Can You Burn Charcoal in a Wood Stove? (The Ultimate Guide)

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If you are out camping in the frosty winter, a wood stove is an ideal option for you.

It’s incredibly efficient to help you cook and stay warm in the tent.

You should opt for it if you want to get more done by spending less.

But, the sources of fuel are numerous.

Some people use wood, and some use charcoal to light the fire in a wood stove.

However, they often show concern about using charcoal for the heating process.

Is charcoal safe to use? Can you burn charcoal in a wood stove?

Such questions keep popping up when going on a camping adventure.

After all, safety comes first for any journey.

So this article will answer all your queries about burning charcoal in a wood stove.  

Let’s dive in to understand the ideal usage of charcoal in a wood stove.

Is Charcoal a Good Option?

Charcoal is a combustible manufactured product made up of carbon-based substances.

It has been actively used for many years.

It is prepared by partially burning the wood at a high temperature without oxygen.

However, people mainly use it for outdoor cooking, grilling, and camping.

The reason is that charcoal is readily available at a low cost.

It is then easy to go and grab the packaged material.

So, its effectiveness and convenience is the valid reason for the popularity of briquettes.  

In general, it’s good to use charcoal to ignite the fire.

But, have you thought of burning it in a wood stove?

Well, it’s NOT a wise choice!

Here are some of the properties of charcoal that make it inappropriate for burning in a wood stove.

  • High reactivity toward carbon dioxide.
  • It is highly porous.
  • It produces toxic fire.
  • It produces a high level of carbon monoxide.
  • It attracts toxins.

Hence, it’s not suitable to burn charcoal in a wood stove.

It has dangerous effects and can pose severe health threats too.

Risks of Using Charcoal in a Wood Stove

First of all, charcoal is not the original wood.

It burns less efficiently than any hardwood in a wood stove.

Moreover, it produces a high concentration of carbon monoxide upon combustion.

Some of the significant risks of burning Charcoal in a wood stove are listed below.

  • Inefficient heat production.
  • Ashes and risk of clogging.
  • Health risks such as asphyxiation, nausea, and headaches.
  • Increased risk of a chimney fire.

1. Inefficient

Charcoal doesn’t burn efficiently as wood.

The reason lies in its physical and chemical structure.

It is highly porous with a wide spread of pores over the entire surface.

It contrasts with the original dry wood in many ways.

The wood contains tiny empty pockets of air.

These spaces make it perfect for the burning process.

But charcoal lacks air space.

Due to this reason, it burns slower while producing less heat and more smoke.

Hence, the consumption of fuel increases, and the output heat decreases.

It’s like you are just burning your money and not getting the desired result.

2. Ashes and Machinery Clogging

Once it gets ignited, the charcoal produces a massive amount of ashes.

The production of ashes increases double-fold with each burning.

These ashes clog the machinery of the wood stove.

Afterward, a lack of ventilation blocks the air passage in the stove pipe.

The heat keeps accumulating with higher temperatures, and it results in:

  • Over-heated parts.
  • Risk of a chimney fire.
  • A build-up of creosote.

So while burning charcoal in a wood stove, it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with ashes and clogged machinery.

3. Health Risks

The burning of charcoal takes place in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment.

Hence, such combustion produces a rich concentration of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is one of the most dangerous gas for human health.

You would indeed feel the risk after knowing the silent-destructive features of this gas.

  • Colorless and odorless.
  • Causes suffocation when inhaled.
  • Reduces oxygen in the human body.
  • Highly poisonous.
  • Causes air pollution.

So, it’s better to use other suitable alternatives like wood for burning in a wood stove.

Precautionary Steps To Burn Charcoal in a Wood Stove

Let’s admit it. Burning charcoal in a wood stove has its benefits, like being easy to use and cheap.

But, the risks associated with it are too high to ignore.

So, if you still want to burn charcoal in a wood stove, take the following 4 precautionary measures to ensure safety.

1. Watch Out for the Perfect Design of the Wood Stove

The thing which is going to help you with burning charcoal is the design of the wood stove.

If you are planning to go on an expedition or camping, choose a portable tent stove designed to burn both coal and wood.

Keenly watch out for the stove’s air control system, firebox structure, and combustion chamber.

Never prefer a regular burner as it cannot handle excessive heat.

Make sure that your stove is designed in a perfect way to handle the heat.

2. Remove All the Ashes After Every Burning Session

Ashes are like a trap. Once they gather in the wood stove, it can cause clogging.

So, after every burning session, take out all the ashes from the stove.

It will help maintain a smooth airflow and reduce the risk of clogging.

3. Have a Proper Ventilation System

The heat can’t escape from the shack when you don’t have a ventilation system.

It results in hotter heat and malfunctioning of the machine.

So, always have an exhaust or a ventilation channel to let the excess air out.

Keep a window or door open in the room for ventilation purposes.

