Outdoor Cooking with Charcoal: step by step instructions, guidelines and general info

Reserve a location in DSL

Only locations indicated on this CAMPUS MAP are allowed. If you want to grill in a different DSL location please contact DSL- EHS Program Manager at aursella@mit.edu or 617-253-4257 for approval.

Campus Activity Complex 

  1. Reserve a location on the EMS CAC Virtual Scheduling System. If you do not have a scheduling account, please contact CAC at 617-253-3913 or campus-activities@mit.edu.
  2. Once you submit your application you will receive an email confirming that the space is tentatively reserved. You will also be notified if your event needs to be registered in the Atlas event planning system (event registration info).
  3. A CAC manager will then contact you directly to discuss your event and confirm the reservation.


Each dorm has a different process to reserve BBQ pits, follow the one for your dorm (if you have questions contact your Area Director or House Manager).


No locations available.


Suggested location:

  • At least 10 feet (25 ft. if possible) away from any building, tent, combustible materials, or air intake.
  • Not under any type of overhang such as: tent, canopy, umbrella, trees with overhanging branches, breezeway, etc.
  • Avoid a windy spot because sparks can ignite nearby paper products, dry grass, leaves, pine needles, shrubs, etc.

Cooking guidelines

Starting the grill

  • Using a charcoal chimney is the preferred method to start a charcoal fire - without the use of lighter fluid.
  • If you are using lighter fluid, use only charcoal lighter fluid, no other flammable fluids are allowed to start the fire.
  • Use lighter fluid with caution. Follow directions and use only the minimum amount necessary. Avoid breathing vapors and skin contact. Burning lighter fluid and briquettes produce carbon monoxide, avoid inhaling smoke.
  • Once finished spraying the fluid cap the container and move it away from the grilling area. 
  • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
  • Stand back when lighting the grill.

During cooking

Be patient, it takes a while to get a charcoal grill heated up and ready for cooking, but once you get it hot enough, there isn’t much maintenance required. But here is a very important precautions to take:

  • Don’t add more fluid to an open flame, it is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you're holding it.

After cooking

  • Allow coals to burn out completely for at least 48 hours or soak them completely in water before putting them in a non-combustible preferably metal container.
  • To dispose the charcoal ashes make sure they are cool before you remove them. Wrap the ashes in foil and put them in an empty non-combustible container.
  • When you’re cleaning up your charcoal grill, never put the ashes into a paper bag or garbage can, as this could start a fire. You’ll want to empty everything from the grill into a non-combustible container.


If I have to register my charcoal BBQ event on Atlas and it asks me to upload a safety plan, do I need to write one?

  • No, just follow the above guidelines, on Atlas please attach this document.

If I plan to roast a large quantity of meat and I want to use a smoker or larger grill, do I need to receive safety approval?

  • Yes, most probably your event needs to be reviewed, please contact DSL-EHS Program Manager at aursella@mit.edu or 617-253-4257 

What if I am hiring a caterer that uses charcoal to cook, what do I need to do?

  • Please contact DSL-EHS Program Manager at aursella@mit.edu or 617-253-4257 to further discuss your event.