In the world of grilling, there are two sides: gas and charcoal. While gas grills have their advantages, at least in terms of heat distribution and more distinct meat flavor, charcoal, particularly lump charcoal, definitely has its own features to offer and is the reason behind this best lump charcoal buyers guide.
Typically when cooking with lump charcoal, you’re going to see a deeper, darker color on anything you are grilling. You are also going to pick up some of the smoky flavor produced by the lump charcoal, particular on thicker cuts of meat. This adds an entirely new taste profile to your meat and can be pretty impressive.
- 1 What is Lump Charcoal?
- 2 What is good lump charcoal?
- 3 Why you should use lump charcoal
- 4 Best Lump Charcoal
- 4.1 Fogo Super Premium Lump Charcoal
- 4.2 Royal Oak Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
- 4.3 Jealous Devil All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
- 4.4 Original Natural Charcoal
- 4.5 Rockwood Lump Charcoal
- 4.6 Cowboy Lump Charcoal
- 4.7 B&B Better Burning Lump Charcoal
- 4.8 Kamado Joe Big Block Natural Lump Hardwood Charcoal
- 4.9 Big Green Egg Lump Charcoal
- 5 Different lump charcoal woods
- 6 Is lump charcoal bad for the environment?
- 7 What Are the Disadvantages of Charcoal?
- 8 Lump charcoal vs Briquettes
- 9 How to store lump charcoal
- 10 Final Thoughts
What is Lump Charcoal?
Lump charcoal is the product of burning wood in the absence of oxygen. This creates a product which is almost pure carbon. All of the sap, moisture, and other elements are burned out of the wood until you’re left with pure, organic lump charcoal.
It is the process of creating lump charcoal that makes it such a pure fuel for grilling. You are left to cook over something that is a product of a natural chemical reaction. There are three types of lump charcoal available to consumers: saw mill scraps, kiln dried lumber scraps, and natural wood, such as tree limbs.
What is good lump charcoal?
The absolute best lump charcoal is one that is 100 percent pure hardwood, with no additives. This would mean using natural wood, either tree limbs or saw mill scraps. You want something that also has large pieces in the bag, without an excess of dust or small broken slabs.
Other qualities to look for in a good the best lump charcoal are a lack of excessive sparking when the charcoal is lit, and no foreign objects in the bag (this is a rare occurrence, but it does occasionally happen).
A good lump charcoal also comes from sustainable sources. It’s good to find a company that uses sustainable practices to produce their lump charcoal. Typically, most American companies will use these methods for creating their lump charcoal.
Another quality of really great lump charcoal is that it will come from a single source of wood. This is due to the fact that different woods have different burning times and temperatures, and can sometimes produce uneven heat and inconsistent flavoring. It can be hard to find sometimes, but there are companies in the US that will produce and sell single wood lump charcoals. However, these products can become unavailable at times due to a lack of natural resources.
Why you should use lump charcoal
Lump charcoal is the fuel of choice among most barbecue purists because of its various benefits. It burns hotter, it lights faster, and it produces very little ash as a byproduct.
On top of that, lump charcoal is also very responsive to oxygen. This means that if your grill has adjustable vents, you can give yourself greater temperature control. If you’re searing or if you’re cooking low and slow for a few hours, lump charcoal can handle the job.
In addition to these positive qualities, the best lump charcoal also produces a more subtle smoky flavor than just smoking with raw wood. You’ll end up with a more nuanced and balanced piece of meat.
Best Lump Charcoal
Lump charcoal is frequently mentioned in grilling videos, but what is it and why are so many Pitmasters choosing it now? To put it simply, lump charcoal is actual hardwood that has been burned at very low oxygen rates to produce charcoal. It is significantly dissimilar to machine-produced briquette charcoal, which is formed with wood, additives, and processing techniques. Compared to briquettes, lump charcoal is more natural, offers more heat, but is also more expensive and burns more quickly. Let’s take a look at some of the best brands of lump charcoal.
Fogo Super Premium Lump Charcoal
Fogo is a blend of Central American hardwoods, handpicked to provide the largest possible pieces. Its scent is moderately strong but provides a pleasant smoky flavor to whatever you’re cooking. Fogo burns at a high temperature and produces heat for a long time. This makes it an ideal lump charcoal for searing or slow smoking. Fogo also produces very little ash.
