Charcoal is an affordable cooking fuel that can provide excellent heat performance for flawlessly grilled ingredients.
If you want to cook low and slow, charcoal is your best choice.
Charcoal also helps by vaporizing the juices from food.
The vapor then reincorporates with the ingredients on the grill for extra flavor.
If you’re new to charcoal grilling, it can take some time to get used to charcoal.
This is especially true if you’ve come from a gas or electric grill.
One of your very first questions might be: how long does it take for charcoal to burn out?
The answer depends on the type of charcoal that you use.
Let’s explore the details so you can take your home grilling to the next level.
Different Charcoal And How it Burns
Charcoal is a type of fuel that is commonly used for cooking, heating, and as a component in many industrial processes.
There are different types of charcoal, and they can vary in their properties and how they burn.
- Lump Charcoal.Lump charcoal is made from natural hardwoods that are burned in a low-oxygen environment to remove the moisture and volatile compounds, leaving behind pure carbon. Lump charcoal is usually irregular in shape and size, and it tends to burn hotter and faster than other types of charcoal. It produces less ash and imparts a more authentic, smoky flavor to food when used for grilling or smoking.
- Briquette Charcoal. Briquette charcoal is made from charcoal dust or small pieces of charcoal that are combined with binders, such as clay or sawdust, and then compressed into uniform shapes, typically pillow-shaped or round. Briquette charcoal is often cheaper and more widely available than lump charcoal. It tends to burn longer and at a more consistent temperature, making it suitable for longer cooking times or for use in charcoal grills with adjustable vents for temperature control.
- Coconut Shell Charcoal. Coconut shell charcoal is made from the shells of coconuts, which are a waste product of the coconut industry. It is considered to be more environmentally friendly than other types of charcoal because it is made from a renewable and sustainable source. Coconut shell charcoal has a high carbon content, which makes it burn hotter and longer than some other charcoals. It also has a mild, sweet flavor that can enhance the taste of food.
- Bamboo Charcoal. Bamboo charcoal is made from bamboo, which is a fast-growing and renewable plant. It is often used for air purification and water filtration due to its porous structure, but it can also be used as a fuel source. Bamboo charcoal burns at a relatively low temperature and tends to produce less smoke and odor compared to other charcoals, making it suitable for indoor use, such as in stoves or grills.
When it comes to how charcoal burns, it generally goes through two stages: ignition and combustion.
During ignition, the charcoal is heated until it reaches its ignition temperature and starts to release gases and volatile compounds, which then ignite and produce flames.
Once the charcoal is fully ignited, it enters the combustion stage, where the charcoal burns and produces heat and light.
The rate at which charcoal burns depends on various factors, including the type of charcoal, its moisture content, the airflow around it, and the temperature.
Lump charcoal tends to ignite faster and burn hotter, but it can also burn out more quickly, while briquette charcoal may take longer to ignite but burns more slowly and consistently.
Coconut shell and bamboo charcoal are known to burn at a high temperature and produce less smoke, making them ideal for grilling or smoking.
It’s important to note that regardless of the type of charcoal used, proper safety precautions should always be followed when handling or lighting charcoal, such as using a charcoal chimney starter or electric starter for ignition, using charcoal in a well-ventilated area, and never leaving a lit fire unattended.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for safe and efficient use of charcoal.
The Best Charcoal for Consistent Grilling
Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes are a favored choice among home grillers due to their consistent performance and fast ignition.
These briquettes are designed to light quickly, allowing you to reach cooking temperature within 15 minutes in most cases, which means you can start grilling sooner.
Once lit, Kingsford briquettes burn for a longer duration, providing an extended cooking time of approximately an hour before needing to add more to the grill.
By starting with a single layer and familiarizing yourself with your grill’s characteristics, you can quickly learn how to cook with charcoal effectively and with predictable results.