The Best Charcoal For Grilling: Charcoal Buying Guide


White burning charcoal

Are you looking to purchase some charcoal for grilling? If so, check out this guide to discover the best charcoal for grilling.

Did you know that charcoal briquettes first came into existence by Edward G. Kingsford, who was on a camping trip with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison when he invented the world-famous charcoal? 

For many people, grilling outside is a great way to get friends and family together to enjoy a good time (and good food).  Plus, nothing beats the unique smokey flavor that a high-quality charcoal grill gives your food.

With the massive selection of charcoal options available on in the grilling market, how do you know how to find the best charcoal for grilling? 

Today, we’re focusing on showing you how to go about finding the best charcoal for your grill!

What is Charcoal? 

Charcoal is made when wood is slowly burned without any oxygen. This charring process removes all of the flavor-influencing chemicals and water that can be found in wood. The end result is a piece of fuel that’s rich in carbon, which creates a hotter fire.

Keep in mind that not all charcoals are the same. There are some charcoals that burn hotter, cleaner, and more efficiently than other charcoals. 

The Four Main Types of Charcoal

Best Charcoal for Grilling

Did you know that there are four main types of charcoal that you can buy? Each type of charcoal has different strengths that can help you to highlight the type of flavor you want to accent your food with. 

Charcoal Briquettes

Charcoal briquettes are great charcoal to go with if you’re looking for charcoal that’ll keep an even burn. On average, charcoal briquettes will burn for at least 600 degrees Fahrenheit for up to one hour. 

The majority of charcoal that instantly lights is made up of charcoal briquettes that have been soaked with lighter fluid. If you’re looking to avoid exposing your food to petroleum-based chemicals, you should look for natural briquettes.

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Natural briquettes are made up of scraps of wood and starch binders. The biggest downside to using natural charcoal briquettes is that when they’re first lit up, the smoke can be a bit acidic. 

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is also commonly referred to as natural lump charcoal and charwood. This type of charcoal is typically made by burning logs in a sealed cave, which removes all of the oxygen from the wood.

If you’re looking for charcoal that’s free of any accelerant bases, binders, and that burns hot, pure, and clean, lump charcoal is your best bet. The biggest downfall of lump charcoal is that it burns unevenly and burn out a lot faster than other charcoal. 

Coconut Shell Charcoal

Looking for charcoal that’s easy to light and great to use with small grills? Coconut shell charcoal is commonly used by Asian street vendors, which makes it harder to find in the United States. 

However, it’s a great charcoal to use if you’re looking to add an exotic flair to your food! It’s typically sold in small quantities. So if you do end up getting your hands on some, you won’t have to worry about it laying around in your garage! 

Binchotan

The last type of charcoal that you will find on the market is a type of charcoal that’s frequently used in Japan. Binochatan is made from ubamegashi oak that’s simmered in caves that have been sealed with mud. 

Binchotan burns very hot and purely, which means that it doesn’t leave any sort of charcoal flavor on your food. However, binchotan takes a long time to light and is the most expensive type of charcoal on the market.

Best Charcoal For Grilling: Our Choices

Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes

Are you looking for a charcoal that’s best to grill with anything? The Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes promises to have your grill hot and grilling ready in under 15 minutes. 

Thanks to the special ridging on these briquettes, air flows easier through the charcoal, encouraging a hot fire. Some users have even reported that there isn’t a lot of ash clean up left after the fire has burned out. 

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While this charcoal does have additives in it, the majority of Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes have reported that they don’t notice an odd flavor in their food! 

Fogo’s All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Fogo’s All Natural Premium Hardwood lump charcoal burns extremely hot. And it leaves your BBQ with a light, smokey flavor to your food. This lump charcoal is made up of dense hardwood trimmings that come from Central America!

You won’t find any fillers or chemicals in this lump charcoal. If you’re looking for a charcoal that’ll allow you to cook your food low and slow, this charcoal will suit you perfectly. 

Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal

Do you have a ceramic grill and are struggling to find a charcoal that you can grill with? Ceramic grills are great to use if you’re want to keep a lot of moisture in your food!

All ceramic grills require lump charcoal. And the Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal is an affordable charcoal that’s perfect for charcoal grills. 

Kingford’s Original Charcoal Briquettes

On a super strict budget and are trying to get the best charcoal that your small budget can buy? No worries, that’s where the Kingford’s Original Charcoal Briquettes comes in! 

Not only is this charcoal readily available at any major grocery store near you, it’s extremely affordable! This charcoal isn’t anything fancy. But it’s made up of all-natural ingredients and with real wood. 

However, you should be prepared that when all of the fire has burned out, there’s a large cleanup involved with the amount of ash left over! Also, you may burn through a bag of Kingford’s Original Charcoal Briquettes faster than you do with a more expensive bag of charcoal.  

Stubb’s All Natural Bar-B-Q Briquettes

You may recognize this name brand for their BBQ rubs and sauces. Stubb’s All Natural Bar-B-Q Briquettes are the perfect choice if you’re looking for charcoal that burns as hot as you can possibly get.

You won’t find any coal, limestone, sawdust, or chemicals inside of these briquettes. Instead, you’ll find hardwood charcoal and a vegetable-based binder that holds everything together. 

This charcoal is an expensive option to go with if you’re concerned about budget. But the high-pricing is because of the lack of filler in their products.

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Therefore, if you’re looking for a charcoal that’s going to give your meet a clean, woody flavor, you should pick yourself up a bag! 

Fire and Flavor ‘John Wayne’ Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes

A lover of briquettes but also interested in sustainability? Fire and Flavor’s John Wayne briquettes are made from oak and hickory that have been sustainably sourced, but doesn’t contain any enhancements. 

What sets this briquette apart from the other briquettes is that it’s physically different than other briquettes on the market. There is a burn ridge that passes through the middle of each briquette. These channels allow for better airflow, encouraging a hotter fire! 

If you’re looking for a clean taste to your food and not a lot of leftover ash, you should check out this charcoal!  

Kingsford Charcoal with Mesquite

Looking to play around with a flavored briquette? Charcoal itself typically adds a bit of smokey flavor to food. If you’re looking for a distinctive mesquite flavor to your meet, try using this charcoal! 

There are several different companies that offer lines of flavored wood that helps to release smoke that intensifies that flavor of your meat. 

Inside each piece of mesquite briquette, there’s real mesquite with hardwood charcoal, binders, and natural fillers. 

This mesquite charcoal has two grooves for airflow on each briquette. Not only does this encourage easier lighting, but it’ll help the smoke flavor your meat evenly. 

While many people may argue that BBQing with flavored charcoal isn’t a substitute for real smoking, it’s all about your personal preferences! Using charcoal flavored with mesquite can help you to add a delicate flavor to your food without completely overwhelming your tastebud’s experience! 

Finding the Best Charcoal for Grilling

Finding the best charcoal for your personal taste may take some experimenting, but everything above should help you to have an easier time narrowing down your options. We hope that this buyers guide has helped you to discover a few new charcoal options to try out!

If you have any other questions about the best charcoal for your grill that we didn’t cover, please feel free to leave a comment! If you haven’t already, check out our other BBQing guides to help point yourself in the right direction for your BBQ journey!

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