Should I Put Aluminum Foil On A Charcoal Grill? [Is It Safe]

We all enjoy showing off our skills with a good barbeque and entertaining some friends. And yet none of us ever enjoy the clean-up afterward. This includes the mess left on the grates and the charcoal pan underneath. So you may consider jumping on the bandwagon of lining your grill with aluminum foil. But should you put aluminum foil on a charcoal grill? Is it safe?

Covering your food in aluminum foil on a charcoal grill is perfectly safe. But though it might seem like a good idea to line your grill with foil, it is best not to do this. A grill is manufactured to ensure proper air and heat distribution; hindering that can be hazardous and can cause flare-ups.

should I put aluminum foil on a charcoal grill

There are two sides to this answer. First, though aluminum foil carries no risks or threats in itself and can be used safely with a charcoal grill, it all depends on how you want to use the aluminum foil and what you want to do with it. 

So let’s compare a few options and see how you can safely use aluminum foil on a charcoal grill.

Is It Safe To Use Aluminum Foil On A Charcoal Grill?

Aluminum foil is not hazardous to our health, despite what some social media posts might say. Our barbecues are not hot enough to melt the foil into our food, and the trace amounts of aluminum that might end up in our food will quickly be expelled from our bodies. 

Not even the shiny or dull sides make a difference. So aluminum foil is no risk to us, with or without a charcoal grill.

The problem comes with the question of how you want to use the aluminum foil. Though it could appear to be a good idea, it really isn’t worth the effort of lining the bottom of a charcoal grill with aluminum foil. 

Charcoal needs proper airflow to burn adequately and create enough heat to cook our steaks; lining your grill with aluminum foil could block this airflow, impeding your barbecue. 

As the meat juices drip to the bottom of the grill, there is also a greater risk of fire flare-ups, as the grease of the meat will not have a way to escape. 

You might say that is why we also cover the grates with aluminum foil. But this should also never be done; you are messing with the grill manufacturer’s design, and thus you do not leave enough room for heat and oxygen circulation.

If you ignore this advice and choose to cover your charcoal grill, that is your choice. After all, there are so many different grills that it might be perfectly safe to do on some of them (if you are willing to take that chance). 

The one thing that will not happen, which makes it safe to cover your grill to some extent, is that aluminum foil will only start to melt at scorching temperatures of 1,220 0F and up, so nothing that a regular charcoal grill can achieve.

What Is The Purpose Of Aluminum Foil On A Charcoal Grill?

Using aluminum foil on a charcoal grill to make the clean-up of the grill easier is a popular life hack. We are always looking for tips and tricks to make our lives more efficient, and the “aluminum foil lining for your grill” trick seems logical. 

But it is incredibly reckless to put yourself in harm’s way just to save time and effort. In addition, combining temperatures over 400 degrees Fahrenheit and strong acidic marinades could cause some aluminum to leak into your food. 

Though these aluminum levels are so slight that they won’t be harmful, it is better to avoid this altogether and use aluminum foil more safely. 

How Can You Safely Use Aluminum Foil On A Charcoal Grill?

There are three ways to use aluminum foil on a charcoal grill that is generally considered safe. The first is to make individual foil packages to wrap your meat before grilling. Or you can place a piece of aluminum foil in the center of the grates and only barbecue there. 

One other way to safely use aluminum foil is actually to use it to clean your grates after barbeques.

Aluminum Foil Packets

This is an excellent alternative to lining the charcoal grill since it is safer and achieves the same goal of making clean-up easier. This method is also efficient since the grill’s bottom will not be covered in grease as it usually would.

For an individual meat packet, it is good to prepare a 12 by 18-inch strip of aluminum foil, though this size will depend on the size of your steak. (Note that this probably won’t work for T-bone steak since the bone will pierce the foil.) 

Place your steak centered on the foil strip and add any seasoning, sauce, and other things like some veggies if you wish.

Bring the two shorter sides of the aluminum foil towards one another and fold them over twice. When done, tuck in the sides securely to avoid any of the juices leaking out of the packet. Keeping the fluids in will result in a tender and juicy piece of steak, though you should not expect the smoky taste you would get if you were to grill it directly on the grates.

Using Aluminum Foil To Clean A Grate

There are easy and effective ways to use aluminum foil to clean a charcoal grill before or after a barbeque. Take a generous amount of aluminum foil, crumple it up into a ball, and use the tongs you use for the barbeque to clamp this makeshift aluminum ball.

If you choose to do this before starting your barbeque, you should first begin by heating the coals. As soon as the coals are lit, place your grates back onto the grill and let them warm up a bit. 

Then simply rub the aluminum foil ball over the grates until they are clean.

If you notice some aluminum foil residue on the grates, then you can brush that off with a clean barbeque brush or if you do not have a brush, simply use an onion to clear off the foil particles if there are any.

This method is even more effective if you are finished barbequing for the day. Follow the exact instructions as you would before a barbeque, but now it is easier because the grates are already warm from the barbeque.

Do this directly after you have eaten, as the grill will still be warm enough to get rid of the food residue but cool enough for you to scrub thoroughly. Then, scrape away at the food particles with the aluminum foil ball. 

If some aluminum residue sticks to the grates, that is not a problem. The only thing to worry about at this stage is that you have to do a good job cleaning up the grill.

For those aluminum particles that may get stuck to the grates, leave them until the charcoal grill has cooled down completely. When it is time for the final clean-up, like throwing away the used-up charcoal and ash, you can take a damp cloth and just wipe the aluminum particles away.

Final Word

Now you understand that aluminum foil poses no health risks if you use it with your charcoal grill. However, it could be bad for your grill if you misuse it.

So never use aluminum foil in a way that could limit airflow or obstruct vents. But on the other hand, using aluminum foil correctly could make any barbecue a pleasurable experience that requires minimal clean-up afterward.

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