How Much Charcoal to Use in Grill and in Offset Smoker

Deciding how much charcoal to use in Grill and in offset smokers depends on several factors, including the type of wood you plan to use, the desired temperature, and the size of the food you’re cooking. It’s essential to start with the proper amount of charcoal so that your meat or vegetables don’t burn on the outside while remaining raw in the center. A good rule of thumb when deciding how much charcoal to use in an offset smoker is two pounds of charcoal briquettes per hour plus another pound to be safe.

How much charcoal to use in the grill and in the offset smoker

So you’ve purchased your first smoker and are ready to start smoking your meat and vegetables! Now comes the fun part of figuring out exactly how much charcoal to use in your offset smoker based on the size of the meat or vegetable you want to cook. You don’t want to make your food taste like it was cooked over charcoal, but if you don’t have enough heat, your food won’t cook properly either. Here are some guidelines to get you started!

Additional Resources:

Visit our post on the “Best Offset Smoker” for additional details on how to select the best offset smoker for your requirements. It offers insightful commentary and suggestions to support your decision-making. We Also reviewed budget-friendly Offset smokers under 500. Have a read and go for the Best option that fulfills your needs and requirements.

Why does cooking time affect the amount of charcoal?

Cooking time affects how much charcoal you need, and it’s a significant factor to consider when using an offset smoker. When cooking at higher temperatures (such as 225-250°F) for more extended periods, your amount of charcoal should be smaller—around 11⁄2 bags. When cooking at lower temperatures (such as 175°F) for shorter periods, your amount of charcoal should be more significant—typically about two bags. This is because high heat means more burning, which requires less fuel; low heat means less burning, which requires more fuel. 

How does temperature affect how much charcoal I use?

Temperature also plays a role in how much charcoal you need. The hotter your fire is, the less time it takes to burn through all that fuel. For example, if you have 11⁄2 bags of charcoal and cook at 250°F, it might take two hours to burn through everything. But if you cook at 300°F, it might only take one hour to burn through everything! If you want to track how much charcoal you use while cooking with your offset smoker, try putting a thermometer inside to see how fast or slow your coals are burning. 

That way, you can gauge how much charcoal you need before your next smoke session. Remember that other factors are involved here, too, such as wind speed and how well-sealed your smoker is. It’s essential to experiment on your own to know precisely how much charcoal you need based on what type of food you’re smoking and how hot/cold it is outside.

Calculate your charcoal requirements

To calculate how much charcoal you use in an offset smoker for your next cook, first, figure out your grill’s total cooking area and subtract that from how many pounds of meat you plan on cooking. Now divide that number by 30 (for every 30 minutes of cooking time), and that’s how many pounds of lump charcoal you’ll need. For a basic recipe like pulled pork or beef brisket, plan on a pound per hour (so if you are planning on 10 lbs. of meat, then you will need 10 lbs. of lump). If you have an 18-inch WSM with a 22-inch grate height, it has a total cooking area of about 700 square inches. 

If you are going to smoke two pork butts for 12 hours at 225°F (I know, crazy long!), then that’s 18 x 2 = 36 lb. x 4 = 144 lb., which is divided by 30 = 5 lb. x 2 = 10 lb. of lump charcoal. This means you’ll need to add some wood chunks as well, so we recommend adding 1/2 lb. of wood chunks per hour. That would suggest starting with 7 1/2 lbs. of charcoal (5 + 1/2) and adding another 3 1/2 lbs.

Which type of coal should you buy?

Charcoal is a slow-burning fuel. And unless you want your smoke to take forever and ever, you’ll need to know how many briquettes or chunks of lump you should use for your cooking process. It depends on your smoker type, but it’s safe to say that most charcoal smokers will require about 10-20 briquettes per hour, depending on how hot they are and how heavily they are loaded with food. Some smokers may even need more than 20 briquettes per hour if left unattended for long periods. 

If you’re using a charcoal chimney starter, it can be hard to tell how many coals you’ve used until after they’ve been lit and burning. So please keep track of how many coals you put in at first so that you don’t burn through too much while waiting for them to light up! As for lump charcoal, it all depends on how much you plan to cook and how fast you plan to cook it. Lump burns hotter than briquettes, which means it can also burn out more quickly as well—so again, keeping an eye on how many pieces of wood or lumps you start with will help ensure your meal doesn’t get overcooked before it’s ready!

How do you light your coals?

Once you’ve opened your bag, it’s time to get cooking! Light your coals using a chimney starter or other heat source. You’ll want two types of coals: hot and cool. Your hot coals will be used first and will cook your meat quickly. Once they begin to die down, you can add on more of your fantastic coal layer. This way, you don’t burn all of them at once. The general rule is that you need about 25 briquettes per hour for smoking. If you have an extra-large grill, double that number. Don’t worry about having too many coals; just let them burn out alone. If there are too few, add another batch of charcoal to keep up with demand. 

