in the coals will lead to an uneven distribution.

You can still cook during this period of time, providing that sufficient heat is still being generated. If you do opt for this method, planning in advance is key. You’ll need to add more coals while the others are still ablaze, or else the fresh batch will have trouble igniting. Again, it will take roughly 15 minutes for the new charcoal to reach the right temperature for cooking.

Can You Add More Charcoal While Cooking On A Charcoal BBQ?

When To Add More Charcoal To The BBQ

Adding more charcoal is a process that should be performed when you notice a temperature decrease. If food is cooking slower, you don’t feel enough heat, or your temperature probe reads lower than recommended, it’s time to add some more charcoal. Those that cook for longer periods of time are likely to need a top up at some point during the session.

The lowest temperature you’ll want from your BBQ depends on the type of food you’re cooking, however 300 Fahrenheit or 149 degrees Celsius is a good middle ground. When meat is applied to the BBQ, an instant sizzle is a good indication of sufficient heat.

Minimising The Need For Adding More Charcoal

If you want to add charcoal less often, there are a few things you can do to achieve this. These include cooking faster and optimizing the initial coals. Here are a few different approaches to try for yourself:

Larger Cooking Area

Expanding your cooking area will allow you to better utilise the heat being generated. If you can cook more food in a shorter span of time, you may avoid the need to replenish any coals. Finding a bigger grill, spreading your charcoal further or even buying a new BBQ are a few ways of getting a larger cooking area.

You could also look to load more food onto the BBQ. This will help with speed, ensuring that you’re getting maximum cooking time from your charcoal.

Effective Temperature Control

Controlling the temperature of your BBQ will allow you to cook more food, while also giving you more time before a top up is needed. The most effective way to do this is with sufficient air flow. Utilising the vents on your BBQ and keeping the bottom free from ash will allow air to pass over the coals. You can also restrain from shutting the lid until you begin cooking.

With a good supply of air, the charcoal will maintain a searing temperature. The better the airflow, the hotter the grill. As a result, cooking time can be drastically reduced.

Use Two-Zone Grilling

Two-zone grilling can be achieved by only filling half of the BBQ with charcoal. The section of the grill directly above the flames allow you to cook on direct heat, with food on the other side being cooked indirectly. Direct heat can be utilised for faster cooking or to sear meats. Alternatively, indirect heat offers a slower and more thorough cook.

If you have food that requires different temperatures, two-zone grilling is the perfect way to cook simultaneously. There’s no need to add or remove charcoal, making it a method that is preferred by many.


Now that you know how to add more charcoal to your BBQ, you can keep cooking for longer. While it may seem like an inconvenience, it’s easier and often more cost-effective than simply starting your BBQ again. Investing in a chimney starter is definitely another thing to consider, especially if you’re an avid BBQ chef. Check out our Charcoal BBQ range.

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