The Best Charcoal for Barbecuing

Jason Day has spent most of his life around the bbq pit, tending fires and flipping meat. It is no surprise he went into competitive cooking and joined the Burnt Finger BBQ team, now the envy of barbecue teams across America. He is the creator of the BBQAddicts.com website and, in response to overwhelming consumer demand, he developed retail versions of his award-winning Bacon Explosion recipe and Burnt Finger BBQ sauces and rubs. For more information, please visit: www.bbqaddicts.com

grillingIt’s time for Labor Day grilling. If you’re not a gas grill lover, should you go with briquettes or fancy hardwood lump charcoal? Find out which is preferred by members of the Burnt Finger BBQ Team, Aaron Chronister and Jason Day, authors of BBQ Makes Everything Better.

BBQ Makes Everything Better

BBQ Makes Everything Better

by Jason Day and Aaron Chronister

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The most common and widely available form of charcoal is the briquette, but our preference is to use all-natural hardwood lump charcoal. The first difference you’ll notice when opening a bag of lump charcoal is the appearance. Unlike briquettes, which are all the exact same size and shape, lump charcoal looks like charred pieces of wood. It’s made by burning pieces of lumber and wood in an oxygen-deprived environment. The resulting product is an all-natural charcoal that is perfect for barbecuing.

Briquettes are made in the same fashion, but once the initial burn is complete the resulting charcoal is ground up and combined with fillers and additives before compressing. The purpose of these additional ingredients is to improve the performance, but they also have a few undesirable side effects. When first lighting briquettes, there is a distinct odor given off while the coals are ashing over. If you are cooking while this process is taking place, then that odor will impart an undesirable flavor to your food.

Another benefit to hardwood lump charcoal is the amount of ash that is yielded from a burn. One of the added ingredients in briquettes is sand, which helps hold the heat. The downside is that it remains in the bottom of your grill once the fire burns out. You can easily burn three to four times the amount of hardwood lump charcoal before equaling the same amount of ash as one briquette fire.

Now, before we totally write off the use of briquettes, we have to point out that companies are starting to make all-natural hardwood briquettes. They perform the same as hardwood lump charcoal and don’t contain the additives of traditional briquettes. You just have to be conscious of the charcoal you’re purchasing and make sure you see the words “all-natural hardwood” on the bag.

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Claire Thomas is an unabashed food enthusiast and the host of Food for Thought with Claire Thomas, part of Litton’s Weekend Adventure on ABC. She works as a nationally recognized commercial director, food photographer, and writer, with her blog, The Kitchy Kitchen, as her experiment and much beloved playground. Born and raised in LA, Claire has turned food into an intellectual and grumbling stomach–driven passion.

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The most common and widely available form of charcoal is the briquette, but our preference is to use all-natural hardwood lump charcoal. The first difference you’ll notice when opening a bag of lump charcoal is the appearance. Unlike briquettes, which are all the exact same size and shape, lump charcoal looks like charred pieces of wood. It’s made by burning pieces of lumber and wood in an oxygen-deprived environment. The resulting product is an all-natural charcoal that is perfect for barbecuing.

Briquettes are made in the same fashion, but once the initial burn is complete the resulting charcoal is ground up and combined with fillers and additives before compressing. The purpose of these additional ingredients is to improve the performance, but they also have a few undesirable side effects. When first lighting briquettes, there is a distinct odor given off while the coals are ashing over. If you are cooking while this process is taking place, then that odor will impart an undesirable flavor to your food.

Another benefit to hardwood lump charcoal is the amount of ash that is yielded from a burn. One of the added ingredients in briquettes is sand, which helps hold the heat. The downside is that it remains in the bottom of your grill once the fire burns out. You can easily burn three to four times the amount of hardwood lump charcoal before equaling the same amount of ash as one briquette fire.

Now, before we totally write off the use of briquettes, we have to point out that companies are starting to make all-natural hardwood briquettes. They perform the same as hardwood lump charcoal and don’t contain the additives of traditional briquettes. You just have to be conscious of the charcoal you’re purchasing and make sure you see the words “all-natural hardwood” on the bag.
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