Can You Use Charcoal In A Fire Pit? (Key Facts To Know)

Lounging beside an open fire on a chilly evening can be relaxing and fun. And if the fire is lit right on your patio fire pit, it’s just the cherry on the top. From hosting a party around the fire to enjoying a romantic evening with your special one or just unwinding yourself after a long day at work, the benefits and appeal of an outdoor fire pit are limitless. That’s why around 49% of American homeowners plan to incorporate a fire pit in their outdoor spaces and make it more enchanting, according to a 2021 ICFA survey.

And if you, too, want a fire pit in your yard, it’s high time that you decide what type of fuel you want for the fire. While wood is more convenient and preferred by many, you might ask “can you use charcoal in a fire pit” for a more traditional vibe.

In shortly, Yes, you can use charcoal in a fire pit without any difficulties. As it is lightweight, burns longer than the others, and is also safe, charcoal is an excellent choice of fuel to use in the fire pit. It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy fireplace or a traditional one, charcoal is a suitable option for all.

Black Charcoal
Black Charcoal

What is Charcoal?


Charcoal is a solid compound that is formed by burning woods in a minimal oxygen environment to remove all water from them and make them more volatile. As there is no moisture present in this compound, charcoal tends to catch fire quickly and generate heat to keep the surroundings warm.

Moreover, this compound produces the least amount of smoke and burns for longer hours at a stretch. And because of such benefits, charcoal is one of the most preferred sources of fuel for household fires, fire pits, and grills too.

Read also: Best Outdoor Gas Fire Pits

Another thing about charcoal is that it is not coal or falls in the coal family either. Charcoal and coal are two completely different types of fuel with different characteristics. For instance, coal is a natural mineral that forms organically in the earth’s crust. It takes millions of years to form and therefore, is quite expensive. It also gathers a super high amount of heat.

On the other hand, charcoal is a manmade product made by burning wood and is less expensive. It can generate and store a moderate amount of heat. You can add a piece or two of coal with a bunch of charcoal to up its heating level.

Is Wood Better than Charcoal to Burn In a Fire Pit?

Both wood and charcoal are excellent sources of energy for an outdoor fire pit. However, when it comes to fuel efficiency, wood would be the right choice for you. Woods tend to burn for a longer time compared to charcoal. However, you have to deal with a bit of smoke when burning wood.

On the other hand, when you prefer an even fire and want less mess, using charcoal in your fire pit would be the best option for you.

You can also mix charcoal and wood in your fire pit to enjoy the benefits of both of them.

How to Light Up a Fire Pit Using Charcoal? Effective Methods to Try

Now that we know charcoal is a safer option for burning in an outdoor fire pit, let’s discuss how to ignite charcoal successfully so that you have a blazing outdoor fire as soon as you want it.

You can use it to light up the charcoal in no time. The lighter fluid is one of the easiest and most popular methods of lighting up charcoal in your patio fire pit. If you too want to use it to ignite a fire in your fire pit, follow these easy steps. They will help you to light up a charcoal fire in no time.

Step 1: Arrange the Coals

To ignite the fire quickly in your fire pit using lighter fluid, first, gather the coals and arrange them in a pyramid. You can also scatter them throughout the pit. But gathering would increase the contact between them and help the fire to spread quicker than ever.

Step 2: Pour the Lighter Liquid

After you have arranged the coal, pour on an appropriate amount of lighter fluid on them and light them up immediately with a long match. The long matchstick will keep your hand safe from glowing fire.

Step 3: Spread the Coal

When all the coals are fired up, spread them throughout your fire pit for an even heat.

Remember not to put on the lighter fluid on hot or flaming coals. It would suddenly make the fire bigger and cause unfortunate events.

It would take 15-20 minutes to light up your patio fire pit following this method.

If spritzing on lighter fluid on the coals seems a bit too much for you before you light them up, you can always buy the ones that are already soaked in the right amount of lighter fluid. This will not only save time but would also save your energy.

Benefits of Using Charcoal In A Fire Pit

People prefer to burn charcoal in their fire pit for a few specific reasons. Let’s go through the amazing benefits of using charcoal in a fire pit for an even better understanding.

A Safer Option

One of the main reasons people use charcoal in their fire pit is because it is a lot safer than burning woods. As it doesn’t make as many sparks and flying burning debris as wood, there are minimal chances that it would burn you or catch fire in the surroundings, especially on a windy day.

Produces Less Smoke

Unlike wood or any other type of fire pit fuel, charcoal produces far less smoke while burning. And as it doesn’t cover the surrounding with smoke and burn your eyes, you can lounge beside a charcoal-burning fire pit and enjoy your leisure to the fullest.

