How to properly shut down a grill

Whether you use charcoal or gas

Published August 13, 2022 1:30PM (EDT)

 (Julia Gartland / Food52)
(Julia Gartland / Food52)

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Summer might be halfway over, but I'm determined to make this the season I finally invest in a grill for my backyard. After chatting with plenty of pitmasters, barbecue enthusiasts, and professional chefs, it seems like a charcoal grill is the way to go. (While I love the ease that a gas grill offers, you just can't replicate that charred goodness a charcoal model can bring.) Still, I do have some hesitations about officially jumping on the charcoal bandwagon. How will I master that perfect char? Trial and error, I suppose. What about creating two cook zones? Looks like I'll need to be strategic about where I place my coals. And what about putting out my charcoal grill? Oh, right. Though it might seem like a small step to wrap up your grill session, it matters.

"When cooking with fire, it's very important that we're responsible for the fire from the moment we start it until it's fully extinguished," explains Christie Vanover, pitmaster and owner of Girls Can Grill. "If not, we run the risk of catching something nearby on fire."

Since I don't want to re-create the San Francisco Fire of 1851 in my neighborhood, I asked Vanover how to safely put out a charcoal grill and the tools I need to do it right. Turns out, it's a lot easier than you'd think! Whether you're itching to get a charcoal grill or want to make the most of your current setup, her tips below are here to help your next barbecue sizzle.

How to put out a charcoal grill with a cover

According to Vanover, putting out your backyard's charcoal grill can be as easy as closing all its vents. "This will shut off the oxygen and extinguish the fire," she explains. "The coals will eventually stop burning and will cool." Once the coals are cool, you'll want to scoop out the ash and discard it in your trash can. "If there are briquets that haven't burned all the way, you can actually reuse them for your next cookout," Vanover adds.

It's worth pointing out that this method does take several hours, and Vanover says you should only follow these steps if you're going to be in close proximity to the grill the entire time.

Tool to Use: Want to keep your hands safe and scorch-free as you close the vents? You'll need a pair of heat-resistant gloves, which are designed to keep your hands protected from the heat.  These RAPICCA BBQ Grill Gloves might look more functional than fashionable, but they go as high as your elbows and are designed to be slip-resistant and easy to clean.

How to put out a charcoal grill without a cover

Getting your grill on in a communal park or campsite? Their charcoal option might not have the same bells and whistles as your home grill, but it's still possible to put out this fire. Vanover says you'll want to put on your heat-resistant gloves, shovel your hot coals and transfer them to an aluminum trash can, and put a lid on it. "This will suffocate the fire. Place the can in an open space away from structures. Be careful; the trash can will remain hot for several hours."

Tool to Use: Since the trash can will be very hot for a few hours, it's important to find an empty container that can stand the heat. Behrens' trash can is made from galvanized steel, plus it's small enough to fit in the trunk of your car. Perfect for those impromptu campsite grills.

How to put out a gas grill  

This one is much easier than putting out a charcoal grill, but still just as necessary to do correctly. When you're done cooking your food, keep the grill on with the lid open, and set a 5 minute timer. When the timer goes off, it's time to clean your grill grate. Metal tongs and a ball of aluminum foil work perfectly fine. 

Now you can turn off your grill by turning all the knobs to the "off" position. You should hear an audible popping sound as the gas stops flowing into the grill grates and the flames should also disappear. Once that's done, turn off the gas tank. On top of the tank, there should be a small knob with arrows pointing to the "open" and "close" positions. Turn toward the "close" position, which should be clockwise (righty tighty, lefty loosey!). If you have a grill cover, wait until the grill is cool before covering. 

Regardless of what type of flame you're working with, putting out a grill takes time and patience. Before you b​​reak out the coals or turn on the gas, you'll want to plan your cooking from beginning to end. That way, you can walk away from your grill knowing that everything is calm, cool, and most importantly, extinguished.

Tool to Use: Extra-long barbecue tools come in clutch when you're cooking over a flame, but they're also handy for cleaning up too. Thers Wood-Handled Stainless Steel Grill Tools from Barebones Living will keep hands cool and far away from flames whether they're roaring at full-blast or winding down. 

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By Kelsey Mulvey

MORE FROM Kelsey Mulvey

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