Preparing your meat: It doesn’t matter what type of meat you decide to smoke—you should always start by preparing it properly. Smoking low and slow allows you to break down tough cuts of meats like brisket or pork shoulder while keeping them tender and moist. Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes before adding them to your coals. This will give them time to soak up moisture and ensure they light easily when you put them into your fire pit. While some people choose to marinate their meat before smoking, others say it isn’t necessary because of how long you cook it.

Have a Consistent Way to Measure

One of the keys to getting a consistent cook with your charcoal grill is knowing how many briquettes you should start with. Use a systematic approach, measure 3-5 pieces of lump wood coal per person, and place them evenly over your coals. Then, when you put on another round, do it again until you reach 10-12 briquettes total. Then, add more as needed throughout cooking to maintain 225°F temperature. Be sure not to open your grill too often, or you’ll lose heat. Keep an eye on your thermometer and adjust accordingly—it may take some practice! Briquette Size: 

Another factor to consider is how large your charcoal briquettes are. If they are more significant than average, you’ll need fewer than if they are smaller than average size. A good rule of thumb is to count out 15-20 small briquettes for every 12 medium ones. Lump Charcoal vs. Briquettes: Lump charcoal can vary quite a bit in density depending on where it was made and how long ago it was harvested, so there isn’t a set number of lumps used per person like there is with briquettes.

How to set up your charcoal

So here is a how-to of a basic charcoal setup. When building your fire, you want to ensure an adequate amount of coals below and on top of your grill grate and evenly distributed to have even heat. Some people like to do a lot of one-sided heating with their grills because it makes their cooking more accessible, but I don’t recommend doing it with a kettle grill. 

Because if you only put coals on one side, when you flip whatever it is you’re cooking over, there will be a significant temperature difference between what was above and what was below, which will cause your food to either burn or not cook properly. Once you start your charcoal grill, there are several ways to maintain an even temperature throughout. The first way would be to add more hot coals depending on how fast your food cooks or how hot it gets.

How do you Know When Your Smoker Needs More Charcoal?

It’s always a good idea to have little extra coal on hand if you’re using your charcoal grill. But how do you know when it is time for more? If your fire has completely gone out and there is no flame on any of the coals, add five more briquettes and wait until they are covered with ash before grilling. If your fire is only partially extinguished, try adding one or two briquettes at a time until it gets going again. 

You can also tell how hot your fire is by holding your hand about 6 inches above it; if you can keep it there for 5 seconds without feeling any heat, you need more coals. Another way to gauge how hot your fire is is by placing a metal grate directly over the coals and counting how many seconds it takes for them to burn through: 10 seconds means you should add ten more briquettes, 20 seconds means 20 more, etc. Also, remember that cooking times will vary depending on how much food you place on your grill. For example, if you are smoking meat that requires long hours of cooking (like ribs), be sure not to run out of fuel!

How Long Does Charcoal Burn In A Smoker

The short answer: it all depends on how hot you’re cooking and how intense your fire is. Generally, though, one chimney starter full of briquettes is enough fuel for 4 hours worth of smoke in a standard 20-Weber Smokey Mountain cooker. If you’re going overnight, add another half-chimney. A full chimney will probably last 8-12 hours in a big bullet smoker (like a Brinkmann or Lang) on moderate heat. 

For example, if you were smoking at 225 degrees with a few chunks of pecan wood thrown on every hour or so, that’d be plenty of fuel. More than that, and you risk running out. You can also go by weight instead of time—1 pound per hour—but that’s less precise because different brands burn differently. Use more charcoal if you have a scorching fire; less if you don’t want to run out before your meat finishes. Charcoal burns faster when it’s dry, so ensure there are no wet spots in your pile before lighting it. It’ll burn longer and more evenly too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Typically, five ignited coals will raise your temperature to 225–250°F. On one side of the coal grate, evenly distribute unlit coals.

If you use too much charcoal, you will squander expensive fuel. If you don’t use enough, your grill won’t heat up sufficiently, or you won’t be able to keep the temperature up long enough to finish cooking.

The likelihood of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and brain damage can increase. Hydrocarbons, a form of volatile organic compound (VOC), soot, made of particles that can be breathed deeply into the lungs, and other respiratory ailments are also produced by smoke from charcoal or wood.


The charcoal you need is based on a few factors: The size of your smoker, how hot you need your smoker to get, and what kind of fuel you’re using. A good rule of thumb for beginners: start with about 15 briquettes worth of charcoal, then add five every 30 minutes or so. If a fire gets too hot, remove a couple of briquettes at a time until it cools down. You may also want to consider adding wood chunks to help control temperature. You can even wrap them in foil if they don’t have handles and are challenging to move around inside your grill. To learn more about how much charcoal you should use in an offset smoker, read more here! 

We hope this article on how much charcoal to use in an offset smoker will be helpful for you! Here’s one last useful tip: Don’t forget to save any leftover charcoal. You can store it in a Ziploc bag, but ensure that you leave room for the air at the top so that oxygen is still getting into your charcoal (you shouldn’t smell any smoke).

You can also use Wood Pellets in an Offset smoker. Read How to use it Properly (Complete Guide)

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