People have a passion for grilling. You can hear fierce backyard debates about what equipment to use, the best accessories for flipping burgers, and how to create a hot fire.
When you encounter the grillers who prefer using charcoal, you’ll find two camps. One group prefers to use lump charcoal, while the other prefers briquettes.
The lump charcoal vs. briquettes debate will never get fully settled.
What Do People Love Using Lump Charcoal?
Lump charcoal uses natural wood as a heating source for your grilling needs.
There are no additives or fillers present in lump charcoal, making it one of the safest and cleanest ways to grill food. Although you cannot use starter fluids with this product, almost anyone can light it with a little tinder or kindling.
Since lump charcoal responds well to oxygen’s presence in the firebox, grillers can comfortably control heat levels by adjusting the air vents on their equipment.
The one change that lump charcoal forces on backyard grillers are the uneven size of its pieces.
Why Do People Love Using Briquettes for Grilling?
Charcoal briquettes come from leftover wood products and sawdust. You do have additives that burn with this fuel because the organic materials require a binder to put them into that classic square shape.
Backyard grillers love to use briquettes because the size and shape make the product easy to stack.
Briquettes typically burn longer than lump charcoal because the product contains more density.
Is It Dangerous to Grill with Charcoal?
When you look at the lump charcoal vs. briquettes debate, one critical issue involves both fuel sources.
You also have certain dangers to manage if you choose either charcoal option.
Foods that get roasted, broiled, baked, and fried also contain HCAs, so this issue isn’t reflective of a decision to use lump charcoal or briquettes.
Is the Lump Charcoal Movement an Extension of Organic Approaches?
Sales figures show that in the lump charcoal vs. briquette debate, the latter choice is consistently winning.
Over 90% of the charcoal shipped to consumers each year is of the briquette variety.
That doesn’t mean lump charcoal doesn’t have a market or advocates.
You can even find DIY communities that teach backyard grillers how to make charcoal at home.
Some people get attracted to the idea of using a natural product, which is why a preference for lump charcoal develops.
Supporters of lump charcoal suggest it is a superior option because it offers more purity.
What lump charcoal doesn’t have is limestone, cornstarch, borax, or coal.
Most charcoal grillers like to add a little wood for smoking, which tends to be a regional consideration. You might see peach wood added in the South, hickory in the Midwest, and pine in the Pacific Northwest.
How to Choose the Right Wood for Cooking
The third category of grillers in the lump charcoal vs. briquettes debate chooses a different option. These backyard champions prefer to grill on a log instead of using any form of charcoal.
That means you’d want to try something like pine when you prepare your charcoal bed for the grill.
Lump Charcoal Reviews: What Brand Is the Best?
1. Better Wood Products 100% Lump Charcoal
This product provides consumers with about 18 pounds of lump charcoal to use for an average retail price of about $20. It is made in Mexico using the processes developed from a third-generation family business. Not only do you receive the fuel for your grill, but it also comes with four starter sticks in the container.
You’ll find a wonderful variety of small, medium, and large chunks so that you can manage almost any firebox. This product also works well with ceramic grills, such as Kamado Joe or the Big Green Egg. It offers a significant burn time, keeps temperatures consistent, and is an overall excellent product to use.
2. Basque Sugar Maple Lump Charcoal
You’ll spend about $25 to pick up an 18-pound bag of lump charcoal from this brand. It used to be marketed as a hardwood product before transitioning to its current name. You’ll find more smaller pieces in this mix than larger items, with a lot of dust that could be problematic for some users.
The flavors received from this lump charcoal are noticeably mild. You get very little ash, but you may want to add a flavorful smoke to your grill for most foods. It does an excellent job on fruits and veggies that you may want to improve with a little char.
3. Lazzari Mesquite Charcoal
The bag says that this lump charcoal is the “gourmet’s choice,” although you must be skilled to use it appropriately. It burns hot and fast, giving you little time to manage the grilling experience. The fire spreads quickly in the box, providing a hint of mesquite to your grilled items. You’ll get a hot temperature for a fantastic sear, but the burn time is low. Ash production is also noticeably higher with this product.
You can pick up the mesquite lump charcoal at most retail locations or online. It comes in 15-, 20-, or 40-pound bags with minimal dust or debris contributing to the package. The 20-pound bag retails for about $18.
