Tips & Techniques

How to Properly Shut Down a Grill

Whether you use charcoal or gas.

August  3, 2022
Photo by Julia Gartland

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.

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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. 


This post was rewritten in August 2022 after interviewing a pitmaster on how to close a grill.

What's your favorite dish to throw on the grill? Let us know in the comments! 

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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Kelsey Mulvey

Written by: Kelsey Mulvey

Kelsey Mulvey is a New York-born, west coast-based freelance journalist. When she's not writing for publications like Food Network, Apartment Therapy, and more, she's probably trying a new recipe in the kitchen or eating tacos.


rich August 11, 2022
Since I only have a gas grill I'll let others critique the charcoal grill shutdown. I shutdown my gas grill by turning the tank off first, not the knobs on the grill. The reason for this is any gas left in the tubing between the tank and the burners can congeal. By turning the tank off first any gas in the tubing burns out.
ron August 11, 2022
With a gas grill, it is better to leave the cleaning until the next use.

The charred bits of food actually help extend the life of the grates (especially if they are cast iron).
malia23 May 23, 2021
Waw! its yummy
Chris June 25, 2018
i know i'm late to the party, but i have to take issue with the tips given for charcoal/wood grills.

1. do not wet your coals. sure, this will eventually put the fire out but you'll also wet up the ash in the bottom of the grill, which, when it dries, is akin to cement (also why you should cover or put your grill away).

2. again, no water for fire, use sand instead. if you have any grease built up in the bottom of your grill and it catches fire, water is the worst thing you could use. a bucket of sand will snuff the fire out pretty much instantly, without all the residue that extinguishers leave. extinguisher is the last resort.

3. i don't actively try to save coals because i don't want my cars and my garage to go boom. i put my grill away after use so i want to ensure that the fire is completely out beforehand. i take off the top and open the bottom vents to let the fire burn itself out, and guess what, i'm usually left with a few coals for next time.
Smaug July 23, 2015
If you have a charcoal grill with top and bottom vents, such as a Weber, closing the vents is all that is necessary. Spraying water on the coals will, if it does anything, leave you with wet leftover coals, a pain in the nerts.
sexyLAMBCHOPx July 3, 2013
I own a Weber gas grill and appreciate the information.
smslaw July 3, 2013
You need to turn off the gas tank before turning the knobs to off. Otherwise, a safety system ("bypass") will prevent the next attempt to light the grill or will prevent it from reaching a high temperature. Similarly, when lighting a gas grille, turn on the tank, wait a few seconds, then the knob and light.
William W. July 3, 2013
Thanks for the tip smslaw. During my research I found quite a bit of information about the bypass valve. It seems that the bypass valve only restricts the gas flow if it detects a leak. This would happen if you turned off the knobs on your grill, and waited some time before turning off the tank. If you turn your tank off right away after your knobs are in the off position, it should not have an impact on the bypass valve.
HalfPint July 3, 2013
Not so with my Weber. You have to turn the knobs to the off position first, then shut off the valve to the tank. We've learned, the hard way, that shutting off the tank first triggers some sort of shut-off valve on the grill. You might have a different design for your gas grill, but I know for sure with Weber, grill valves first then the tank.
smslaw July 3, 2013
I have a Weber as well. As I understand the issue, shutting off the knob allows a bit of gas to stay in the gas line. When you later go to light the grille, it may go in to bypass as it detects the bit of gas in the line and perceives a possible leak. The result is the grille doesn't heat fully.
HalfPint July 3, 2013
For our Genesis Silver B, if you shut the tank off first, you would not be able to light the grill afterward. It's an oldy-but-goody model and we've had it for over 10 years.
Dan S. July 5, 2013
SMSF July 22, 2015
Yes, I just checked my Weber user manual. Indeed, confirming that to turn off the grill, "push each burner control knob in and turn it clockwise to the off position. Turn gas supply off at the source." So...burners off, then close the tank valve.