If you follow such steps, charcoal burning in a wood stove won’t produce many toxic results.

4. Have a Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector

Using a wood stove and not keeping a carbon monoxide detector is the worst-case scenario!

If you are going out camping, you must install a battery-operated CO detector in your wood stove.

It will help you control the pressure and take the necessary steps beforehand.

Procedure To Burn Charcoal in a Wood Stove

Here is the exact method to give your wood stove a try.      

  1. First of all, make sure your stove is in proper working order. Clean it deeply before using it.
  2. Put a layer of charcoal at the bottom line of the stove. Spread it evenly throughout the surface.
  3. Light the charcoal with the help of a match stick/lighter.
  4. It’s better to put twigs on top of the charcoal layer. Let it catch the heat first, and then add more fuel.
  5. Now, wait for the charcoal to turn hot and grey.
  6. Once the charcoal is hot enough, let it burn.
  7. Please keep checking the stove to make sure it is burning evenly.

Camping Ideas To Use a Wood Stove While Burning Charcoal

Who doesn’t love camping?

The best way to make your camping experience better is by using a wood stove.

When you gear up for your camping trip, remember the following exciting ideas to make your journey enjoyable.

Cook Delicious Food

Use your wood stove to try new food recipes. Charcoal is one of the best fuels for cooking delicious meals right under your camp tent.

You can try making a breakfast burrito, pizza bagels, cast iron skillet hash browns, campfire packs, and much more.

All you need is a good heat source.

Enjoy Warmth and Safety

It will give you a safe and warm environment to sleep in.

Charcoal lets off light smoke, enough to provide warmth during the night.

Something like a campfire is not ideal for sleeping, but a wood stove with charcoal burning will provide ventilation and warmth to your tent.

Amusement for Kids

Are you going camping with your kids?

Set up a wood stove and let your children try their hands at it.

It will keep them engaged and entertained throughout the camping duration.

And more than that, you can teach them the basics of handling one safely.

Pros of Burning Charcoal in a Wood Stove for Camping

Camping is nothing without a good fire. Hence, a wood stove with suitable fuel is a reliable option.

Many apparent benefits allow people to use charcoal, such as:

  • Cheaper rate than wood.
  • Cleaner as it doesn’t produce many sparks.
  • Less messy.
  • Easier to dispose of.

But, you have to look at the other side of the cons too.

Cons To Burn Charcoal in a Wood Stove

Charcoal burns at much higher temperatures.

But, the wood stove doesn’t have raised gates to bear the heat.

This hotter heat may damage the parts of the appliance and result in the following:

  • Mass production of ashes.
  • Difficult to light up.
  • Awful smell.

Hardwood is a good option for camping as it poses no threat to the wood stove and your health.

What Not To Burn in a Wood Burning Stove?

You may have thought if you can burn everything in a wood stove.

The answer is a BIG NO!

A wood stove is designed to process specific fuel only. So, you can’t just burn anything in it.

Here is a list of a few things you should avoid burning in a wood stove.

  • Plastic
  • Wet wood
  • Lumber
  • Cardboards
  • Dry lint
  • Fire starters
  • Christmas tree leaves

Can You Burn Charcoal in a Fireplace?

No, no, and no.

Fuel like coal or charcoal should never be used in a wood-burning fireplace.

Charcoal is not a fuel-burning material for a fireplace, as it releases carbon monoxide and other toxic gases that can be very dangerous.

It is best to stick with firewood that is properly aged and dried before burning in a fireplace.

Otherwise, you can use a gas-burning fireplace.


A wood stove is for burning wood. Its capabilities are limited to handling wood only. So, it’s never safer to burn charcoal in a wood stove.  

But if you do so, be careful about things like draft, heat, and ashes.

Some stove companies allow burning charcoal. Moreover, it can result in some irritating and toxic outcomes.

Hence, it’s better to choose an alternative like hardwood for better heat.

If you are looking to find a suitable manufacturer for your tent stoves or cookware, Contact Us now.

We are always here to help like camping pros.

Have a safe heating!  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why can’t you burn wood in a charcoal stove?

The answer is simple. It’s not designed for burning wood. It’s for coal, especially.

The burning will start, but it will be so fast that it will be too difficult to control and could damage the stove.

Make your life easy and safe by burning coal in a coal stove and wood in a wood stove.

Can you sleep with a wood-burning stove on overnight?

Yes! In fact, it’s a great way to keep your tent warm during the night.

Wood stoves provide ventilation and light smoke that is enough to provide warmth for a comfortable and safe sleep.

Much safer than extinguishing the flames manually!

Leo Lee
Leo Lee
Hi, I'm Leo, founder of OutdoorSAC. I have been in the camping stove and cookware industry for more than 10 years. As a professional supplier with a passionate team, I hope the information we provide can help you choose the right solution for your needs.

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