When it comes to lighting the grill for an outdoor cookout, there is a big discussion about whether to use lump charcoal or briquettes. While both supply grilling purists with the traditional smoky flavor that gas grilling cannot, what ends up in the grill’s hot belly requires some thought.
Charcoal is the carbon-based leftovers of wood that are a black, light, and brittle material in any form. Cooking using charcoal, lump, and briquettes have been used for generations.
On the other hand, the briquette grew in popularity during the twentieth century thanks to Henry Ford’s creation of a spin-off business, Kingsford, to mass-produce and sell it.
In recent years, the backyard grillmaster has had an easier time getting lump charcoal on shop shelves. With the increased availability of lump charcoal, the question of which type is superior arises.
What is Briquettes charcoal?
Briquettes are created from ingredients, including sawdust and residual wood particles/mineral char. After combining the components, they are crushed together to form a briquette.
The briquette has the advantage of being a long-time favorite among backyard cooks.
Chemical additions are not uncommon in this mixture. These ingredients aid in the formation of the briquette. They also make it easier to light and control the burn rate.
The fillers used in briquettes vary by brand, but brown coal, borax, sodium nitrate, limestone, or petroleum solvents are typically used.
Common additives include:
- Limestone – Light-ash color
- Starch – Binds ingredients
- Borax – Helps to release from the mold
- Sodium nitrate – Aids in the ignition
While chemical additives do exist, more people are aware of their presence. All-natural hardwood choices with a cornstarch binder are widely available. They do, however, come at a cost.
Briquettes burn at a temperature of roughly 800°F. They burn at a significantly slower rate than lump charcoal. They are also more constant and can keep temperatures effectively due to their homogeneous shape.
- It burns hot, so keep an eye on it, especially if you plan to use it for smoking, which necessitates a low, steady, and long-lasting flame.
- It’s been designed to burn for an hour, making it ideal for a quick grilling session.
- It smells fantastic.
- It gives off a lot of smoke flavor.
- Not all of the pieces have been entirely carbonized.
- Larger pieces still include cellulose and lignin, two of the three main wood components, which improves flavor…but results in a wide range of flavors.
- It burns quickly, necessitating the addition of more throughout a long cooking session.
- Unevenly sized pieces can range from a half to four inches in length, resulting in varying cooking times, temperatures, and results.
- More expensive than briquettes
- It easily breaks down into little, useless bits and dust, reducing airflow and resulting in a slow-burning fire.
What is Lump Charcoal
Lump charcoal is simply charred hardwood chucks, which is a more realistic option. Any charcoal offered as a lump contains no chemical additions. Lump charcoal comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Scrap wood from other sectors, such as cabinet manufacture, is used in some brands.
Other brands dubbed their lump charcoal “natural,” but these are tree limbs and other tree fragments, not trash sawmill pieces.
Natural briquettes are another natural option that is currently available. Natural briquettes are made from ground charcoal blended with a starch binder and shaped into briquettes. These briquettes are virtually as natural as lump charcoal, unlike conventional briquettes.
- They’re designed to burn for a long time and at a low temperature, making them excellent for smoking.
- When using the charcoal snake method of smoking, their uniform shape makes them easy to arrange.
- Additives, which may include allergies
- It takes more time to illuminate.
- Because there is less wood to burn, there is more ash.
Lump Charcoal or Briquettes?
Lump charcoal is said to burn hotter than briquettes due to the absence of additives, chemical agents, and fillers. It also creates significantly less ash during and after combustion. For those who use ceramic cookers, this feature is crucial.
For some backyard grillers, the price difference between lump and briquettes will be a deciding issue. In a pound-for-pound comparison, briquette bags are less expensive than lump charcoal. However, because briquettes contain additives and fillers, the price variations are not as significant as they appear.
Never use charcoal lighter fluid to light lump charcoal. Instead, the ideal technique is to use a charcoal chimney starter. Whether utilizing lump or briquettes, the chimney charcoal starter is a wonderful addition to anyone’s grilling arsenal.
Not only will the type and quality of charcoal you use affect the price you spend, but also other elements like burn rate, ash production, and even the food you cook.
