In the world of grilling, there is a fiercely debated topic, which is lump charcoal vs briquettes. A lot of things about cooking with a grill can ignite a fight. These two things are the building blocks of everything you do. Most beginners have a problem choosing and might not even know whether to use lump charcoal or a briquette. To make your barbeque successful, read on to find out which one is better.
Lump charcoal – Basics
There are important things that you need to know about using lump charcoal and briquettes. The basics of using lump charcoal and briquettes are explained below.
What’s Lump Charcoal all about?
Lump charcoal is made by burning wood very slowly without any oxygen present. All the water will be consumed away, including any other contaminants present until pure carbon remains. Charcoal is the end product of burning wood in the absence of oxygen. A lump of charcoal is charcoal in its most natural form, and that’s why most people prefer it.
Lump charcoal has a lot of attractive qualities. It lasts longer, burns hotter, and leaves very little ash behind. It is also more responsive to oxygen, making it easier to control the fire’s temperature if your BBQ has adjustable air vents. Though it burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes, the heat is not as variable and consistent. It requires a little more experience managing your fire to get good results when cooking.
- Lights quickly
- Burns hotter
- Produces little ash
- Easier temperature adjustment
- More expensive
- Less consistent
- Burns faster
All about briquettes?
Briquettes are made from sawdust and leftover wood that are burnt down the same way as lump charcoal. Additives are added in the process of making briquettes. Briquettes burn for a prolonged time, but not as hot as lump charcoal. Their standard size, shape, and composition make them burn very steadily and reliably.
When you’re shopping for charcoal briquettes, look for solid hardwood briquettes. They have less in the way of fillers and burn cleaner and hotter. The additives in charcoal give off a chemical smell when lit but allow them to burn until covered with white ash.
- Burn longer
- Cheaper than lump charcoal
- Maintains a steady temperature
- It takes time to light up
- Produces much more ash
- Some of them create a chemical aroma
Lump charcoal vs briquettes – Techniques/Tips To Improve
How to start a charcoal grill
If you want a more intense, smoky flavor, then it is good to go for lump charcoal. Before lighting it, make sure you open the vents as the fire will need oxygen to keep going. After placing the charcoals in the barbeque, you can control the internal cooking pressure by adjusting the vents. More open vents mean hotter flames and more oxygen, while smaller vents imply a cooler cooking temperature. Make sure you don’t close them completely, or the fire will go out.
The easiest way for you to get your charcoal going is to start your BBQ with a charcoal chimney. After that, stuff paper-pieces loosely in the bottom of the chimney, and fill it with charcoal. Remove the top grate, place the chimney inside, and light the paper.
Allow your charcoal or briquettes to burn until they’re covered with white-gray ash. It takes about 5-10 minutes for the coals to create a low heat and 25-30 minutes to get to medium heat. Remove the top grate, and wearing protective gloves, hold chimney by the handles, and pour charcoal into the rack.
Finally, take a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil and spread it over the grate with tongs. This will prevent food from sticking to the grill.
How to use briquettes for grilling
First of all, you need to clean your BBQ if you have used it before by clearing excess ash from the bottom. This will allow for better airflow. The next thing is to stack your briskets. Note that there are two racks, one on the bottom that holds the coals and the other one that holds the food. The ideal amount of briquettes will cover the entire surface of the bottom rack in one layer. Make sure the vents are open to the bottom of the tray.
Douse the coals with lighter fluid. The idea of the liquid is to encourage an even light around the base of your pyramid. Ensure to squirt some of the fluid inside the pyramid to help get the most flame onto the coals. Once you have put the desired quantity of lighter fluid, then it is time to light it. Start from the bottom side from where you’re standing. Once most of the coals are white, it is time to spread them out.
Spread the coals over the entire cooking surface to give an even heat. By dispersing the fluids, you will get even cooking. Finally, you have to sterilize the top tray by placing it over the coals and then close the lid. Allow it to burn for about 10 minutes for it to heat up. Use a brush to get rid of excess char from the rack.
