An Experts View: Lump Charcoal Or Briquettes

Written in 2024
by Adam

    People turn into crazy zealots when it comes to cooking and talking about barbeques.

    One of the most common topics that always comes under debate is whether to use lump charcoal or briquettes

    We’ve used experts opinions to weigh up the positives and negatives of cooking with lump charcoal v charcoal briquettes.

    If you're new to this briquette vs lump charcoal debate, don't worry, we are gonna run you through the fuel sources.

    Read on to learn more.


    What’s the deal with lump charcoal?

    Lump charcoal is made through the process of slow-burning wood without oxygen until it sucks out all the natural chemicals, sap and moisture.

    We are then left with less harmful charcoal lumps with lots of good qualities, it's little more than carbon, leaves less ash, and burns hotter and faster than its counterpart.

    It's also filler and additive-free, making it one of the cleanest ways to barbeque.

    Because lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than briquettes, you have to be especially careful with temperature control.


    Lump Charcoal Pros

    • Contains no additives (all natural)
    • Easier temperature adjustment
    • A lot less ash involved
    • Burns brighter and hotter

    Lump Charcoal Cons

    • Bags contain different sizes of charcoal that make it harder to grill.
    • More difficult to grill using the snake method, but possible if you trim it down to briquette size chunks
    • More expensive than briquettes
    • Burns faster


    Overview of Charcoal Briquettes

    Briquettes are the product of sawdust and leftover woods that are burnt down in the same away as lump charcoal. Charcoal briquettes involve additives, however, which lump charcoal does not.

    The additives main purpose is to help hold the materials together so that you can produce easier to stack roundish-square sizes of blocks.

    Briquettes do burn for longer than lump charcoal but not as hot.

    Sometimes they are made with lighter fluids or other chemicals to make starting them easier, but that means you’re left tasting the additives.

    Some briquette users have claimed to smell the added chemicals and lighter fluids, or even tasted it in lighter foods like chicken.

    However, this shouldn’t persuade you from not briquettes as long as you use reputable brands like these all-natural charcoal briquettes.


    Briquette Pro’s

    • Maintains a steady temperature for a longer time.
    • Cheaper than lump charcoal
    • Burns for longer

    Briquette Con’s

    • Large ash production
    • Produces a chemical smell
    • Takes longer to light


    What do the Experts Say - Lump Charcoal or Briquettes?

    Experts with an opinion on the matter all seem to understand that each choice comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

    Let's have a look at what the experts say and help you make an informed decision.

    “Lump charcoal is superior amongst its users because of its purity – it contains no lighter fluids like instant-light briquettes or additives like regular ones.

    The reason why many people go for charcoal lump is that it reflects on their desire to have less additives or chemicals taste in their cooking and their food.

    I see lump charcoal as an extension of the organic movement”

    -Meathead Goldwyn on the great charcoal debate

    Meathead Goldwyn then carries on to clarify that the effects of briquette’s chemicals and other lighter fluids are hugely overblown.

    He even goes as far to say “There is no sufficient evidence that the additives in briquettes cause much impact on the food one is cooking” - Meathead Goldwyn on the great debate, lump charcoal or briquettes.

    The largest producer of charcoal in the United States, Kingsford, rarely discuss what is actually in their charcoal.

    They do tell us on their website that they use cornstarch, borax, limestone and coal.

    The executive producer of the National Barbeque Association, Jeff Allen, says that  “I have seen a lot of experts who prefer the lump charcoal over briquettes, simply because charcoal can have a regional, cultural aspect.”

    Allen tells us that “If you use lump charcoal from pine - it will burn fast and hot, and is awesome for searing a steak.

    But you can use charcoal made from wood with a slightly higher density - like hickory or oak - for a slightly slower burn.”


    Not everyone is as convinced, however…

    Although charcoal and briquettes can be awesome for grilling a variety of food, they also come with drawbacks, and here is what the experts have to say:

    Matt Duckor, and why he’s overusing Lump Hardwood Charcoal.


    “I went out and bought a bag of lump hardwood charcoal, brought it home, and loaded up my chimney starter with the irregularly shaped shards of petrified-looking wood.

    I immediately noticed just how hot the hardwood stuff got and, before I knew it, how quickly it burned out. Things get especially tricky if you are aiming to use lump hardwood charcoal for the kind of grilling session that can stretch over a span of several hours.

    Every time I used it I ended up frustrated and confused, feeling all alone in this brave, overheated new grilling world.”

    Whilst Matt does make a few good points, we do believe you can control the heat with care and practise.

    Jeff Allen from the National Barbeque Association does make the strong point that “charcoal generates more smoke than briquettes, which could be a problem with strict rules like apartments, retirement communities or even condos.”

    The Best Charcoal Brands and Where to Buy Them

    I’m sure that there are lots of people out there now wondering where to get the best charcoal brands for a successful barbeque.

    In truth, there are plenty of brands out there to choose from, but the market can be tricky and confusing.

    If you’re really obsessed over it, the people at The Naked Wiz have a really good, and incredibly detailed charcoal database for you to make use of.

    If spending hours reading a charcoal database isn't particularly your cup of tea, then get straight into it with natural premium hardwood lump charcoal from Amazon.

    We’ve been able to experience both good and bad lump charcoal from the market.

    Over the years, this has allowed us to spend many hours testing and researching our favourite brands including conversations with professional colliers, barbeque experts and charcoal obsessives, allowing us to conclude hat Fogo’s are consistent with its shape, size and quality.

    On top of this, they last longer and produce less ash than the other brands that I had tested.


    Resources to help you decide whether to use lump charcoal or briquettes. 

    Grilling Smackdown: Lump Charcoal vs. Briquettes — In-depth guide to choosing lump charcoal or briquettes.

    Charcoal fuel types – Weber blog helps you determine which type of charcoal to use.

    The Great Charcoal Debate: Briquettes Or Lumps? – An article that provides relevant information on the great charcoal debate: Briquettes or Lumps?

    Lesson 8: Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal – An episode by Fred Thompson that deep dives into the debate.

    This brings us to the end of the article regarding the great debate between lump charcoal and briquettes, I hope this information was useful to you and It’d be much appreciated to leave a comment below to any important information you think I left out.


    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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