When looking for the best lump charcoal for smoking, it can be more than a bit difficult to know where to start. If you have a smoker, you might be under the impression that any type of charcoal will do. This is not true.
Between the amount of time required, to the flavor, to the level in which it is cooked through, it is important that you aren’t using any but the best lump charcoal for grilling your meats and grilling your foods.
In this article, we will be going over the top 10 best lump charcoal brand as well as how they compare with one another. We will also be breaking down some key factors when looking for quality charcoal.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 What Does Charcoal Even Do?
- 0.2 What to Consider When Getting Charcoal
- 0.3 Which is Better? Lump Charcoal or Briquettes?
- 1 Top 10 Best Lump Charcoal for Smoking
- 1.1 1. Kingsford Match Light Charcoal
- 1.2 2. Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
- 1.3 3. Original Natural Charcoal Lump Charcoals
- 1.4 4. CHARBLOX Dragon Fire Bamboo Charcoal Logs
- 1.5 5. Pok Pok Thaan Thai Style Charcoal rockwood lump charcoal
- 1.6 6. Harder Charcoal Lump Charcoal frontier lump charcoal
- 1.7 7. Cowboy Lump Charcoal the best lump charcoal
- 1.8 8. Royal Oak Lump Charcoal
- 1.9 9. Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes
- 1.10 10. Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes
- 1.11 In Summary
- 1.12 FAQs
What Does Charcoal Even Do?
Charcoal is the primary method in which foods are cooked or smoked on a grill or with a smoker. As opposed to using wood, charcoal can cook for longer periods of time as well as result in foods having a smokier flavor added to them.
Charcoal, over other smoking methods, burns hotter faster, lasts longer, and creates less smoke when cooking. This makes it simply the superior method of cooking one’s food.
What to Consider When Getting Charcoal
When searching for the best type of charcoal for you and your smoker, there are a few things you must keep in mind.
While only somewhat considered by most, ensuring the proper temperature of your foods is vitally important to its end result. While being comfortable with the air vents on your smoker is important for regulating the heat, it is, overall, just a good practice to know how hot the charcoal you’re using can reach.
All charcoals are different. Charcoal Briquettes, for example, generally have a more consistent temperature when cooking, requiring less attention on your end. Other charcoals can reach high temperatures incredibly fast before immediately dropping to a more medium level.
A good rule of thumb is that the purer your charcoal is, the hotter it can burn.
When it comes to time, while you might believe that a smoker is like an oven or stove, nothing could be further from the truth. Not all charcoals are created equally, and this is most obviously seen in the amount of time it takes to smoke your meats. Charcoal Briquettes, for example, generally take longer to smoke than Hardwood Lump Charcoal.
Based on the type of and quality of charcoal you get, the cooking time can range between 20-30 minutes to several hours. As such, it is very important to keep this in mind, both when searching for charcoal as well as when cooking with it.
As with most things, the cheaper something is, the less pure it is as a consequence. This also is the case for the varying brands of smoking charcoal. While the more expensive brands will have virtually no additives involved in their makeup, those on the cheaper end will often have numerous different additives added to them to make up the difference. These often include various mineral sediments as well as lighter fluids. This generally will result in a longer wait time before you can begin cooking. Similarly, some people have reported their foods having a slightly “off” taste when compared to foods that were prepared with charcoal that was not treated with additives.
While none of these are reported to be particularly harmful to you, it is good to look into whatever type of charcoal you get and what additives are in it.
Which is Better? Lump Charcoal or Briquettes?
For those that have only just begun looking into the world of barbeque smoking, it may be a bit confusing to think that there is more than one type of charcoal available. For many, it was strongly believed that the only alternative to charcoal was firewood! (note: don’t ever try to smoke food using firewood)
In reality, there are several types of different charcoal available based on different types of smoking preferences. Of those, the main two that are most often used are Hardwood Lump Charcoal and Charcoal Briquettes.
Of the two, both have their own strengths and weaknesses and it is essential to know which is the best fit for your smoking needs.