The majority of BBQ lovers will suggest natural hardwood if asked to name their preferred type of charcoal. It is one of the cleanest and most dependable varieties of lump charcoal available and is frequently manufactured from oak and Maplewood.
High-quality BBQ fuel is linked with the Fogo brand. They always employ genuine hardwood from Central America, a component that has allowed them to generate dependable, potent fuel for years.
The size of Fogo’s lump charcoal ensures a longer burn time and greater temperatures. This lump wood fuel possesses all the qualities needed to produce great charcoal.
Their all-purpose lump charcoal is available in big pieces, so even a small amount of coal will burn for a long time and at a high temperature. As a matter of fact, they guarantee that at least 80% of the coal you receive in any bag will be at least 4 inches in size.
These larger coals aid in good ventilation for temperature control and offer a larger surface area to burn. Due to its high cooking temperature, Fogo fuel is also more versatile because it can be used in Kamado grills, which require high heat levels.
The natural hardwood composition of Fogo’s coals imparts a lovely smoky flavor to dishes. This alone demonstrates why you should always choose real hardwood lump charcoal over briquettes with additives.
Because of its naturally smoky flavor, it pairs incredibly well with typical BBQ meats, such as brisket or hamburgers. The charcoal can also be paired with more delicate foods like fish and vegetables because it has a much more natural aroma and flavor.
It should be noted that this is a noteworthy accomplishment. You’d be excused for assuming that the smoke produced by these coals would dominate white meat or plants given the high temperatures at which they burn. Thankfully, this is not the case.
In addition to being simple and quick to light, this lump charcoal can withstand high temperatures. Therefore, no fumbling with lighter fluid or electric starters. They may be thrown into your charcoal chimney in bulk, and you’ll be ready to go in no time. See my instructions for using a charcoal chimney.
Fogo’s charcoal meets the bill well because natural hardwood lump charcoal is widely known for maintaining its smoky scents for hours on end. Each coal is huge, therefore long heating durations are guaranteed.
Since Fogo has pledged to only produce its charcoal from trees that have already died, it has a lower environmental impact than other coal fuels.
Royal Oak Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Royal Oak has several different types of lump charcoal, with some of them originating from South America. However, this American blend is made from oak, hickory, maple, and walnut woods.
Royal Oak uses easily renewable woods, which is a plus in terms of environmental impact. The size of the wood chips in each bag is relatively even, and it typically has little dust or splinters. It is also easy to light and burns for a long time. Like the Fogo, Royal Oak lump charcoal also has minimal ash production.
The oak, hickory, and maple used to make Royal Oak’s all-American, responsibly sourced natural hardwood is free of any additions or chemicals. You may start cooking in around 15 minutes after lighting these lump charcoals.
The coals of Royal Oak stay hot for several hours, which makes it perfect for leisurely smoking. They also produce an astonishingly minimal quantity of ash, so you won’t have to clean out your smoker’s ash drawer as frequently. By using Royal Oak, which is offered in 8-pound and 15-pound bags, you can keep your smoker clean and cut down on the number of times you’ll need to switch out the coals.
It has no additives or chemicals and is created from renewable oak, hickory, and maple. Basically everything you could possibly want from genuine hardwood.
These coals fire up very quickly and only need 15 to 20 minutes to attain a powerful cooking temperature. Also, the coals are perfect for smoking because they remain hot for hours.
Jealous Devil All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal is unique in that it is produced from a Paraguayan hardwood tree called the Quebracho Blanco. Quebracho loosely translates to axe-breaker, a name given to the wood due to its high density. That density is what gives Jealous Devil an edge above some other south American lump charcoals.
Jealous Devil lights easily and can burn for an extended period of time. It can also reach temperatures up to 1170F. Like the Fogo brand, Jealous Devil also contains very little dust or foreign objects in the bag. Its scent is different from most American hardwoods and might take some getting used to, but it is a great choice for grilling.
The Jealous Devil is particularly ideal for grilling because it has a highly distinctive almost-burnt aroma.
The Quebrancho Blanco tree provides the fuel for these coals. This tree gives the coals an exceptional density, which in turn gives the food you grill an amazing smokey flavor.
The coals have a maximum temperature of 1170°F, which is practically high. For BBQ grill mainstays like steaks and burgers, this gives it an amazing sear. Due to its density, it has the ability to burn for a long time at high temperatures.
