How to Open a Bag of Charcoal

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I was at a cookout recently and watched as a friend assaulted a charcoal bag with a knife. It was a tense few minutes while we watched him stab, slice and cuss the bag into submission, ultimately (and messily) freeing the charcoal held within the paper straight jacket. I was tempted to stepping in, but he was in a rage so I just took another pull from my IPA and kept my distance. I realized in that moment that I have been taking the technique of how to open a charcoal bag for granted all of these years. It was time to educate the readers of grilling companion. I too used to reach for a sharp item when opening charcoal bags until someone (can’t recall who) taught me to slow down and figure out how string bags work. There actually is a method to the madness if you just slow down and assess the situation. I’ll help you do just that in this article.

Get Familiar with the String Charcoal Bag
If you look at both sides of the string at the top of the charcoal bag, you’ll see that there is a single string side:how-to-open-charcoal-bag

and a looped/multiple string side:


The single string is the string you are trying to liberate from the bag and it comes off really easily once you know the secret.

Find the Loop, Free the String
Follow that single string all the way to the end where it sticks out from the bag. You will notice that it loops around the looped string from the other side and sticks out to the side of the bag. Follow the single string all of the way to the end. Once you find the end, free the single string by untying it from the end of the loop. With the single string freed, you can now gently pull the single string to open the bag.

I recommend trying this technique while completely sober and out of reach from sharp instruments so you aren’t tempted to cheat. It will make a lot more sense to you with a calm mind. Once you figure out how to open a charcoal bag without a sharp edge, do me a favor and educate your friends. We don’t want anyone getting hurt and frankly, you are scaring the kids.


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