But not everything you learn about lump and briquette is accurate. Some people have a preference for one fuel source over another. Others, on the other hand, will purchase whatever is natural and on sale.
Let’s take a deeper look at a few of these ideas.
Air fuels charcoal
Oxygen is what fuels the fire, regardless of its shape. Pitmasters manage temperature by opening and closing their vents in this manner.
More airflow is allowed through open vents, resulting in a hotter pit. Closed vents restrict airflow, resulting in a cooler fire.
This idea is unaffected by the type of fuel used.
The way you lay out your coals has an impact on how hot the pit can get. Pit temperature can be controlled by ventilation, as previously stated. Charcoal byproducts such as ash, powder, and another residue can potentially suffocate airflow. These can obstruct airflow, causing your fire to become cooler.
There are also other fire arrangements on your barbecue that can deliver direct and indirect heat via zones. This has an impact on the amount of heat given to the food.
Direct heat is given to the food in the form of radiant and conductive heat. Indirect heat is provided to the meal via convection, similar to that provided by an oven.
Again, this concept is unaffected by the type of fuel used.
The Grill Type
The type of grill you use usually doesn’t matter and has no bearing on your fuel choices.
On the other hand, Kamado grills are smaller and have less space for charcoal ash. Excess ash can obstruct airflow and suffocate the fire.
Ceramic grill makers often recommend lump charcoal because it produces less ash. Briquettes, on the other hand, can work just as well if they’re all-natural. Briquettes with additives can produce more ash.
Does Lump Burn Hotter?
The amount of heat generated depends on how the coals are stacked. They can nestle together like puzzle pieces due to their irregular forms, obstructing airflow and so reducing heat.
Fueled by Air
The lump is ideal for high-heat grilling, while briquettes are ideal for low-and-slow cooking.
On the other hand, fire is fed by air or oxygen. Like a briquette fire, a lump charcoal fire with dust and particles impeding airflow can burn low and slow. You may also use the vents to reduce the airflow in your grill purposely.
Don’t assume you can’t use lump for low n slow cooking since I use locally sourced, single-type lump hardwood charcoal in all of mine.
Time and Speed
Briquettes are made to burn for several hours, making them perfect for use with the snake and other smoking methods. They’re made for low-and-slow cooking.
The grilling equivalent of a crockpot is briquettes. Put the ingredients in, set the timer, go to work, and come home to a delicious meal.
The lump is made to burn hot and rapidly for a limited amount of time, generally an hour. This is ideal for grilling and searing directly on the grill. However, this does not rule out the possibility of employing them for indirect heating. The difference is effort: with lump charcoal, you’ll need to add more, whereas, with briquettes, you’ll be able to coast along without exerting any effort.
Does Grill Type Matter?
Briquettes are preferred over lumps because of their easiness, low cost, and convenience.
However, because kamado smokers don’t have much area for collecting ash, briquette fallout can soon overwhelm them, with the increased amount of ash impeding airflow through the charcoal grate in the firebox. This can cause unwelcome temperature decreases or even cause the fire to die out!
Within the restrictions, we’ve discussed and learned how to use the fuel type correctly in your particular smoker or grill; either can work for most grill or smoker needs.
However, owners of kamados will use lump charcoal, whereas owners of other types of charcoal smokers, such as the Weber Smoky Mountains, and most charcoal grills, will use briquettes.
Lump and Briquette in the Same Cook?
It’s up to the griller to decide if one is better than the other. Depending on who you ask, there is or is not a definite or faint aftertaste from the briquette additions. It’s got to be something to do with the taste buds.
Why not join them up and let their combined abilities exceed their weaknesses?
Placing a few lumps among briquettes, for example, might result in a stronger fire and a faster burn, ideal for searing and then maintaining a high temperature for a lengthy grill time.
Kingsford sells a natural lump briquette that maintains hot, consistent temperatures for extended periods. Others must be closely followed.
What a subjective topic this is!
There can’t be any hard and fast rules about utilizing this charcoal over the other because so much depends on where you barbecue, what you grill, and how you grill.
What has been your experience thus far? Do you only use one type of paper, or have you found a happy medium that allows you to utilize both at various times and for different purposes?