In the barbeque world, it is generally held that Hardwood Lump Charcoal is the more advanced type of charcoal available, and rightly so. As the name implies, it is made from hardwood (wood from the Dicot Tree) and does not generally have any artificial additives or other ingredients in it. This results in your smoking process being cleaner while your foods have the stereotypical smoky flavor.
Lump Charcoal tends to have a longer burn life when compared to briquettes. This means that, while it is more expensive than briquette charcoal, you need fewer pieces per smoking session.
The downside to using lump charcoal is that, when compared to charcoal briquettes, lump charcoal isn’t very beginner-friendly. For those that aren’t fully comfortable using their smoker or its air vents, you are more likely to have food that is more than a bit scorched. For those that have smoked more than a couple of times, however, this can easily be mediated.
For those that wish for a longer and more steady temperature, Charcoal Briquettes are a great option. They are typically made from sawdust and burned wood, and may often contain other ingredients such as coal sediments. They are usually made into compact sizes to allow for easier placement on the smoker itself. This ultimately results in a long time in the smoker itself and a more maintained temperature with less fuss on your end.
Briquettes are also considerably cheaper than Hardwood Lump Charcoal, which, for many, is a definite advantage.
The drawback to using briquettes over lump charcoal is that, for those that do not want to spend hours waiting for their food to properly cook through, this may not be right for them. Charcoal Briquettes generally take a longer time to light and tend to create more ash when compared to lump charcoal. Similarly, while they are cheaper than lump coal, briquettes also have additional additives in them, such as lighter fluid.
Top 10 Best Lump Charcoal for Smoking
Now that you understand what makes one charcoal type better than another, let’s now get into the top 10 best charcoal for smoking and grilling your meats.
Arguably one of the best hardwood lump charcoal, Kingsford Match Light Charcoal, while a bit pricey, is able to create an incredibly smoky flavored meat while at a very fast speed. It is reported to light quite fast, potentially in only 10 minutes! Depending on your smoker or grill type, it can be used to cook either quickly or slowly while not requiring any lighter fluid for either.
The downside to this brand is that it is a bit expensive for the amount you get. For those that do a lot of barbeques or use their smoker weekly, a cheaper or larger alternative may be ideal. For everyone else, this is a great find.
If you’re looking for the best natural lump charcoal, Fogo checks off a lot of boxes. While a bit on the more expensive side, this charcoal is made from natural ingredients and is reported to light incredibly fast as well as deliver a very rich smoky flavor to foods cooked with it. It can be used for fast and slow cooking and does not require lighter fluid to get started.
The only real drawbacks to this charcoal are that it produces a fair amount of ash and the size of the charcoal pieces can be a bit difficult to insert for some grills and smokers. Outside of that, it’s certainly one of the best types of lump charcoal for smoking.
An excellent brand of charcoal, Original Natural Charcoal’s lump charcoal is, by many, considered to be the b&b lump charcoal, grilling, and cooking on the market. While we haven’t quite made up our minds yet on that official verdict, they certainly are one of the frontrunners. They are made with 100% hardwood and do not produce any sparks or smoke when cooking. They also leave only a minimum amount of ash.
What is most well-known about their charcoal, however, is the various wood blends that make it up. Made entirely of hardwood, there are traces of apple, oak, and cherry tree woods integrated into its body. This means that foods smoked with it are likely to have a hint of fruity flavor and sweetness added to them.
A wholly unique type of charcoal, CHARBLOX uses oxygenated bamboo for its charcoal rather than standard hardwood. While unorthodox, this method allows them to burn for upwards of 6 hours while burning hotter than regular lump charcoal.
While being a bit of overkill for grilling a steak or hamburger, it is excellent for slow cooking meals over the course of several hours, such as brisket or pork shoulder.
An excellent type of charcoal, Pok Pok is made from Thai-style Binchotan charcoal. This type essentially burns for much longer than standard lump charcoal at a steady heat and low smoke point. It produces consistent heat without a lot of ash.
It’s one drawback is that it isn’t recommended for those that need particularly high levels of heat. In reality, this is a healthier version of the standard briquette charcoal and should be used for things that require longer cooking periods at steady levels.
