Nothing beats the aroma and taste of barbequed meat cooking over hot coals. But, when it comes to choosing fuel for your BBQ or grill, which should you use - lump charcoal or briquettes?
Let’s look at the differences and similarities between the two so you can choose which type of fuel is best for your next family BBQ.
There’s not an easy answer or a way of saying that one is better than the other when it comes to choosing between charcoal and briquettes. Both types of fuel have their advantages and disadvantages and, as you’ll discover, your decision might depend on the type of BBQ or grill you are using and the type of food you are planning to cook as well as how experienced you are at cooking over hot coals.
Don’t worry, we’ve done the research for you - here is everything you need to know about lump charcoal and briquettes.
Cooking with lump charcoal is a natural, organic way of cooking, but you might be wondering why people would bother cooking this way when gas is so readily available.
It’s all about the aroma and smoky flavor. Cooking with a gas grill could never compete with the amazing smoky flavor you can get from cooking over charcoal.
The aromas and flavors on offer will vary depending on the type of charcoal you are using. There are different types of charcoal available; some of them are cherry, mesquite, coconut shell, etc. each offering their own unique flavor and scent.
This coal is mainly produced from wood scraps like branches, twigs, blocks, trim and other such scraps collected from saw mills or furniture, floor building materials.
These scraps then are burnt in a lack of oxygen which removes the moisture and the sap from them and makes them carbonized.
Some dishonest manufacturers may add some harmful materials in it to bring down the cost, so you want to make sure you are buying your lump charcoal from a reputable brand like Jealous Devil who produce all natural hardwood lump charcoal with no chemicals, fillers or scrap wood.
The coals are then sealed in bags and sent for selling. As they are made organically, the final products have very irregular shapes and sizes. Also, the bag which you will buy from the store may contain dust along with the lumps of charcoal, so try to find one that has more lumps and less dust.
Advantages of Lump Charcoal
Lump Charcoal has many benefits and perks of its own. Below, we will talk about just the most common ones that matter.
Charcoal Is Healthy
There are many plus sides of cooking with lump charcoal. One of the significant advantages is it’s fully natural and organic as no additives are added in it which makes it healthy.
What Aid It Provides The User And How You Can Easily Control It
The coal is very easy to ignite; you don’t have to do much hard work to light the coal up. It also produces intense flames and makes the grill really hot.
As a result, you get a perfect sear and burn marks on your steak and veggies. Also, the cooking process is fairly quick.
You can easily control the temperature by varying the amount of coal. Keep in mind that the process responds very quickly to air flow. And that’s a good thing as it gives you better control over the temperature.
Effect It Has On The Cooked Food
It produces more smoke which makes the food tender and gives a smoky flavor as well. And most people say lump charcoal adds more flavor to the food.
Makes Maintenance Easy
It produces a small amount of ashes as it has no binders.
Consequently, the ashes won’t block the chimney of the grill. That means you can cook for a long period of time without blocking the airflow. The ashes can be collected and cleaned easily afterward.
As they are light in weight, you can easily move them while working with a grill or a smoker.
Disadvantages of Lump Charcoal
It’s not like they only have their benefits. In fact, everything has some downsides, no matter how top notch or expensive it can be. With Lump Charcoal, this is nothing different.
Nothing is perfect in this world, and the lump coal isn’t either. It has few negative sides along with the good. The bag may contain waste carbon dust due to mishandling of the bags and bad filtering of the product from the producer.
As it is irregular in shape, it doesn’t entirely fill up the bag thus making it lightweight since the bag is mostly filled with air.
The Common Problems You May Face
Sometimes the lumps may be too big to fit in your chimney properly. As a result, you may lack the knowledge of how much fuel you have in the chimney. Since, lump charcoal contains dust, it may fill up the gaps and reduce airflow.
Considering that air is also a fuel to produce flame so there will be less flame. As a result, less heat is produced.
Sometimes, the lumps you buy may not be properly carbonized. If you use them, the flavors may get impacted negatively. Some pieces of coal might contain cellulose, lignin, and other wood components.
Usually, lumps are quite expensive and sometimes hard to locate. Besides, they run out very quickly, so you have to get a huge number of lumps before you start cooking.
These are like the cheap rip off of the coal talked about above. But they can still get the job done and briquettes have some advantages too.
Briquettes are manufactured from saw dust and pulverized left-over charcoal which are usually collected from mixed wood collected from timber fields.
These raw ingredients usually have the moisture of 50% which is reduced to 35% by drying it in a huge rotating barrel.
Then they go into special ovens called retorts where they are burned down to char in the presence of a little amount of oxygen. And the final product comes out about 25% of the original weight that went in.
When the cooking of the char is done, it is crushed, and some additives such as cornstarch and other fillers are added to act as binders.
They enhance ignition, promote consistency, steady burning and make producing coal more efficient. The coals are often given a roundish shape which makes them easier to pile up and store.
Briquettes sometimes also contain other flavor enhancers and some bits of wood which were probably used during the manufacturing process. One other thing that may be mixed is lighter fluid and other chemicals which help it to light up easily and burn longer consistently.
But most users complain that it ruins the taste of the food. As these additives give out a chemical smell to the food, the briquettes are usually covered with white ashes before lighting them up to prevent the chemical smell from entering the food.
Advantages of Briquettes
Now, let’s get some idea on how Briquettes can benefit your cooking. This will help you make a well-informed decision.
Makes Working With It Easy For Users
As they are consistent, the amount is the same in all bags. Preparation time to make them light up is less, and it is also easy to light them up. This makes the work easy and less time-consuming.
It Is Efficient
Due to their consistency, they are able to maintain a consistent temperature for a long time, and they also burn for a long time. And also, the cooking temperature can be easily maintained.
They are relatively cheaper, and you can easily buy them from any store. This makes them popular and accessible for everyone. People can barbeque or grill without spending a lot of money on charcoal.
Disadvantages of Briquettes
Soon as you are done with the benefits, what more you need to know are the odds you can face with Briquettes.
Difficult To Clean After Use
Briquettes produce more ash as they contain a binder which is a noncombustible material. So more time and effort will be required to clean up the ashes afterwards, also the ashes can damage your appliance if not cleaned properly.
Food Doesn’t Taste As Good As It Should Be
The chemicals present in briquettes can ruin the taste of the food. Also, these don’t give a smoky or a natural flavor to the food nor as good a smell, as less smoke is produced.
Technical Difficulties While Working With It
It can be difficult to control the temperature with air flow. Sometimes, it may take a long time to light up and it isn’t organic. It also doesn’t reach a high temperature which means it is harder and takes longer to get perfectly cooked meat.
Which One Is Better?
Both lump charcoal and briquettes have good sides and bad sides. Which to use depends on your preferences and your skill of cooking.
If you are a skilled cook and seek quality food without caring about the expense, then lump charcoal is ideal for you. But if you want to save money and want easy cooking, you should use briquettes.
Most professional cooks prefer lump charcoal as it provides flavorful, perfect and probably the best tasting meat quickly which compliments their quality restaurants. But on the other hand, most home cooks usually prefer briquettes as they are cheaper and more accessible.
Whichever fuel you choose, lump charcoal or briquettes, we hope you enjoy your BBQ!