Briquette charcoal – What the pros say
Meathead Goldwyn says that lump charcoal is superior among its users because of its purity. He added that most people prefer charcoal lump because they don’t need too many additives or chemicals in their cooking.
However, Matt Duckor thinks that lump charcoal gets hot and burns out too quickly. He added that it is not suitable for cooking that will take a long time.
Lump coal – Correcting Common Problems
Grilling is never fun when you encounter problems. Below are some common issues faced:
Grilled foods are too dry
The smoke rising from a charcoal fire adds a great smoky flavor to food, but it can also dry it out. The best solution to this is to cook thicker cuts as thicker foods are more accessible than thinner ones and hold juices better. It can also be helpful to marinate foods with moisturizing additives before cooking them over charcoal.
The food chars on the outside before cooking all the way through
To avoid this, move the majority of your briquettes to one end of the grill. You can also turn one burner of your gas to hot and the other to low to build a two-zone fire. Sear your food over the hot zone to lock in the juices before moving it to the warm area to finish cooking it all the way through without scorching.
When you notice a flare-up, quickly move the food that is close to the flame to the cooling zone and wait for the fire to burn out. Use a bottle with water if there is a need, but it will only get ash on your food.
Ignoring ‘wait for grey’ charcoal advice
Think of the coal as the foundation of your barbeque business. When the coals are grey and glowing, this is when they’re at their hottest. You can test if they’re ready by holding your hand above the grill.
You don’t place the charcoal evenly on the grill
When you’re ready to grill, pile the coals evenly over the tray so that you won’t have cold spots in your grill. Unevenly paced charcoal can mean that even burgers cooked the same amount of time on different sections of the cooking area might turn out differently.
You don’t measure the amount of charcoal needed for grilling
You don’t need to do guesswork on how many burgers will be required for a party. As you take inventory of guests, you should also do the same with the charcoal you’ll be using. Consider how much you’ll be cooking, how long the charcoal will have to burn, and how hot it is supposed to be.
Lump charcoal versus briquettes – best practices in the industry
- There are four types of charcoal for grilling.
- Lump charcoal is popular because a lot of people think it is more natural than briquettes.
- You don’t need smoke for charcoal as charcoal is for heat.
- Charcoal is for the heat while wood is for the smoke.
Lump charcoal vs.briquettes – Tools you can use
- Chimney starter
- Long-handled, spring-loaded tongs
- Instant-read meat thermometer
- Suede gloves
- Grid lifter
- Rib rack
- Meat claws
BBQ briquettes – FAQs
What’s the difference between Lump wood charcoal and briquettes?
Lump hardwood charcoal lights a lot faster, approximately 20-30 minutes than a briquette, which takes around 30-40 minutes and also burns hotter. Once hardwood charcoal reaches its peak temperature, it loses its heat quite quickly and therefore burns faster than a briquette. Choosing charcoal lumps vs briquettes is a matter of personal taste and your style of cooking.
What are charcoal briquettes?
A briquette is a compressed block of coal dust or other combustible biomass material e.g., sawdust, wood chips, or paper used for fuel or kindling to start a fire.
Does lump charcoal taste better?
Makers of lump charcoal claim its superior because of its purity as it contains no additives like a regular briquette. However, mesquite or hickory wood will add much more smoke flavor than mesquite or hickory charcoal.
Are charcoal briquettes bad for you?
They emit carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a toxic, invisible vapor that builds up indoors and can result in poisoning, unconsciousness, or even death. Since a briquette doesn’t emit smoke, there is no signal to warn of the carbon monoxide danger.
Best charcoal for smoking – Conclusion
The debate on using lump charcoal vs a briquette is not something that will come to an end soon. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, though it may be hard to choose one over the other.
However, we hope that this review of lump vs briquette charcoal has helped you to gain enough knowledge about the two. Choose the one you want to enable you to have the best grilling experience ever.