When it comes to grilling, nothing can rival the flavor and aroma imparted by cooking with a charcoal grill.
What about the fuel, though?
Well, while you might initially think of charcoal briquettes, it’s well worth considering the authentic option of lump charcoal.
In essence, charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal are one and the same thing. Briquettes are a by-product manufactured from lump charcoal.
Lump charcoal goes by many names, including:
Charcoal is made through the process of pyrolysis. This means that hardwood and softwood – sometimes animal bones, too – is burned in an oxygen-deprived environment for days on end. The process of pyrolysis will remove any of the volatile compounds from the wood, leaving nothing but pure carbon.
The resulting charcoal doesn’t kick off a great deal of smoke, and it also burns much hotter than wood.
You can even make charcoal at home.
Any lump charcoal of less than an inch is then made into fines (ground charcoal). These fines are then pressed with accelerants and fillers to make charcoal briquettes.
The growing popularity of natural charcoal is partly due to the growing popularity of the kamado grill, and it’s also due to people questioning the ingredients of charcoal briquettes. What goes into that stuff, exactly?
Now, if you have never shopped for charcoal before, we suggest you keep the following pointers in mind when you’re on the buying trail:
Now, if you keep these hints uppermost in mind, you should have no problem at all finding the best lump charcoal the easy way!
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The 10 Best Lump Charcoal
1. Our Pick Jealous Devil All-Natural Lump Charcoal
Jealous Devil is named for the incredibly hot temperatures this charcoal can generate, hitting 1170F.
The dense South American hardwoods in this charcoal are not diluted with cheap filler or additive. You’ll find this lump charcoal makes minimal ash, so you’ll enjoy a cleaner grilling experience with less messy cleanup.
If you’re using this charcoal on an open grill, you can expect it to burn for up to 4 hours, about the same as most of the opposition. If you’re loading it into a smoker, on the other hand, you’ll enjoy a full 20-hour cookout using one batch of coals.
While most user testimony for this lump charcoal is positive, we found a handful of complaints about the strange smell when these coals burn. Do your own due diligence here.
The charcoal is designed both for use on its own and combined with your favorite wood for smoking.
Whether you’re using a grill, a smoker, or a kamado, invest in some Jealous Devil for some of the best lump charcoal out there.
2. Kamado Joe KJ-Char
Kamado Joe is one of the most reputable brands in the kamado grill space, and they have a deep bench of great kamados in all shapes and sizes.
How better to fuel your new grill than with blended hardwood charcoal from the same company?
This 20-pound bag won’t eat up too much storage space but will still manage to fuel several cookouts. The 100% natural lump charcoal will burn for up to 18 hours, too.
Kamado Joe use a blend of hardwood for this charcoal, including the famous quebracho wood.
As an added kicker, you can reuse these coals up to three times, giving you huge value for money, and allowing you to buy a smaller bag while getting more use out of the contents.
If you need the perfect fuel for a Kamado Joe grill, this is arguably the best lump charcoal for the purpose. The only minor complaint we could find in a sea of positive user testimony concerns the fairly small pieces of charcoal.
3. Big Green Egg Oak and Hickory Lump Charcoal
Big Green Egg is a highly reputable brand and one of the hardest hitters in this vertical. How does this great lump charcoal shape up, then?
The key selling point of this stuff is the fact it consists of completely carbonized wood, something that can’t be said for all lump charcoal. You won’t get any cheap filler or nasty additives polluting these coals. Instead, you’ll get a blend of oak and hickory hardwoods capable of fueling your cookouts all through next summer.
Not only do you avoid any bulking agents in this charcoal, but you don’t get any petroleum products in there either.
Most user reviews of this charcoal are extremely positive, but we found a few gripes about quality control issues. Setting this aside, you’re getting some of the best lump charcoal out there, and you won’t need to dig too deep for the privilege.
4. Fogo Restaurant Quality Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Have you just invested in a new kamado grill? If so, Fogo serves up some restaurant-grade charcoal that makes an especially good fit for ceramic grills like the Kamado Joe or the Big Green Egg.
You’ll get a substantial bag packed with premium hardwood charcoal here, with more than three-quarters of the bag filled with bigger pieces of coal, measuring 4 inches or bigger. So, kiss goodbye to a bag with dusty bits of charcoal dominant, and usher in long cookouts with this high-grade option from Fogo.
