If you’ve just purchased your first charcoal grill, or if you’ve been cooking with charcoal but want to optimize your grilling sessions, the type of charcoal you use will be important. Are briquettes as good as natural lump charcoal? What is the hottest burning charcoal?
We’ll answer these critical questions in this guide to choosing the right charcoal for your grill.
What’s the Difference Between Lump Charcoal and Briquettes?
Lump charcoal is a 100% natural form of charcoal that is made by slowly burning pieces of solid wood at extremely high temperatures. The process removes natural chemicals, oils, and moisture from the wood.
The result is as near to pure carbon as is possible, making for one of the most energy-dense fuels available. Charcoal burns long and hot, and lump charcoal is extremely efficient.
Briquettes are formed pieces of charcoal that are created using a similar process. Instead of using whole pieces of wood, briquettes are made with sawdust and other byproducts from the lumber industry. The pieces are pressure-formed and are often treated with additives like binding agents.
There are advantages to both types of charcoal, so choosing the right one for your needs isn’t a black and white decision.
The Advantages of Lump Charcoal
There are several key benefits to using lump charcoal…
- There are no additives so the fuel is cleaner.
- It’s easier to manage the temperature of lump charcoal with your grill vents.
- Lump charcoal produces less ash than briquettes.
- It’s easy to light.
- The heating potential is higher.
The downside to lump charcoal is that it burns faster, costs more, and each bag contains uneven pieces. Unlike the uniformly formed briquettes, lump charcoal can vary significantly from piece to piece, so it can take a little extra time to get the fuel arranged perfectly in your grill.
The Advantages of Charcoal Briquettes
Briquettes also have advantages for home cooks…
- Briquettes burn for longer than lump charcoal.
- By weight, briquettes are often more affordable.
- Uniform pieces make it easier to arrange the charcoal for focused heating zones.
The downside is that briquettes sometimes produce a slight chemical odor. They also take longer to light, and the ash production is relatively high.
And then there is the biggest downside of all… temperature.
What is the Hottest Burning Charcoal Between Briquettes and Lump Pieces?
We’ve explored the benefits of lump and briquette charcoal, which returns us to the most important question. What is the hottest burning charcoal?
Lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes.
While lump charcoal won’t burn for as long, it can reach much higher temperatures. In a forge, for example, lump charcoal can reach temperatures near 2,000°F. While you won’t see temperatures this high in your grill, you’ll still get a hotter sear than briquettes, which is ideal when cooking steak and other meats.
Lump charcoal is also perfect when you need high and consistent temperatures for indirect cooking, such as when you cook with a pizza stone.
The Best Lump Charcoal to Buy
Lump charcoal has the highest heating potential of any cooking fuel you can use at home. To enjoy all of the benefits, you’ll need a 100% natural product.
- Jealous Devil 100% Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal is the most popular option on the market. It can achieve grilling temperatures above 1,000°F. The average burn time is four hours in an open grill or over 20 hours in an enclosed smoker.
- If you would prefer the convenience of briquettes and don’t need higher temperatures, you could consider these 365 Everyday Value Briquettes, which are perfect for long cooking sessions and small to medium-sized grills.
Natural lump charcoal is the hottest burning charcoal, but you may find yourself using briquettes from time to time for convenience and value.