The majority of the coal bag’s contents are medium-sized pieces, although a few giant coal particles do contribute to its composition. This could have turned me off if it were any other brand, but these Jealous Devils are so dense and powerful that it has no effect on performance at all.
Jealous Devil is also rightfully proud of their charcoal bags. These bags are different from the thin paper that we’re all used to and are resealable, waterproof, dustproof, and UV-resistant.
It is good to have the means to store Jealous Devil charcoal effectively because you won’t need as much of it for each cooking session.
Jealous Devil charcoal is the absolute best fit for charcoal grilling because of its extended burning times and intense flames. This is complemented with lovely smoky scents, a composition free of chemicals, and very little ash left over.
Original Natural Charcoal
Original Natural Charcoal is made from 100% natural hardwood and can be lit quickly with just a couple of sheets of paper. It produces no smoke, no sparks, and very little ash, unlike other lump charcoals that have a strong chemical smell, is difficult to light or burn, and have oversized, useless chunks. This means that you can set up your BBQ in as little as ten minutes, serve grilled dishes that are bursting with flavor and leave your family and friends in awe of your grilling prowess.
Ideal for beef, poultry, game birds, and pork, this 100% natural hardwood blend of apple, cherry, and oak imparts a sweet, toasty, and fruity flavor without turning the meat black.
No borax, chemicals or additives – Bid adieu to barbecues with a strong, unpleasant aftertaste and a gasoline aroma. With Original Natural Charcoal, you can enjoy exquisite barbecues that maintain the meat’s flavor and juiciness while also emitting the soft, sweet aroma of hardwood.
Designated “Chef Grade” lump charcoal for pitmasters and barbecue enthusiasts – I promise that your barbecue can compete with dishes served in restaurants and upscale diners, whether you’re cooking a lavish feast for your loved ones or competing against the top pitmasters in the world. By spending many hours refining the best charcoal product, the makers of Original Natural Charcoal have already done the legwork for you, allowing you to create mouthwatering grilled dishes that your family will adore.
Rockwood Lump Charcoal
Rockwood Lump Charcoal comes entirely from Missouri and is comprised of hickory, oak, maple, and pecan woods. This particular blend of wood produces a much milder smoke that won’t overpower the flavor of your meats.
Though it is slightly harder to light than some of the other charcoals on this list, Rockwood lump charcoal tends to burn for a very long time. It also produces very little ash, making it an ideal wood for longer, slower smoking. However, it can reach temperatures of 900F, which also makes it a great choice for high heat searing.
For those who are concerned about sustainability, Rockwood all-natural hardwood charcoal is a great choice. To begin with, it is composed entirely of hardwood leftover from the milling of timber, specifically Missouri oak, hickory, maple, and pecan. Also, the bag it arrives in is completely recyclable and safe for landfills.
The flavor and aroma of genuine charcoal are deep and smokey. I appreciated that it burns hot and cleanly, producing just sporadic tiny flakes of ash.
Although Rockwood is appropriate for any charcoal barbecue, ceramic-style grills like the Kamado Joe benefit most from its use.
The inconsistent quality is the only issue. While some reviewers were pleased with their purchase, several complained that they only received small chunks of charcoal in their bags. I have to say the bags I purchased were all of great quality.
If other reviewers are to be believed, such disparities in quality are disheartening given that Rockwood is one of the more expensive charcoal brands.
Cowboy Lump Charcoal
The earliest kind of cooking that humans have ever used is grilling over an open flame. Food was cooked over burning wood embers on the western frontier and was known for its substantial flavor and alluring aroma. Cowboy cuisine originated over those customary fires. Cowboy charcoal, a mixture of oak, hickory, and maple hardwoods, carries on the heritage. The meals’ flavor and moisture are swiftly sealed in by the intense heat, which also gives off a characteristic charcoal flavor. Cowboy charcoal is an all-natural charcoal product that cooks more effectively than briquettes and burns more cleanly. You’ll cook more quickly and use less charcoal.
Cowboy lump charcoal is a favorite among chefs for two reasons: it produces less ash and fragrant smoke. Cowboy gives a nice mild flavor to your meals without creating a lot of mess, unlike many other charcoal choices.