All the charcoal comes from dense hardwoods grown in central America.
You will find this charcoal lights easily and then stays alight for longer. Perfect for both grilling and smoking duties, this charcoal is incredibly versatile. You will also find this fuel is a great match for reverse-searing.
Once you pile in your charcoal, you should have your grill or smoker up and running in no more than 15 minutes.
The manufacturer specifically recommends this charcoal for the following applications:
- Large ceramic grills (18-inch and above)
- Weber-style grills (22-inch and above)
As you would expect, you’ll need to dig deeper for this charcoal, but we feel the performance makes the price tag worthwhile. See what you feel when you fire up your kamado grill.
5. Cowboy 24220 Lump Charcoal
Next up comes another bag of pretty expensive charcoal from Cowboy, but is it any good?
The first key selling point is the ingredients. Made from all-natural hardwood, you’ll be getting none of the additives and filler you find in charcoal briquettes, delivering a more natural grilling experience with no compromise in terms of performance.
Oak, maple, and hickory are blended to give you a hardwood extravaganza that will fuel your grill or smoker for hours on end.
When these hardwoods in charcoal form burn, they’ll get up to a high heat quickly. This serves to lock all the moisture into your ingredients, while at the same time imparting that trademark charcoal taste that’s impossible to replicate with any other cooking method.
As a completely natural charcoal product, you’ll enjoy a faster cleaner burn, and you’ll also use less charcoal as a result.
Although the bulk of user feedback for this charcoal is positive, we found some scattered reports of a chemical smell, so do your due diligence here. Setting this aside, you’re getting a premium blend of real hardwood with none of the nasty additives and bulking agents found in charcoal briquettes. If this sounds good, you won’t be disappointed with Cowboy’s charcoal.
6. B&B Lump Charcoal
As we reach the midpoint of our lump charcoal reviews, we have some all-natural oak hardwood charcoal from B&B, so what do you get for your money?
This is a 20-pound bag, making a great choice if you have limited storage space, but you still need enough charcoal for a few cookouts. If you feel you need more supplies, you can choose from a 2-pack, 3-pack, or 4-pack of this stuff to last you all summer.
Free of additives and fillers, you get nothing but real oak hardwood charcoal here, perfect for an authentic BBQ to please any purists at your cookout.
With very few competing charcoals burning hotter or cleaner, a few disgruntled consumers claim the coals don’t burn for as long as they hoped for.
Made in Texas, you’re getting into an authentic fuel source for a traditional charcoal grill here, and aside from that limited burn time, we can’t find much else to knock about this lump charcoal.
7. FOGO Super-Premium Lump Charcoal
Next in line is another entry from the FOGO stable with this super-premium lump charcoal that’s well worth a place on your shortlist.
Weighing in at 17.6 pounds, this is a fairly compact bag that makes a good choice if you have limited space for stashing all your BBQ supplies.
Made from natural hardwood, you’ll find the pieces of coal are pretty big. Much of the lower quality lump charcoal flooding the market contains too much dust and too many small pieces.
FOGO’s key selling point is the fact they use nothing but real hardwood to make this stuff. You can buy safe in the knowledge you won’t be getting any additives and fillers.
Although the bulk of user reviews for this lump charcoal are glowing, we encountered some isolated complaints about the way it imparts a questionable taste to your food. This kind of claim is quite subjective, though, so we wouldn’t let that put you off this stuff!
8. Rockwood All-Natural Lump Charcoal
As we near the end of our search for the best lump charcoal, we have a great blend from Rockwood.
The oak, hickory, pecan, and maple hardwoods in this charcoal are grown in Missouri and you’ll benefit in the form of some of the longest-burning and sweetest tasting lump charcoal out there. Each of the woods is chosen for its unique properties, and the cocktail is enough to please any purist at your next cookout.
You’ll find this charcoal couldn’t be easier to light, and you’ll also appreciate the extra-long burning time. Beyond this, you won’t get too much ash generated either, giving you a seamless grilling experience and cutting down on cleanup, too.
Rockwood is an eco-conscious brand committed to renewable hardwood and recyclable packaging. The charcoal is made from hardwood remnants from the milling process, meaning not a single tree is felled to make this stuff.
Ideal for use on all types of grill and smoker, this is some of the best lump charcoal out there, so why not give it a try?
9. Harder Charcoal Lump Charcoal
As we edge to the end of our lump charcoal reviews, we have an entry from the highly reputable Harder Charcoal. How does this stuff differentiate itself, then?
