Can You Use Coal in a Fire Pit? Is Coal Safe For Fire Pits?

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While wood and charcoal are more common options, many choose alternative fuels like coal.

This might sound like a good idea, but is it safe?

No, coal is not a good choice for outdoor fire pits.

Traditional coal is not a good fuel for fire pits because when it burns it releases many small particles, such as sulfur and other pollutants. It is better to use wood or smokeless briquettes instead of coal in a fire pit.

Can You Use Coal in a Fire Pit?

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It’s important to remember that coal and charcoal are not the same. So when selecting fuel to use in your pit, it’s beneficial to know the differences.

The key differences between coal and charcoal include…


Coal is a naturally occurring fossil fuel, while charcoal is made by processing organic matter.


Coal comprises various minerals, including carbon, sulfur, and other elements. Charcoal is almost pure carbon.


Coal is mined from the earth, while charcoal is made through pyrolysis.


Coal is primarily used as an energy source to generate electricity and heat, while charcoal is used primarily for cooking and grilling.

Environmental impact:

Coal has a significantly larger carbon footprint than charcoal due to the energy-intensive process of mining and transportation and the release of carbon dioxide during the burning process.

Charcoal has a smaller carbon footprint due to its production process, which captures and sequesters carbon dioxide.

If you’re still interested in giving coal a try, it’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.

Pros of Using Coal in a Fire Pit

Coal is a popular fuel choice for many people in cooking, heating, and even powering certain machinery.

The following are some advantages of using coal in a fire pit…

Fuel efficiency:

Coal burns longer than other types of fuel, such as wood, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

High heat output:

Coal produces a higher heat output than other fuels, making it ideal for use in coal-burning stoves or heating.

Low smoke:

Unlike wood, high-quality coal produces little smoke when burned.

Cons of Using Coal in a Fire Pit

Despite the many benefits of coal, there are also some cons to using this fuel…

Heat damage:

Coal produces intense heat during combustion, hot enough to harm even a well-constructed fire pit mash, which is of thick steel.

Health concerns:

Coal used in an unventilated fire pit for heating or cooking can release harmful substances, including carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde, into the air.


Coal can be messy and leave a black residue on your hands and clothing. It can leave behind coal dust and ash you must clean up after each use. Burning coal results in significantly more waste than wood fires.

Hard ignition:

It takes more effort to light a coal fire than a wood fire, and various applications, like stoves, compared to fire pits, burn the fuel at varying temperatures.


If you live in a region with strict fire regulations, using coal in a fire pit may not be legal.

Air quality:

Coal produces more smoke and pollutants than wood, which can be a concern if you use your fire pit in an area with strict air quality regulations.

If you are determined to use coal, there are a few things you might try to minimize the negative impacts.

First, use a proper ventilation system to help dissipate the smoke and fumes. Also, instead of a fire pit, think about using a coal-burning stove or fireplace to cut down on air pollution.

Can You Cook Over Coal?

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Depending on the type of coal you use, cooking over a fire pit can be a way to add a delicious smoky flavor to your food.

You’ll want to use charcoal briquettes for cooking over an open flame or grill. When people talk about cooking over hot coals, they are talking about cooking over a bed of hot charcoal briquettes, not coal from mines.

Cooking over hot coals from charcoal briquettes is a great way to cook and can be a fun outdoor cooking activity.

Here are the steps to cooking over hot coals…

  1. Start by lighting a charcoal fire in a grill or fire pit. If using a grill, open the vents to allow oxygen to flow and help the coals burn. If using a fire pit, you can use a chimney starter to light the coals.
  2. Once the coals have been lit, let them burn until they are covered in white ash. This usually takes about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, spread the hot coals out in an even layer. This will help ensure that the food cooks evenly.
  4. Place a grate or cooking grid over the coals. Using a grate, oil it lightly to prevent the food from sticking.
  5. Place the food on the grate or cooking grid and cook according to your recipe. Use a thermometer to check the food is cooked to your desired level of doneness.
  6. When the food is cooked to your liking, remove it from the grate and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

While cooking with a coal fire pit is possible, it’s not advisable. Better to get a small charcoal grill or fire pit grill instead.

Cooking over hot coals will release carbon monoxide into the air around your grill, which could impair your ability to breathe properly and potentially cause headaches or other symptoms like dizziness and fatigue.

Coal For Fire Pit

Coal is a solid fossil fuel primarily composed of carbon and hydrocarbons.

It is often used as a fuel source for electricity generation, but you can also use it as a source of heat and light. 

If you are considering using coal in your fire pit, it is important to understand the pros and cons of this fuel source. Stick with wood or other alternative fuels to reduce the risk of air pollution and make sure you are using your fire pit safely and responsibly.

It’s OK to burn coal in some wood stoves, and some outdoor fireplaces with chimneys could work, but best not to use it in the fire pit.


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