In quite a lot of cases, the fuel used for grilling or smoking is the least analyzed thing to many beginners.
It takes a lot of time to choose a perfect charcoal grill, then accessories, and sadly not many people take choosing the charcoal seriously.
However, what type of fuel you use has a deciding influence on cooking performance as well as final results.
Not all lump charcoal was made equal – never forget that.
There are plenty of manufacturers of lump charcoal and it’s hard to clearly say which of them are the best without doing a lot of research. Some of it burns very fast and hot, other will leave very little ash, and some of it is just universal for every occasion.
I took a closer look on the entire offer on the market and prepared a list of several best lump charcoal options based on my own experience.
The 3 Best Lump Charcoal Brands for Every Purpose
It doesn’t matter if you’re more into grilling or smoking, or maybe both – I have prepared several different options for every occasion. I also took your budget into account but remember that I care about quality, and it’s not something you can get at the lowest price.
Number one on my list, a popular and well-selling very high quality lump charcoal.
Jealous Devil All Natural is impressive in its high quality and adequate price. Upon opening the bag, you will notice quite a lot of medium-sized pieces and small quantities of dust, as well as no weird-looking elements of any kind.
The ratio of medium-sized pieces to the rest is very high here, that’s a huge advantage. On top of that, you will find a lot of big pieces and not many small ones.
The charcoal is made of South American hardwood (Quebracho Blanco) without any additives or fillers.
A huge amount of medium-sized pieces allows it to burn hot and pretty long. It can really achieve very high temperatures, it burns for very long and evenly at higher temperatures.
When starting the fire, I hardly noticed any sparks and cracks, which was also mentioned by many other customers.
It is also worth noting that Jealous Devil leaves very little ash behind.
All of its advantages make it the best option on the market, especially for the owners of ceramic grills. When I want to cook something on a kamado, this is my favorite lump charcoal that I use most often.
Another great lump charcoal that I also use often and always recommend to others. First and foremost, it is also high-quality charcoal without any added chemicals etc.
Upon opening a bag of Fogo Super Premium, it’s easy to notice a very high percentage ratio of medium-sized pieces to the rest as well as small amount of dust. It’s a perfect proportion because the worst thing to happen is small pieces and large amount of dust, whereas big pieces have to be split in half or else they’ll be too big for many grills/smokers.
A minor downside that I’d like to point out is quite a lot of time this charcoal takes to get burning. It is nothing particularly bothersome because what matters the most is efficiency, naturalness and flavor, after all.
When it comes to the burning time and temperature, on the other hand, the results are very good. There’s nothing to complain about in terms of the amount of ash left behind after cooking, either.
Made of leafed tree wood from Central America (Salvador), the lump charcoal meets all of my requirements. High quality, no chemicals, great efficiency, relatively small amount of ash, large number of medium-sized pieces, little dust and good price.
Made of four different Argentinian types of hardwood (Guayaibi , Guayacan, Mistal and White Quebracho). High quality lump charcoal without chemicals and unidentified elements.
Kamado Joe KJ-Char is characterized by higher ratio of large pieces to the rest. I have to admit that large pieces are really huge, but there aren’t that many of them in there compared to competitive brands.
Bigger pieces work better during long cooking, maintaining higher temperature for longer.
Overall, the lump charcoal from kamado does a very good job. It is natural, burns well, allows to achieve high temperatures over a pretty long time and leaves acceptable amount of ash.
Sadly, a small downside is large amount of dust in the package, that’s not the way to do it.
Kamado Joe KJ-Char is a good quality lump charcoal that has some downsides. One could turn a blind eye at them if it wasn’t for its pretty high price and the much better offer of the competition.
If for some reason my two suggestions are not available, this option will make a decent alternative, but with certain downsides. It will work very well in a ceramic grill despite costing quite a lot compared to better offers.
What to pay attention to with lump charcoal
The quality matters the most, although I know that not everyone can pay that much for it. You can make a compromise and buy high quality lump charcoal at a good price, but it requires testing different brands in order to make sure that they are worth that kind of money.
Size of pieces – Upon opening the bag, you should check out the large to small pieces ratio. It should be as high as possible, if small pieces definitely make majority then it indicates poor quality of the charcoal. Large pieces burn much longer and hotter, and that’s what matters, especially if you pay more.
Amount of dust and wood chips - A large amount of dust is a sign of poor quality of the charcoal or inappropriate storage at the store. In such case, it’s a good idea to try with another bag before you decide to switch to another brand.
Naturalness – Real, high-quality lump charcoal is free from any type of additives, fillers and chemicals. On top of that, it is made of 100% natural hardwood, look for this type of labels on the packaging.
Sadly, in order to find out if a particular manufacturer indeed does offer high quality lump charcoal, first you need to buy one bag and open it. That’s the best way to find out about the quality, the second way is to read reviews just like mine.
I have prepared several tested options for you so if you have completely no idea where to start, I suggest you familiarize yourself with what I’ve prepared for you.
Lump Charcoal or briquettes ?
I’ll start by saying it right away that I use both types of charcoal but it’s important to list their upsides and downsides in order to see which to choose depending on the situation.
A lot of factors impact the final choice - The cooking style, the type of smoker or grill, what you want to grilling or smoking etc.
Learn the pros and cons of both types and make your own decision on what will be better for you depending on your situation. Don’t skip this topic, familiarize yourself with it, and you will never again have any trouble choosing the right type of fuel.
Lump charcoal is great for hot and fast cooking, for that reason it is highly recommended for ceramic grills.
Briquettes is best for cooking low and slow, its going to give a good steady burn for a long time.
No matter if you choose briquette or lump charcoal, remember one very important thing. It’s all about quality and don’t cut corners here if you take barbecue really seriously and expect the best results.
Just stay away from the cheapest options that contain chemicals, fillers etc. – go for quality and naturalness.