Lump charcoal vs briquettes What is the Difference

lump charcoal vs briquette

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Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes: What is the Difference between the Two – Which is better and which one will work best for you

Barbecue aficionados and newcomers alike often debate and question why some of us prefer lump charcoal over briquettes. What’s the Difference, and which is one is better between lump charcoal vs briquettes? 

This article will discuss the main differences between lump charcoal and briquettes, the pros and cons of both to help you decide which type of charcoal is better for you and your grill.

The Difference between Lump charcoal and Briquettes

The difference between lump charcoal and briquettes is primarily in the materials used and the production process. Lump charcoal is a natural product and a by-product of burning real wood in a low oxygen chamber. Charcoal briquette is a factory-produced and shaped product where saw wood dust and other additives are mixed to create a perfectly shaped charcoal chunk.

Let go over these two types of charcoals and go over the differences in detail.

A Comparison Chart Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes

Lump CharcoalBriquette Charcoal
100 Percent Natural made from Real Woods like OakMade out of recycled materials like sawdust
100 percent of brands contain no additives or chemicalsAdditives and binders are often used to produce briquettes
Can burn hotterDoes not burn as hot but can stay at a constant temperature
Produces very little ashPower like ash can be a problem in some grills, including kamados
Easier to light and fastOften lighter fluid needs to be used to light
It is natural, so the shape and size of the lumps is unpredictableFactory-made had shape, ever brick is the same size and shape
Lump charcoal costs moreBriquette charcoal is more affordable
Can be hard to find in local storesBriquette charcoal can be found even at the corner gas station
Shop the top lump charcoal brands

What is Lump Charcoal?

Lump charcoal is prized among many BBQ enthusiasts because it is perceived as being a natural choice. Lump charcoal is made by burning natural hardwood in low oxygen conditions. The process of making lump charcoal and what it is can be read in detail here.

Lump Charcoal

Many BBQ pitmasters and home users alike use lump charcoal because it is natural, unlike briquettes. Chemicals or additives added during the charcoal production will burn, adding a chemical smell to your and other unwanted stuff.

However, some lump charcoal brands use recycled wood to manufacture the charcoal, introducing foreign objects and even chemicals if the wood was treated with chemicals in its previous life.

So the key when choosing a good natural lump charcoal brand is to make sure that it is indeed all-natural.

Pros of Lump Charcoal

There are many benefits to using lump charcoal, and it all starts with the use of natural hardwood and materials to produce lump charcoal. The biggest pro of lump charcoal is its natural quality; charcoal made naturally and organically keeps chemicals from manufacturing.

  • The result here is that your charcoal, your fuel, is 100 percent natural.
  • Natural Pure pieces of Wood – no chemicals, fillers, biner, or lighter fluid.
  • Lights easily
  • Lump charcoal burns hotter – great for searing steaks
  • Less ash – Low ash production works grat for kamado grills.
  • Lump charcoal is resuable. You can use the same charcoal a few times.

Cons of Lump Charcoal

Not everything is perfect with lump charcoal, although it is the purest form of charcoal and natural. Some pitmasters still prefer using briquettes. We will get into that later.

  • Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster, meaning you might need to buy new charcoal bags more often.
  • This is a natural product with natural shapes; having different size coals means different heat output.
  • You guessed it!- Lump charcoal is more expensive, but for some, well worth it.

Where can I buy lump charcoal?

Lump charcoal is not available in every store and certainly not available at gas stations. Good lump charcoal is often found in BBQ stores or smaller hardware stores.

The good news is that it can also be purchased only and have it delivered to your front door.

What are Charcoal Briquettes?

Charcoal briquettes are equally shaped charcoal blocks, normally pillow-shaped, made of sawdust and recycled lumber. Making charcoal briquettes is similar to making lump charcoal, except instead of natural woods, compressed sawdust is burned in a low oxygen environment to create the charcoal briquette.

However, in some cases, fillers, binders, and other additives are added to enhance charcoal briquettes and help the ignition process.

Charcoal Briquettes

Briquettes are produced from various materials, including recycled wood and sawdust. Chemical additives help briquets hold their shape, ignite, and are all mixed into the finished product. Some additives used in producing briquettes bind the sawdust mix together and create that familiar pillow shape. Unlike lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes burn slower and keep consistent temperature thanks to their uniform shape.

It is easier to stack briquettes and easier to manage their temperature. However, if you are serious about grilling and enjoying good-tasting BBQ, you will avoid any charcoal-containing chemicals as chemicals will burn and ruin the food’s taste.

Pros of Charcoal Briquettes

  • Is easy to keep a steady temperature in your grill or smoker.
  • Consistent size and shape – meaning every briquette produce the same heat output.
  • They burn longer – Charcoal Briquettes can burn for a long time.
  • Even heat since all charcoal briquettes are the same shape and size.
  • Charcoal Briquette is cheaper than lump charcoal.

Cons of Charcoal Briquettes

  • Some charcoal briquets brands contain additives and chemicals which, when burn end up in your food.
  • Without lighting additives or chemicals, it is harder to light charcoal briquettes.
  • Briquettes produce more ash than lump charcoal.

Which one should I choose?

I prefer to cook only with lump charcoal because I want to use the cleanest fuel possible when grilling my meats. I also use a Kamado grill which limits lump charcoal. Sure, you can use briquettes in some kamados, but it will be messy; you will be cleaning a large amount of ash, and your kamado won’t get as hot as it can.

With that being said, the choice here will also have to do with the type of cooking you do and the type of grill or smoker you own.

If you own a kamado grill, briquettes will fall apart as they burn and create almost powder-like ash, which can be excessive and obstruct the airflow in your kamado.

If you own a regular charcoal grill and often cook, the briquettes might be a great choice since they are cheaper and easier to control temperature.

However, if you want the purest charcoal, then 100 percent nature lump charcoal is for you.

FAQs About Lump charcoal and Briquettes

Can you mix lump charcoal and briquettes?

Yes, you can. This is layering heat and creating different temperature zones. If you have a large enough grill, you can use briquettes for a long steady cook and use the lump charcoal for a high-temperature sear.

Why does lump charcoal cost more than briquettes?

Lump charcoal is made from hardwoods and logs, which cost more. On the other hand, Briquettes can be made from recycled materials like sawdust and blends of additives, which reduce manufacturing costs.

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