Firstly, choose from either a single or double pack of these coals in line with how often you grill out or use your smoker.
The restaurant-grade charcoal is made from the classic hardwood quebracho wood, and you’ll benefit from large hunks of coals, perfect for lengthy grilling and smoking sessions. The wood is harvested in South America, with the charcoal made from remnants. This means not a single tree is chopped down to get the coals on your BBQ.
You can use this charcoal on pretty much any type of grill, including kamado grills
Most user reviews of this charcoal are positive, but we found some scattered gripes about some bags containing lots of dust and too many small pieces of charcoal.
10. FOGO Premium Oak Lump Charcoal
Last but by no means least, another entry from the inimitable FOGO with some more traditional hardwood charcoal.
This iteration comes in a 17.6-pound bag, so you won’t need too much storage space, while still enjoying enough coals for a number of grilling sessions.
This stuff gets up to heat very quickly, with your grill ready to roll in no more than 15 minutes. If you’ve been put off cooking with charcoal because of the perceived waiting time, this stuff might make you rethink that.
Made from dense and all-natural hardwood, you get no cheap fillers or additives, and the charcoal is sustainably produced from the offcuts that are the by-product of the milling process.
1) How can I store my lump charcoal?
If you keep lump charcoal in a tightly sealed container, you can store it indefinitely. You will protect your coals from moisture, and you’ll also stop any small creatures gaining access.
2) What can I do if my charcoal gets wet?
Put it somewhere in direct sunlight and allow it to dry out for a day or two.
3) What are the benefits of using lump charcoal?
Lump charcoal is completely natural and entirely free of additives. Lump charcoal will light much quicker than charcoal briquettes. You can get the heat up in minutes instead of waiting for over 20 minutes with briquettes. Lump charcoal is porous and burns as one unit once lit. Resultantly, it will burn hotter than briquettes. Lump charcoal burns cleaner, too, as there are no additives. With lump, you won’t get too much ash either, streamlining cleanup. If you don’t burn all the coals when cooking, you can light them again and reuse them. You’ll find it much easier to adjust the temperature when you’re cooking with lump charcoal as well. Switch from grilling high and fast to slow and low in an instant. The smoky flavor imparted by lump charcoal is not caused by the charcoal itself, but rather from any wood not completely carbonized.
4) How should I start my grill using lump charcoal?
You have a variety of methods at your disposal when it comes to starting lump charcoal. Chimney starters are a classic invention that works wonderfully. You could also try using some fire starter cubes, or a propane torch. Whichever method you choose, steer clear of using lighter fluid. This is a by-product of kerosene and will give off black smoke when it burns, the last thing you want at your next BBQ. Also, lump charcoal is porous, so it will absorb the lighter fluid, tainting your food.
5) How long does it take for lump charcoal to be ready?
You’ll only need 10 to 15 minutes for your lump charcoal to get really hot. To achieve a medium heat, you’ll need to wait for up to 30 minutes. This is due to the slow pace of combustion. You can always check using a good thermometer to remove guesswork from the equation.
6) Is it possible to extinguish charcoal with water?
Yes, although this is not ideal. Using too much water can easily damage your grill due to the thermal shock. Also, the steam issuing from the charcoal could easily burn you. If you must use water, use some long tongs and drop the coals into a bucket of water. Make sure you wear safety glasses and protective gloves.
7) Can I allow my charcoal to burn out on its own?
Absolutely! Close all the vents on your grill to suffocate the charcoal. Allow the grill and the coals to rest for a couple of days before you clean out the ash. You can reuse any larger and unburned hunks of charcoal for your next cookout.
8) Is the ash from charcoal good to use in the garden?
The ash created from burning lump charcoal contains potassium carbonate. While this is good for some plants, it doesn’t work well for any plants that require acids. The ash could disrupt the soil’s alkalinity, destroying new seedlings. Charcoal fines are great for the soil, although you should tread cautiously with ash.
Anyone who arrived here at Royal Tavern today unsure about how to choose the best lump charcoal should now have plenty of different options.
All of the charcoal we review today is all-natural, so you’ll have no nagging safety concerns.
Fire up your grill or your smoker using lump charcoal and you’ll treat your family and any guests to the best BBQ possible with that trademark smoky flavor and aroma, but without any nasty additives.