4. Mali’s All-Natural Gourmet Lump Charcoal
This 100% hardwood product provides a mild smell and pleasant aroma, but it also has one of the lowest burn times available in the industry today. That means you get almost as much ash with this product as you would if you chose briquettes. It gives you a high temperature for a fast sear or to cook burgers and hot dogs with speed, but you’d need to use almost the entire bag for a single roast.
The one noticeable issue with this lump charcoal is that it seems to contain more moisture than similar products. It creates a lot of popping and sparks that could impact your health and the quality of food. You can usually pick it up for about $1 per pound at many retail or online outlets.
5. Kamado Joe Big Block Lump Charcoal
You can grab a 20-pound back of this lump charcoal for about $45 online. When you use it in heavy-duty ceramic grill, the fuel burns for up to 18 hours so that you have low-and-slow support for ribs, brisket, and more. The product is also reusable up to three times because of its low ash levels.
The manufacturer uses a blend of Mistal, Guayacan, Guayaibi, and White Quebracho hardwoods to create the lump charcoal. It lights quickly without sparking, has a nice heat, and offers consistent results. It tends to produce broken chips, especially when shipped to your address.
6. Jealous Devil All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
This 100% natural product comes from South American hardwood species. It reaches a maximum temperature of nearly 1,200°F, making it one of the hottest-burning products on the market today. You get up to four hours of time on an open grill and all-day support in a smoker.
The flavor is mild and enticing with this option, making it the perfect solution for seafood. It blends well with other woods for steaks or burgers, featuring consistent medium lumps to get a reliable fire going. The only issue is price: you’ll pay about $50 for a 35-pound bag.
Briquette Reviews: Affordable and Practical Solutions
1. Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes
This briquette option gets you closer to lump charcoal than any other product on the market right now. It is such an effective solution for backyard grilling that you don’t need to use lighter fluid to get it to start. The smoke is almost non-existent when cooking, and the amount of ash is surprisingly low. You can begin producing sweet flavors in as little as ten minutes.
The briquettes burn hotter than competitive products because of their composition. That means you’re not going to get the low-and-slow option unless you’re using a ceramic grill. Expect to get about 90 minutes of action in the standard firebox. It’s about $40 for a 20-pound bag.
2. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes
When you use a Firestarter product with these briquettes, they are red-hot and ready in about 15 minutes. That’s about 25% faster than the other mass-marketed brands in the United States. The design of each briquette includes grooves that help them to light more quickly, while the edges are vulnerable to heat for fast ignition.
3. Duraflame Cowboy Briquettes
This premium hardwood charcoal retails for about $25 with a 14-pound bag when shopping online. It does an excellent job of injecting natural flavors into all of your grilled foods, using a blend that creates a distinctive character. The pillow-shaped briquettes are a little challenging to stack, so a chimney is highly recommended.
The smoky aroma produced by the hardwood briquettes is going to capture the attention of your neighborhood. It works best when you keep temperatures down, although you can create an above-average sear with this product.
4. MUXI Charcoal Briquettes
If you own a portable charcoal grill, this product can maximize the work you do when cooking food. It comes in a moisture- and dust-proof bag to make it a viable choice for tailgating, camping, and other outdoor activities. You can light the paper on fire with the briquettes inside to get your grill ready in no time. Each one comes with a dimpled shape to encourage more heat and better stacking.
The price is a little high for this product. You’re only getting about 1 pound of charcoal (8 briquettes) for $12.99. You can get an entire bag of another brand at that level. The added cost is for the convenience of the lightable bag – it’s up to you to determine if it holds that much value.
5. Zenfiyah Coconut Shell Charcoal Briquette
Instead of using wood products for your grilling needs, this brand produces a briquette made from 100% coconut shells. It is a sustainable approach that burns up to three times longer than a standard product in this category. Grillers can use up to half of what they’d usually start when making a meal for their family or guests.
It does take some extra time to light this product, which means a chimney is absolutely necessary. You’ll see less ash and smoke with a clean flavor profile when successful. Price is also an issue for some since it retails for about $85 to get a 40-pound bag.
Lump Charcoal vs. Briquettes: Which Is Better?
Lump charcoal provides a superior grilling experience for some because it is one of the purist fuels you can use today.
It really is a reflection of the movement toward using organic and sustainable methods of growing foods and preparing them.
Charcoal briquettes have a lot of variety to consider. You can use a chimney starter, hardwood products, and a few flavoring chips for the smoke to obtain almost the same result when compared to lump charcoal. These premium products get hot quickly without reaching the potentially dangerous temperatures of the competition.