August 11, 2022
If you’re looking to get the best results from your barbecue, you’re probably starting to pay closer attention to the fine details of the process—which will inevitably lead you to the debate over natural lump (also known as lumpwood) charcoal vs. briquettes. It’s the kind of debate that invites a lot of opinions but not as often simple facts or comparisons; its easy to hear or read a lot on the subject of cooking fuels and come out no more informed than you started.
Today, we’ll be discussing the basic differences between the natural lump charcoal and briquettes, starting with what they are and moving through pros and cons and when you might prefer to use lump charcoal over the more common briquettes.
Everything You Need to Know About Briquettes & Natural Lump Charcoal
What are Briquette and Natural Lump Charcoals?
Let’s start with the most basic of basics: what exactly are these two things?
What are Briquettes?
If you just buy a bag of charcoal without thinking much about it at the supermarket, you’re probably buying briquettes. These are most commonly made by carbonizing compressed sawdust, often with the addition of binding agents to hold them together and non-wood fillers.
What is Natural Lump Charcoal?
Charcoal produced by carbonizing actual pieces of wood from trees, without pulverizing them into cellulose or adding anything extra to the mix. Varied shapes and sizes, like the wood pieces it’s made from.
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What’s Different About How They Perform?
There are a few areas where the differences between the two are a matter of fact rather than opinion.
- Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than briquettes on average
- Briquettes are more consistent in how they burn because they all have the same shape
- Lump charcoal adds a stronger smoke flavor to food
- Lump charcoal leaves less mess behind because it combusts more thoroughly
Many find that they get better results from using lump charcoal for things like searing and briquettes for longer, cooler cooking, but there are no firm rules. You can do this with either, and might find that something like the consistency of briquettes or the reduced cleaning involved with lump makes one or the other your preferred style of charcoal for all purposes.
All lump charcoal has a great aroma. And, with lump charcoal, some brands use different species of trees. Big Green Egg has 3 styles:
- Oak and Hickory Mix
- Canadian Maple
- Natural (which is a mixture of hardwoods)
Of course, you might see the biggest variations in cooking quality not from whether you use lump or briquette charcoal, but from whether you’re using quality charcoal of any kind. Charcoal standards can be lax, meaning you’ll want a source you can trust to produce quality because there aren’t many firm rules about what you’ll get when you buy either kind of charcoal.
At Breakaway, we suggest high-quality products like Big Green Egg’s Hickory/Oak or Maple lump charcoals—you don’t want bad charcoal throwing a wrench in your grilling endeavors.
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Learn More About Natural Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal
If you’re in the Cape Cod area and you’d like to learn more about your options for charcoal–or you’re looking for a great source of lump charcoal from reliable sources like Big Green Egg–the grilling and barbecue experts at Breakaway will be glad to help you out. Good barbecue needs good fuel and good equipment as much as it needs good meat and recipes–so make sure you’re well-equipped for the task at hand.