On barrel grills, kettle barbecues, and ceramic-style charcoal grills, you can utilize Cowboy lump charcoal. You could therefore conclude that this is one of the more adaptable charcoals available.
Although it is expensive, you do get high-quality charcoal for that money. Most of the material in my bags was in the form of medium-sized chunks, and there was barely any dust.
The only drawback of using Cowboy charcoal is that it could burn too hot and quickly for some foods. It’s not perfect for slow cooking, as several reviewers claim they had difficulties keeping a medium temperature. I didn’t have these issues, but I do use quality, well-insulated grills.
B&B Better Burning Lump Charcoal
B&B has been the most reliable brand of lump charcoal I’ve purchased over the years (closely followed by Jealous Devil). B&B is by far the most cost-effective brand I frequently purchase in terms of price per pound.
I also like that when I look into the B&B lump charcoal bag, I see whole tree limbs as opposed to scraps or ineligible pieces of wood. Also, I’ve never come across a piece of wood that seemed “strange” or out of place.
Unlike Cowboy Lump Charcoal, B&B Charcoal Oak Lump Charcoal is filled with the flavor of oak and is perfect for lengthy burns without the need for additional charcoal in the form of bag after bag due to the density of the hardwood used in its production.
The only flavor you’ll taste in B&B’s charcoal will come from the wood itself because there are no additives used in the charcoal-producing process, making it as environmentally friendly as possible.
Kamado Joe Big Block Natural Lump Hardwood Charcoal
This particular blend of hardwood lump charcoal is similar to the Jealous Devil, in that it comes from a blend of South American ‘axebreaker’ hardwoods. These dense woods not only burn longer and hotter, but they also allow you to reuse this brand of lump charcoal up to three times. This can also account for the extra large size of each piece of charcoal.
The large size of the lump charcoal in the Big Block blend means it can burn up to 18 hours. Combined with the reusability of this particular charcoal, that means you can get quite a bit of mileage out of this blend. Even after multiple uses, this lump charcoal will still deliver great results, whether you’re searing or slow smoking on your Kamado.
You may have heard me sing Kamado Joe’s praises in my evaluation of the top kamado grills, and you’ll be glad to know that their charcoal is just as good as their ceramic grills.
This all-natural blend is derived from hardwood trees from Argentina that is so renowned for being dense that the locals call them “Axe Breakers.”
The resulting charcoal burns for a longer period of time and can generate the high temperatures needed to sear a steak properly. Also, the larger bits of charcoal in the Kamado Joe bags burn more slowly and last longer than regular lump charcoal.
The Argentinian hardwood imparts a subtle but discernible smokey flavor to the food being cooked over it, much like the Jealous Devil charcoal does. It doesn’t overshadow, but it does give your typical BBQ rub’s flavor profile a little something extra.
Big Green Egg Lump Charcoal
This blend of oak and hickory contains no additives and is the ideal choice for cooking with the Kamado Big Green Egg. This brand of lump charcoal lights easily and burns evenly. The BGE brand of lump charcoal also has a very mild smoky scent, making it ideal for more delicate foods like fish or chicken.
The best lump wood for the distinctive Big Green Egg models comes from the company that makes them, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. This natural coal made from oak and hickory burns incredibly hot and leaves little ash behind, making it a clean fuel in every meaning of the word.
It goes above and beyond by using only genuine American oak, staying true to the all-natural components that make up the wood, and making sure it doesn’t contain any fillers or chemicals. It is a green fuel that outperforms other charcoal on this list in terms of sustainability.
The coal chunks are harder to light and take longer to achieve the desired cooking temperature because they contain no chemicals at all. Nonetheless, this is more than a justifiable exchange for the cost of having a strong, robust supply of fuel.
Due to its composition, it also gives meat a lovely smoky flavor without leaving any traces of a chemical aftertaste. A flawless chunk of charcoal.
Different lump charcoal woods
There are a variety of different woods which go into the production of the best lump charcoal, each with their own characteristics. These are just some of the woods available:
Apple – Applewood is a milder lump charcoal, producing a sweeter smoke that is the perfect accent for pork ribs and fish. Usually, there are some unburned pieces in pure apple wood lump charcoal to help enhance the sweet, smoky flavor.
