How Long Does Charcoal Last In Storage?

It's such a hassle when you want to enjoy some barbecue with your family only to find out that you've run out of charcoal. So, it's best to always have this on hand for those random BBQ nights. But how long will it last in storage? That's what we asked the experts and here's their answer.

Charcoal should be stored in a metal container or plastic bucket and kept in a cool and dry place. Under these ideal conditions, it can last between 6 to 12 months. Although charcoal doesn't really go bad, it will lose its efficiency in burning especially when it is exposed to high moisture levels.

Keep on reading to learn more about the life expectancy of charcoal and how to store it properly. We'll also share with you how you can reuse old charcoal. This article will also answer if charcoal causes cancer. Let's get down to business!

man with gloves chimney starter barbecue grill in open air at country garden house. How Long Does Charcoal Last In Storage

How long will a bag of charcoal last?

Summer nights are made more special with some grilled burgers and sausages to share with your family and friends. The smoky flavor of grilled foods is distinct and mouthwatering. And this flavor comes from the slow-burning properties of charcoal that we can't get from other forms of cooking.

Aside from cooking, charcoal also has many other uses at home. You can use it to help remove funky odors and keep your vegetables fresh. Charcoal, in its powdered form, has some medicinal uses such as detoxification and healing wounds.

That is why it is always a good idea to have some charcoal stored in your home for whatever purpose you need it for. But of course, homemakers would always wonder if it's worth it. Won't charcoal expire? Would it still be good to use when kept in storage?

close up wooden charcoal in sacks.

The good news is that charcoal has a relatively long shelf-life. Once opened, it can last between 6 to 12 months. This means you can go ahead and buy a big bag of charcoal. You can store the unused ones to be used at a later time so you can always enjoy your grilled foods and its other uses whenever you want.

The porous nature of charcoal helps it to have a longer shelf life. It is able to absorb moisture so it doesn't affect its quality right away. This means that its components won't break down easily unless, of course, the moisture level exceeds charcoal's capacity.

Click this link to find this lump charcoal on Amazon.

How do you store charcoal long-term?

Of course, for you to achieve this long life expectancy of charcoal, it follows that you have to store it properly. Yes, there's a right way of keeping it in your storage area so that you can maintain its quality and optimize its performance once it is time to bring it out once again for grilling.

Charcoal needs to be stored in a metal container or plastic bucket with a lid. This will ensure that you can close it tightly to keep air and moisture away. The bucket doesn't need to be fancy. It can be the free pail that comes with the bulk items that you've bought.

You can also use your plastic or metal trash cans. But you can also buy storage bins and charcoal caddies in stores and online if you want.

Find this charcoal caddy on Amazon.

The important thing is that the container can be shut tightly. Humidity levels should be kept below 50%. Some even put caulk or duct tape around the lid to ensure that the charcoal stays dry and cool inside.

Charcoal doesn't technically expire. You can say that it can last indefinitely as long as it is stored properly. But as we've mentioned earlier, its quality can decline over time.

This means it would take longer before the woodchips o burn or they would burn unevenly. Bottomline, it would take longer for the food to cook.

black charcoal close up photo

What can I do with old charcoal briquettes?

Although charcoal doesn't really expire, it loses its efficiency over time especially when it is exposed to too much moisture. It won't burn well or take longer before you achieve the heat level that you need for grilling. But it doesn't mean that you can't use it anymore.

Even charcoal that has been wet can be used again. Just let it dry under the sun so that you can use it for grilling during your next BBQ session with family and friends.

You can also set aside your unburned charcoal for later use. Just add them to new charcoal and you can start your fire. Quality charcoal is quite expensive after all. This will help you save on money and it's healthier for the environment as well.

But for charcoal chips that have already been used, they still have other uses, too. You can use their ashes for your garden, silverware polisher, and removing foul odors at home. Here's how.


You can use crushed charcoal as a fertilizer for your soil. They add nourishment to your garden soil, absorb toxins, and increase the soil's alkalinity. This is exactly what your flowers need to grow abundantly.

You can also add your used charcoal chips to your compost pile which will also make a great fertilizer. Just don't use charcoal ashes as they won't help improve the alkaline content of the soil.


Crushed charcoal can be used to polish your silverware and make it shiny as if it is brand new. It can also help remove rust on metal surfaces to bring them back to their original state.


You can put together small pieces of charcoal chips and store them in a bag or in a bowl. They would be able to absorb foul odors in the room. You can also place them in your shoe cabinet and refrigerator to keep them smelling fresh.

Reusing charcoal can help you save money and in doing so, you're doing your share in helping our environment.

shoveling black coal

Does charcoal cause cancer?

You might have heard that grilling and using charcoal can be bad for your health. This is true on some level. Studies have shown that grilling certain foods such as red meats, hotdogs, sausages, and other processed meats may increase cancer risk.

Grilling these meats at high temperatures produces heterocyclic amines or HCAs that are known to be carcinogenic. As they are cooking, there are juices that drip from these meats. When these juices drop on the charcoal chips, they ignite the flame further and cause polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs.

PAHs are also said to be carcinogenic. They stick to your grilled meats as the smoke flows upwards.

But this doesn't mean that you can't enjoy grilled foods anymore. You still can. But to make it healthier, you can cook lean meats instead. This includes chicken, salmon, and turkey. You can also grill veggies, remember? You enjoy the same smoky flavor but they are a lot healthier.

These meats and veggies cook faster and don't produce too much oils and fats that can drip on the charcoal chips so there's reduced risk of exposure to carcinogens.

It is also not recommended that you eat charred meat. They contain a lot of HCAs. Remove them before serving to reduce cancer risk.

Which is better charcoal or briquettes?

You may have used these products interchangeably or have one confused over the other. Let’s check out their differences to find out which is better between the two.

Charcoal is made from wood and has a very high carbon content. It even has more potential energy and therefore is more effective in heating and cooking than wood. Charcoal has different types: lump and briquettes.

Lump charcoal is considered by experts as the more natural choice because it doesn’t use any additives. It lights up easily and can reach high temperatures faster. As it is burning, it doesn’t produce too much ash.

On the other hand, briquette charcoal does not just contain wood particles but other chemicals as well. This is done to answer the need for consistency that is lacking in lump charcoal. This is cheaper than lump charcoal and its shape and burn rate are more consistent.

Check out this briquette charcoal on Amazon.

However, briquette charcoal takes a while before it heats up and when it burns, it produces more ash as byproducts.

We really can’t compare the two when it comes to their performance. There are certain foods that need to be cooked at higher temperatures and faster rates while some foods are better cooked at steady heat for a longer period of time. So, it all depends on what you are cooking.

Or you can choose which one your budget allows. This is just to set your expectations when using these two.  

Barbecue charcoal in fire, preparing for grilling. How Long Does Charcoal Last In Storage

Final Thoughts

Charcoal can last up to 12 months when stored in an air-tight container that's kept in a cool and dry place. Although charcoal doesn't really go bad in the true sense of the word, it would lose its efficiency in burning which can affect your grilling time and it'll take longer before you can enjoy your grilled treats.

You may visit the following posts for more resources on how to store stuff in your home:

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