Why Charcoal Briquette Ash Shouldn't Be Composted

Charcoal grilling is a perfect pastime that combines a few enjoyable elements: fire, food, and company. Though (as of 2015) 60% of grills sold in the US are gas, according to National Geographic, there's a special flair and flavor that only charcoal can bring to your BBQ. But don't just take it from us — even acclaimed grillmaster Bobby Flay is a charcoal fan.

For lighting up their charcoal grill, many people living in the U.S. turn to briquettes, which aren't made purely from charcoal. Serious Eats explains this is due in part to the fact that they're cheaper, readily available, and burn evenly than pure lump charcoal. If you're wondering just what goes into the charcoal-adjacent product, popular charcoal brand Kingsford sells briquettes made from charcoal, coal, binders, sodium nitrate, and sawdust (via Bon Appétit).

But don't let this ingredient list spook you. Charcoal briquettes' additives don't mean they shouldn't be used — just think twice before trying to compost them.

Chemical additives make charcoal briquettes unfit to compost

Among BBQ enthusiasts, the lump vs. briquette charcoal debate rages. While many purists swear by lump, NPR explains that experts agree briquettes' additives have little effect on the food's flavor. Their consistent shape comes with an advantage — users can sear more evenly. And since briquettes burn uniformly, only dusty ash will remain at the conclusion if you allow them to fully burn out.

All these factors contribute to easy disposal: simply wrap the fully cooled ashes in aluminum foil and then dispose of the bundle in an outdoor trashcan that goes to a landfill, per Napa Recycling. While throwing the ash into your compost or garden may seem tempting, even if entirely cool it can harm the environment. SF Gate says the lighter fluid and other chemicals, not the coals themselves, are what make briquettes unfit to compost. So next time you're firing up, feel free to choose the coals of your preference, but be sure to discard them accordingly.