Birch – You typically use Birchwood for cold-smoking fish. Since birch is a softer wood, it burns faster than hardwood lump charcoal, so it’s best to use larger pieces. Birch must also be fully carbonized, as unburned birch can produce an acrid and unpleasant smoke.
Cherry – Like applewood, cherry wood produces a very sweet smoke, which makes it great for low and slow smoking.
Hickory – This is probably the type of wood that most people are familiar with when it comes to smoking. A hickory lump charcoal produces a very strong smoky flavor, which makes it ideal for meats where you really want the smoke flavor to come through, such as brisket or pulled pork.
Oak – Oak is a very common ingredient in many lump charcoal blends. It helps with the burning temperature and time of charcoals, though it can produce a slightly bitter smoke if it comprises too high of a percentage in the blend.
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Is lump charcoal bad for the environment?
Since lump charcoal comes from purely carbonized wood, it tends to burn cleaner than charcoal that has a lot of additives. This, of course, is important to cooking because you want something that gives off a flavorful smoke that won’t taint your meat with any strong, bitter, or unpleasant flavors that come from other elements. In some cases, such as with the Kamado Big Block lump charcoal, you can even use it more than once, meaning it creates less waste.
The most important aspect to a lump charcoal’s impact on the environment is sustainability. As previously mentioned, there are several companies using sustainable practices to produce their lump charcoal. These include using easily renewable resources and selective harvesting. For example, Original Natural Charcoal uses only pruned limbs and downed trees to produce its blend of cherry, apple, and oak.
What Are the Disadvantages of Charcoal?
One of the biggest disadvantages of lump charcoal is the cost. It is definitely pricier than your standard charcoal briquettes. There is also the issue of uneven pieces, meaning some of your charcoal chunks might burn faster than others. This can produce uneven heating and leave you with hotspots on your grill.
Finally, the best lump charcoal tends to burn faster if you do not precisely control the oxygen levels. That means you may have to pay closer attention to the meat you are smoking than you want during your family gathering or party. Then again, if you can manage to get the levels precisely accurate using the vents on your grill, you might not encounter this issue.
Lump charcoal vs Briquettes
There are plenty of great lump charcoal brands out there, but there are also plenty of briquettes that have proved their worth in the world of grilling. So which is the better choice for you? It all depends on the qualities you’re looking for in a barbecue fuel.
First, the initial differences: while lump charcoal comes from natural wood that has been carbonized with no additives, briquettes are usually born from sawdust and other materials. These additional materials typically act as binders to give briquettes their uniform shape. Sometimes these can just be vegetable based, but some companies have used elements like borax, limestone, and cornstarch as binders.
Secondly, briquettes do not burn as cleanly as lump charcoal. However, they also tend to produce less smoke, which can be beneficial if you’re somewhere like an apartment complex and you don’t want to smoke out your neighbors. Briquettes will also give you heat for a longer amount of time without as much maintenance as lump charcoal, but it is best to let the briquettes burn for a while before you start cooking in order to burn off some of the chemical smell that accompanies them. However, there are some briquettes that are mostly comprised of natural organic material, such as Stubb’s All-Natural Charcoal Briquettes, which are 95% hardwood charcoal and 5% vegetable based binding agent.
How to store lump charcoal
The most important part about storing your lump charcoal is to keep it dry. That means storing it away from excess moisture. However, if your charcoal does get wet, all is not doom and gloom. You can lay it out in the sun in a single layer, allowing it to dry out. It should be fine to use once all of the moisture has evaporated.
A good suggestion is keeping your leftover lump charcoal in a sealed container. This will keep any moisture in the air from getting to it. The biggest benefit to storing your lump charcoal like this is that it will keep it from getting moldy. Once lump charcoal gets moldy, it can negatively affect the taste of your food, so you’d have to get rid of it. Considering the cost of good, high-quality lump charcoal, this would definitely not be in your best interest. Check out our post on best charcoal storage containers.
There you have it, then. I’ve compiled a list of some of the industry’s top charcoal producers. These companies all make high-quality wood charcoal that is devoid of additives and have long burn times, strong and steady temps, and little ash to clean up are to be expected.
This collection has a variety of woods, from sustainable Missouri pecan to Argentinian ax-breaker trees, so you can find a smoky wood flavor that appeals to you.
Is there a charcoal brand that you adore that you believe I should have included? Please let me know in the comments section below.