The Common Mistake To Avoid At All Costs When Using A Charcoal Grill

chicken on charcoal grill
chicken on charcoal grill - Grandriver/Getty Images

Charcoal grills imbue foods with a rich, smoky flavor, but unfortunately, they tend to be finicky. They can have trouble staying lit, which is why the tips for grilling with charcoal include arranging your charcoal properly, and putting a paper towel soaked in oil under your briquettes. And of course, your secret weapon when lighting up charcoal is a chimney grill starter.

One problem with there being so much attention on how to light a charcoal grill is that not nearly enough gets paid to how to put out the flame. Charcoal can be tricky in both scenarios, and proper procedure matters just as much at the end of the cooking process as it does at the beginning. And there's one thing you absolutely do not want to do to extinguish a charcoal grill, and that's to pour water over it. Not only is this a potential safety hazard -- hot steam is no joke -- but it can also damage your grill itself.

Read more: The Unexpected Meat You Need To Avoid Grilling At All Costs

Cold Water On A Hot Grill Is Bad For Your Health And The Health Of Your Grill

steam coming off pan
steam coming off pan - Okrugin Evgeniy/Shutterstock

Pouring water on charcoal briquettes is the worst thing you can do to try and extinguish your grill. When water hits a still-burning material like charcoal, it creates a huge burst of steam. This is a legitimate safety hazard, as steam burns can be extremely dangerous. Burns from liquid and steam make up 35% of all burn injuries treated at U.S burn centers, and can do damage to both to your skin and your lungs if you inhale the steam.

Even if you're careful to avoid the steam, there is a risk that pouring water over charcoal will damage your grill itself. Heat causes metal to slightly expand, while cooling makes it contract. But when a hot metal suddenly gets hit with cold liquid, this process happens very rapidly, resulting in a reaction called thermal shock which causes the material under stress to crack or warp. Much like the fatal mistake when caring for a cast iron pan, thermal shock causes the same issues for a metal grill.

There Are Better Ways To Extinguish A Charcoal Grill

embers on a charcoal grill
embers on a charcoal grill - Juefraphoto/Getty Images

Extinguishing a gas grill is simple; you just turn the burners off and let it cool down naturally. Charcoal is a little trickier, but the principle actually remains the same in that you want to give it time. The best way to cool a charcoal grill is simply to close the lid along with all vents and dampers and cut off its oxygen supply, because without oxygen, a fire can't keep burning. This can take a while to completely cool down (up to two full days), but it's the safest and easiest way.

The key, as with a lot of cooking, is to have some patience. It may be tempting to take shortcuts to extinguish your charcoal, but much like you shouldn't empty bacon grease down the drain, proper procedure after grilling is going to lead to improved longevity for your grill. Don't ruin your grill -- and possibly put yourself in the hospital -- through cutting corners.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal