It’s summer! Summer means barbecues, and barbecues mean grills. And grills need fuel. Of the potential fuels for grills, charcoal is the easiest and safest for a prepper to store long-term. Add the fact that it’s cheap, lightweight, and regularly goes on sale in the summer, and we have a real prepper winner! And the cherry on top? Unlike propane and many other fuels, you can make your own charcoal if a disaster goes on for long enough, and charcoal is a much safer fuel to store.
However, since it is still a fuel, it’s important to never be careless about how and where you store it. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Choosing a container
Charcoal briquettes are made from sawdust and wood scraps. As such, they need to be dry to light. A moisture proof container with a tight lid is key.
To keep charcoal dry, you can use metal or plastic containers, but metal is generally recommended. It is fireproof and not as porous as plastic, which can allow some air and moisture in even when sealed. Since metal, unlike plastic, can rust out if left on a damp surface, it is important to elevate metal cans a few inches off the ground. One common method is putting several bricks underneath or a wooden pallet.
For truly long-term storage, you can use an airtight plastic bucket and seal it shut with caulk to keep the humidity out. For a metal container, use aluminum duct tape. To be extra-sure the charcoal is dry, toss in a handful of silica packs to absorb any stray moisture. Just know it will take a whole lot more of these desiccants than a five pound bag of flour does!
Choosing a storage spot
Store your charcoal out of the sunlight in an area that stays cool but not damp. If you have a basement that is either naturally dry or where you run a dehumidifier regularly, that’s a great choice.
Outdoor sheds can be a good place, but be sure the containers are well sealed, off the ground, and not near a window/direct sunlight. Make sure that the shed doesn’t get excessively hot, especially if there is a heat wave. We always have 40+ pounds of charcoal stored in the garage, and since the garage stays dry, the charcoal works just fine when it’s time to be used.
Using charcoal for cooking
Using charcoal for fires and cooking is one way to pick up an off-grid living skill. One tool you may want to invest in, to make this easier, is a charcoal chimney. The handy tool is simply a metal container that you fill with charcoal, light, and it quickly heats up the briquettes for use. It’s an inexpensive way to quickly heat up charcoal to a cooking temperature.
If you’re planning to use your charcoal for Dutch oven cooking, experiment with the number of briquettes you place in the chimney. You may not need to fill it completely in order to have enough hot fuel to cook a Dutch oven meal. This is my own personal favorite way to put charcoal to good use. We lay a bed of hot charcoal in a fire ring, place our Dutch oven over the coals, and then put several more coals on top of the covered oven. The heat sources from both above and below the food cooks it evenly. Best pot of chili I make all year long.
Once you know how to store charcoal and stock up when the prices are low, you’ll be ready for outdoor cooking as well as a long-term power outage.
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