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Can You Use Charcoal In A Fire Pit?

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charcoal in fire pit

Having a backyard fire pit is a cozy way to get together with family or friends. Fire pits can be anything from a hole dug in the ground to a sturdier piece of equipment made of metal, brick, or some other hard material. But, users often like to experiment with what can be burned in their pit, and many wonder about charcoal’s effectiveness in one.

Yes, you can use charcoal in a fire pit. Charcoal is wood that’s been burned in an oxygen-deprived area, but it is still able to burn more, create heat, and is a great option if you plan to cook in your fire pit.

There are other ways of fueling your fire pit, depending on the pit you have. Let’s look at the different ways to fuel one.

Fueling A Fire Pit With Charcoal

Charcoal is created through burning wood with little oxygen around. Firepit enthusiasts enjoy using the substance for the following reasons:

  • Easily available and purchased in any store.
  • Easily lighted
  • Keeps high temperature
  • No smoky odor is emitted, so if used for grilling, the smoky flavor won’t overpower the food.

Choosing the Right Type of Charcoal

There are different charcoal types available.

  • Pressed charcoal. This charcoal is the regular one that you can buy from any grocery store. They mix small pieces of wood and other materials like seeds, and the addition of chemical binders and igniters helps it ignite faster and stay lit longer.
  • Pressed charcoal with smoking woods. Smoking woods, like hickory, are incorporated into the charcoal to give it the smoked flavor when you grill. Both kinds of pressed charcoal have a “match light” version.
  • Lump charcoal is made from pure hardwood firewood that has been blackened and scorched. Heat is more intense and being chemical-free gives food a better flavor.

Benefits of Having A Charcoal Fire Pit

Why should you get a fire pit? Aesthetics are not the only advantage to having one.

Heat

Imagine a cold winter night and you want to stay in the backyard with the family. Crowding around the firepit and staying warm together will make the bonding time with your family fun.

Cooking

Roasting marshmallows, grilling hotdogs and steaks, are just a few things you can cook over the firepit. You just need a few accessories to cook like a grill plate, pots, pans, sticks, and more.

Place to Gather Around

Hosting a small gathering? The fire pit will be the focal point as it adds ambiance to the evening as your guests gather around chatting and sipping hot drinks. Guests will remember the memorable, cozy evening they had around the firepit.

Increases Home Value

According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal is an important consideration for home buyers. Out of 13 outdoor projects that appealed to homebuyers, having a fire feature ranked eighth, and the likelihood that outside projects added value to a home ranked the fire feature 11th out of 13 projects.

Also included in the report of those who had completed adding a fire feature, 83% said that they preferred staying home, and 66% said they enjoyed staying home more.

REALTOR® rank of projects’ appeal to buyers
(highest to lowest)
REALTOR® rank of projects’ likely added value to
home for resale (highest to lowest)
1. Standard Lawn Care Service1. Landscape Maintenance
2. Landscape Maintenance2. Overall Landscape Upgrade
3. Overall Landscape Upgrade3. Standard Lawn Care Service
4. Tree Care4. New Patio
5. New Wood Deck5. New Wood Deck
6. New Patio6. Tree Care
7. Landscape Lighting7. Landscape Lighting
8. Fire Feature8. Statement Landscape
9. Irrigation System Installation9. Irrigation System Installation
10. Statement Landscape10. Outdoor Kitchen
11. Outdoor Kitchen11. Fire Feature
12. New Pool12. Water Features
13. Water Features13. New Pool

Shopping For a Charcoal Fire Pit

Charcoal Fire Pits come in different sizes and features. Your budget is the foremost consideration as fire pits, depending on the material and features, can cost anywhere from $100 to over a thousand dollars.

Size

A charcoal fire pit is usually lighter than its gas counterpart. Consider one that’s portable enough for you to move around depending on the area that may need extra warmth.

To Cook or Not to Cook

Is the firepit only for warmth or will you be cooking with it? If so, shop around for those with a grilling feature.

Safety Feature

It’s advisable that the charcoal fire pit has a spark screen included. This will keep any sparks from the fire safely contained.

How to Light A Charcoal Fire Pit

Lighting the charcoal in your fire pit is a lot easier now than just rubbing two pieces of wood or stones together to make a fire. Lighting a match and some kindling and then fanning it to make sure the fire keeps burning is almost just as inconvenient. 

Here are a few more popular methods of lighting your fire pit.

Lighter Fluid

Easily found in grocery stores, lighter fluids are an easy, if albeit messy, way to start your charcoal fire. Just squirt an appropriate amount of liquid and light with a long match. Wait till there are glowing embers and not just a fire.

Only use the recommended lighter fuel and not kerosene or gasoline. Make sure to NEVER squirt lighter fluid on an already lit charcoal fire pit.

Match Lighter

Some types of charcoal already have lighter fluid incorporated. Only use matches to light this charcoal, however, it may need some help in getting the embers to glow. A small amount of lighter fluid may be necessary or some kindling like a newspaper.

Electric Charcoal Starter

This requires an electrical outlet to be nearby and needs to be plugged in to start the fire. The starter has a metal loop that’s placed on top of the charcoal, then covered completely with more charcoal. It may take approximately 8 – 12 minutes for the charcoal to heat. Once the embers are glowing, the starter may be removed.

Charcoal Chimney Starter

This looks like a pitcher but is made of aluminized steel. It can be purchased online and works by placing newspaper and charcoal into the chimney starter. Light the newspaper in several places and wait for the charcoal to start heating up. Once the embers glow, just dump the burning charcoal into the charcoal grate.

Find Another Purpose for Your Charcoal Ash

Don’t just dispose of the charcoal or wood ashes. Instead, there’s many uses for charcoal and wood ash consider some of these uses:

  • Acts as a deterrent to snails and slugs when applied after rain.
  • Placing small bits of charcoal in a can with holes can help reduce moisture from closets, under the sink, etc.
  • Clean silverware by dipping a damp washcloth into some ashes.
  • Instead of salt, wood ash can be used to de-ice a sidewalk.

Charcoal Fire Pit Precautions

No matter what kind of fire pit you have, there are still some safety precautions to follow.

  • Never leave your fire pit unattended.
  • Build your fire pit a minimum of ten feet away from any structure or any low-hanging trees.
  • Check the weather forecast and especially make sure it isn’t windy before you light up.
  • Windy or not, it’s better to screen your fire pit. Less chances of flying embers starting a fire, especially during the summer.
  • Make sure to properly douse the fire. Ashes can sometimes flare up again.
  • Respecting your neighbors goes a long way in keeping a good relationship with them. Ensure the smoke isn’t blowing heavily into their home, especially if someone is suffering from COPD or asthma.
  • Check with your city authorities to make sure that you’re following rules, especially when using natural gas.
  • Make sure that children aren’t left alone playing by the fire pit.
  • Position your lounge chairs, if they’re movable, in a way that makes it easier for people to move around without tripping or getting too close to the fire.

In Conclusion

Fire pits are popular not only during the cold months, but even during summer. Whether it’s charcoal or gas, a fire pit gives the family a place to relax and gather. Ensuring that you’re following safety tips when using the fire pit will increase the pleasure of having one. Check out our article that where we go over what items you can use to put at the bottom of your fire pit.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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