Moreover, since charcoal doesn’t produce as much smoke, it won’t suffocate and make you uncomfortable in any way.

Charcoal is burning
Charcoal is burning

Easier to Make Fire

Another reason people pick charcoal over wood is that it is easier to make fire with charcoal than with woods. Even if you soak the charcoal in lighter fuel and toss a match, it will start a fire immediately. Lighting up a charcoal fire is as easy as it can get.

Moreover, because charcoal burns more evenly and steadily than other fuels, it gives you more control over the fire and ensures more safety.

Easier to Maintain

A charcoal fire is also easier to maintain than a wood fire and hence, requires minimal attention. Unlike wood, you don’t have to think about the right size of the logs or the right way to place them in the fire pit. To keep it burning in your fire pit, you just need to add more charcoal over a time interval and that’s it.

Drawbacks of Using Charcoal In A Fire Pit

As much as it has some amazing benefits, using charcoal in a fire pit has also a few drawbacks. For starters, a charcoal fire burns out quicker than a wood fire. While a wood fire continues to ignite for hours and sometimes overnight, a charcoal fire will stop burning after about 40-45 minutes. You need to keep on adding more charcoal in the fire pit to continue igniting the fire.

Also, charcoal can leave a black, powdery substance on your hand during handling. This might stain your hands and make them look unappealing.

Related: Best Portable Propane Fire Pits For Camping

Can You Use Charcoal In A Wood Fire Pit?

Woodfire pits usually offer two options for fuel, wood, and charcoal. And if your wood fire pit has such fuel options, you can use charcoal to light up a fire in it.

How to Keep a Charcoal Fire Burning?

After you are done igniting the fire in your charcoal fire pit, you must maintain it properly so that it keeps on burning for extended hours. 

After burning for quite some time, when the charcoal in your fire pit starts to turn gray and dim the fire, move it around a few time with a poker device to ignite the fire once again. This will increase the airflow in-between the coal particles and influence them to heat up again for a smooth, consistent fire.

Can You Use Charcoal In A Metal Fire Pit?

No, you shouldn’t use charcoal in a metal fire pit. It might be dangerous for you. As metal is a good conductor of heat, the pit will get hot very quickly making it dangerous to be around. Even if you are a few feet away, you can still feel the heat. 

If you have other options available, avoid burning charcoal in a metal fire pit.

Best Use for Charcoal Ashes

After the charcoal in your fire pit turns into ashes because of burning, don’t through it away. You can use this ash in many other ways to make every last bit of it useful.

Let’s discuss some of the best uses for charcoal ashes so that you never throw them ever again.

  • Use it as garden fertilizer. If the charcoal is from fresh wood and you didn’t add any additives to it during burning, the ash from it can be used as a fertilizer to increase the pH levels in your soil. However, make sure to put it in a moderate amount to enjoy the best results.
  • Sprinkle it to deter pests. Ashes from your outdoor fire pit can successfully remove bugs and other pests and insects from the area and make it safe and healthy again. All you need to do is mix an ounce of charcoal ash, one ounce of hydrated lime, and one gallon of water together and spray it over the intended area. This mixture will keep pets at arms’ length. 
  • Make lye soap with the ashes. With the ashes of the burnt charcoal, you can make more than a few batches of useful lye soaps. These soaps will help you to shine up utensils. 
  • Try controlling algae using these ashes. Algae are one of the most common problems you face when you have a pond or a water tank in your yard. To remove these algae and make the water body clean and sparkling again, you can use the ashes from your charcoal fire pit. Sprinkle one tablespoon of ash for every 1000 gallons of water and see the magic for yourself. 

Safety Tips to Remember when using  charcoal fire pit

Even though charcoal is a safer option than burning in a patio fire pit, you still must follow a few safety precautions to keep yourself and the surroundings safe always.

  • Never, ever put any fuel on any ignited charcoal. It will result in a hazardous event.
  • Don’t leave a burning fire pit unattended, EVER.
  • Place your coal-burning fire pit at least ten feet away from your sitting area, house, or any low-hanging trees for maximum safety.
  • Keep your children away from a burning fire pit.
  • Let the fire pit cool down completely before you lay hands on it. Otherwise, the hot parts of the pit might burn your hands.
  • Refrain yourself from lighting up your patio fire pit during any strong winds. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast.
  • Don’t forget to screen your fire pit regularly. It will help to avoid any flying embers.

Final Words

If you ask again, Can You Use Charcoal In A Fire Pit? The answer is yes. Even though you can use charcoal in a fire pit, just don’t use any ordinary type to ignite a fire. Make sure that you have good quality charcoal [made from hardwoods and burned at a high temperature] to burn in your patio fire pit and make the ambiance even more welcoming and soothing for your guests.

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