Lump charcoal really is at the pinnacle of performance, lighting faster and burning hotter than briquettes or other fuels making it exceptional for providing the best sear. Top quality 100% natural lump charcoal should burn evenly, light quickly, and leave less ash. We’ve weighed up the most popular and the top performing lump charcoals to find the best lump charcoal for grilling in 2020.
What Is The Best Lump Charcoal For Grilling?
Top Pick: Jealous Devil’s Lump Charcoal
- Pure & all natural South American hardwood
- Can burn very hot, max temperatures of 1170°F
- Very long lasting, which makes it great for smoking too
- No distinct smokey barbecue flavor
Jealous Devil really is top quality lump charcoal. It burns evenly and easily and is naturally long lasting. Although it doesn’t add a distinct barbecue flavor, it burns cleanly, and produces minimal ash. Other lump charcoal may have a naturally stronger smoke, the overall quality and performance of this lump charcoal definitely makes it the best charcoal for grilling.
B&B Oak Lump Charcoal
- Imparts a naturally stronger smokey flavor
- Lights and heats easily
- Consistently good sized chunks
- 100% natural
- Some reports of minor sparks
Lump charcoal by itself doesn’t impart as much smokey barbecue flavor as smoking wood, but B % B’s Oak Lump charcoal definitely adds distinct naturally smokey flavor. This is perfect for when you’re grilling as it can impart a subtle smokiness in a short amount of time. It’s very consistent in size and 100% all natural. There are some reports that the charcoal produces minor sparks as it heats up, but overall is high quality, and has many more positive reviews.
Fogo Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
- Very affordable quality lump charcoal
- Great naturally smoky flavor
- Lights easily and consistently
- Often the bags come with a couple of larger chunks that need to be broken down to burn effectively
Definitely the best value for money for lump charcoal for grilling. It’s great at both low and hot temperatures, burns consistently, and has a traditional barbecue flavor when both grilling and smoking. It burns well at lower temperatures, and has a nice natural smokey flavor. There are many reports that there are a few bigger chunks in there, so it’s important to break them down to ensure an even burn to hold consistently high temperatures while grilling.
Grilling With Lump Charcoal
When comparing lump charcoals there are five main things to look out for.
All Natural Hardwood With No Additives
Be sure to check that it’s 100% all natural hardwood. This means no additives at all. Additives are designed to add flavor or help the charcoal burn more consistently and evenly. However, sometimes you do get an unnatural flavor on the meat, and the additives can also be harmful to the meat, or the smoker unit you own.
Top quality all natural hardwood should be able to light easily and consistently. Compared to briquettes, lump charcoal lights faster and gets hotter much more quickly. Lump charcoal should generally be able to light up and be hot enough within 20 minutes to grill.
In a bag of lump charcoal you may find some larger chunks, depending on which brand you go for. If you do find some significantly larger chunks, it’s always best to break these down to help the charcoal light and burn consistently.
Burns Hot For Searing
When grilling on a charcoal grill you want the charcoal to burn consistently and burn hot. This will allow you to deliver great sears on your meats & vegetables. Different charcoal will have different combustion properties. Those that burn well and consistently at higher temperatures will be ideal for grilling.
Smoking meat uses low and slow cooking, so the best lump charcoal for smoking would burn best at lower temperatures. If you have a combo grill, such as a kamado cooker, you will want a charcoal that can burn well at high and low heat.
More often you will notice that some charcoals tend to break down more easily. This could be due to the type of wood or the actual quality of the charcoal. It’s important to have consistently medium sized pieces, not varying too much in size. If you do find larger chunks, simply break them down before using them. It’s also ineffective to use any dust that you may find at the bottom of the bag, it won’t help at all!
The Amount Of Ash
A good quality lump charcoal shouldn’t leave too much ash, and more of the charcoal should be used during combustion and give off the byproducts and smoke. Everyone loves an easy, but effective clean up. If you use higher quality charcoals you will naturally see them produce less ash.
Which Woods Make The Best Lump Charcoal?
Oak wood is a traditional choice for classic barbecue as it has a consistent smokiness. When used in lump charcoal, although it doesn’t produce as much smoky flavoured byproducts as wood it still does impart a solid barbecue flavor.
Oak wood is able to impart the flavor over shorter times, which is why it’s a very popular option for smoking wings or smoking ribs. It means that when grilling with oak lump charcoal you will still be able to enjoy a subtle barbecue flavor.
Mesquite is renowned for imparting the strongest smokiness into its food when smoked. Because of the strong smokiness it can more easily overpower the meat, and if exposed to the smoke for too long it can impart a bitterness.
Over the process of turning mesquite wood into charcoal much of the overpowering compounds have already combusted, and so the flavor is less overpowering. This makes it a great choice for lump charcoal, as it provides a strong but not overpowering smokiness, even while grilling.
Fruit woods aren’t often used as a lump charcoal alone. They tend to not provide a strong barbecue flavor, and don’t tend to burn as hot. In lump charcoal you will still find them, but blended with other woods. Often it will be apple or cherry woods, as these burn quite hot for fruit woods, and it will be blended with oak, mesquite, or hickory to balance it out.
Fruitier woods provide a much sweeter smoke which gives a distinct fruitiness to the meat, which is why they are often the preferred wood for smoking turkey, or meats that pair with the fruitiness.
Hickory is a traditional favourite in southern barbecue. It is unique in it’s bacon-like, rich, and slightly sweet flavor. As lump charcoal much of the sweetness can’t be detected, but it burns consistently well, and is effective when it’s blended with other standard hardwoods or fruit woods.