A great brand for many out there, Harder Charcoal has XL “restaurant-style” charcoal that is perfect for grilling and smoking. They have a unique style of wood that is used known as “the axe breaker” Quebracho Wood in South America.
This charcoal produces a steady heat for several hours and can be used in potentially multiple burning sessions if not burned all the way through. Foods cooked with this brand of charcoal are noted as having a very smoky flavor.
The downsides to this brand are that its sizes are somewhat too large for smaller smokers or grills and, while they do have a long burning life, there are others on this list that are slightly better in that category.
An excellent brand, Cowboy Lump Charcoal burns completely while leaving virtually no ash afterward. While it does produce some sparks, the charcoal is sourced through environmentally sustainable methods and can be lit without lighter fluid. The charcoal burns fairly long while also searing in the flavor into the meats, making them tastier than through other types of charcoal.
The only real downside to this brand is that it has fairly large pieces that may be a bit difficult to place in some grills or smokers. While in most instances, one can simply break them into smaller pieces, if you are someone that expects them to be a certain size, that may not always be the case.
Great charcoal for high heat, favorable foods, Royal Oak is certainly one of the best lump charcoal rating. It has no chemicals or additives and is made from 100% hardwood with trace blends of oak, hickory, walnut, and maple. More so than most other charcoal, this brand burns hot and cooks foods quite fast.
The downside to this brand is that it is not ideal for extended smoking or cooking. While perfect for short sessions, it does not last for an extended period of time.
Despite being a briquette, this brand is known for being able to burn quite easily and quite hot. It is quite inexpensive while not requiring additional methods like lighter fluid (again, something many briquettes need to get started). As a charcoal briquette, this brand retains its steady heat and easy handling while reaching temperatures much closer to that of lump charcoal.
Despite being a near-perfect balance between lump charcoal and briquettes, it is not without faults. Some have reported that its flames can reach quite high when initially started, which can be quite intimidating for those new to smoking. Similarly, as a briquette, some have reported it had an off taste and smell to the foods cooked with it.
Probably one of the best Briquette Charcoals available, Original Natural Charcoal is able to avoid many of the pitfalls that other briquettes suffer from. Its charcoal is made from premium charcoal briquettes and can light up quickly and without lighter fluid. It does not produce smoke or sparks while cooking and is reported to leave only a minimum of ash afterward.
The charcoal is reported to not have any fillers or additives in its makeup, meaning that it is free of the more “artificial” flavorings many have reported with other briquette charcoals.
The only downside would be its price. That said, as it is the best of the briquette charcoals and easily competes with the higher quality lump charcoals out there, it’s certainly worth checking out.
how to use lump charcoal
When it comes to smoking, regardless of experience in the field, the type and quality of the charcoal are vitally important to determine the quality of your food.
Of all the different types and brands out there, when it comes to the best of the west lump charcoal, the above-listed options are your best bet and will all result in an ultimately easier and more enjoyable experience than any other.
While they certainly can be great for parties or outdoor events, it’s important to always be careful when using charcoal, no matter the brand. Here are some commonly asked questions about how to safely and effectively use charcoal for an easy and hassle-free cooking experience.
“Can I Add Charcoal While Smoking?”
While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with adding charcoal while smoking, it is important to note that this will ultimately increase the overall time. If you do decide to add charcoal, it is advised that it be lit beforehand in order to avoid any potential disturbances or issues throughout the cooking process. It is also important that the lighter fluid be completely burned off before you begin cooking.
“Lump or Briquette; Which is better for Smoking?”
When it comes to the best charcoal for smoking, lump charcoal is always recommended. Compared to briquettes, lump charcoal burns both faster as well as cleaner and can more easily be controlled via air vents. This is because, of the two, lump charcoal is prepared from hardwood while briquette charcoal is prepared from sawdust and leftover burnt woods, taking them much longer to fully burn.
“How long will charcoal burn for while smoking?”
Depending on the quality, charcoal can typically last around roughly 2 hours before needing attention.
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