What is summer without you having a fun barbecue with your friends and family at home? The true essence of summer is only experienced when you get to celebrate with some home-cooked smoky steaks. And to do that, you need to load your charcoal grill with charcoals of good quality. What does good quality charcoal mean?
Charcoal can be only claimed well if it produces perfectly good food without leaving behind any bad odor and ensures ease of use as well as health safety. But do you actually put so much thought while purchasing charcoal briquettes or lump charcoals for your grill? Or you grab any briquettes that are offered to you? If that is the case, are you buying a money-worth product?
To inform you about the best charcoal briquettes that the market has to offer to you, we have come up with this article where we have reviewed some of the best products for you to make an informed purchase.
Regardless of what grilling style you choose (grilling, searing, smoking), your choice of charcoal must fit your preferences. Features like its size, shape, airflow, and compatibility with your grills are important to know in order to get a bargain which is why we have added certain tips and extra background information that you should consider and know about in order to have the best barbecue experience to make your sunny day even brighter.
Contrasting all the pros and cons of all the products, the Kamado Joe KJ-Char Lump Charcoal has successfully won the first position for our best pick. With its long-lasting burn time, good composition features, and a mixture of big and small sizes for their designated purposes, this is our favorite. It does not overpower the taste of the steak you are cooking rather restores the authentic taste of it and fulfills almost every other criteria that you require from ideal charcoal briquettes.
If you want to take care of your pocket but want a product that gives you the ultimate comfort of grilling then our pick would be the money worth product- Kingsford easy light bag. Being made from natural ingredients with excellent airflow, sure-fire groove technology, and convenient one-time use bags that give a very consistent temperature, it will ensure a fun barbecue experience for you, all within your budget.
Quick Comparison: The 8 Best Charcoal Briquettes
|Kamado Joe KJ-Char Lump Charcoal||20 pounds||Lump||A|
|Kingsford Easy Light Bag||2.8 pounds||Briquettes||A|
|Pok Pok Thaan Thai Style Charcoal Logs||5 pounds||Lump||B+|
|Duraflame Cowboy 26014 Cowboy Brand Natural Hardwood Briquettes||14 pounds||Briquettes||B|
|Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes||7.7 pounds||Briquettes||A-|
|MUXI Portable Grilling Charcoal Briquettes||0.8 pounds||Briquettes||A-|
|Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes||7.07 pounds||Briquettes||B|
|Royal Oak Sales 192-294-328 Regular Charcoal||7 pounds||Briquettes||A-|
1. Kamado Joe KJ-Char Lump Charcoal
The first product on our list is Kamado Joe, ideal charcoal for your ceramic grills. Ceramic grills are gaining popularity alongside charcoal and gas grills and its accessories must be available to you.
This is where the demand for this natural lump charcoal comes into play. It comes in a packet weighing 20 pounds and can be used for up to three barbecue sessions.
Since the wood comes from real trees, it releases clean gas giving a very wood-some flavor to the meat you are cooking and if the meat by chance is moist, it burns more vigorously. This hardwood is made from a blend of heavy hardwoods namely Guayacan, Guayaibi, Mistal, and White Quebracho originated in Argentina.
The charcoal burns slow and leaves back little residual ash which is why the burning time is more than other charcoals allowing you to enjoy your barbecue for a long period and when we say long we mean 18 hours!
What we liked: The best feature of this product is that it comes with both small (for fast lighting and even burning) and large (for longer heating period) pieces.What we didn’t like: Even though the mixture of sizes has its advantage, we did not find a good airflow using this product of its uneven size.
2. Kingsford Easy Light Bag
If you are a spontaneous griller then this might be an excellent choice for you. This is because this product requires no lighter fluid. These also come in one-time-use packets of 2.8 pounds and as its name suggests, it is quite easy to use ensuring your comfort.
It can make your grill barbecue-ready due to its Sure Fire Groove Technology which ensures very fast lighting saving your precious time not for the fire to light up. It also helps keep a compatible temperature by maintaining excellent airflow.
Since the ingredients used for making these charcoal briquettes come from natural resources like real woods, it gives you a very smoke-induced flavor in the meat you are cooking leaving out any chemical-like taste. In addition to this, it ensures your health safety as it gives a very clean burn.
What we liked: We loved how these briquettes can be used for grilling all types of food starting from vegetables to meat.What we didn’t like: The fuel imparts a gasoline-like smell in the meat grilled which is a major downside for us. Also since it is pre-soaked in lighter fluid, it does not work well if it is exposed for too long.
3. Pok Pok Thaan Thai Style Charcoal Logs
The third product that we have chosen for reviewing in our article is the Thai type charcoal logs from Pok Pok Thaan. This option is a good replacement for chemical-based charcoal briquettes as well as for traditional binchotan and is sourced from rambutan fruitwood which is grown in an orchard.
It had a distinct fruity flavor however it is so mild it does not take over the inherent flavor of the meat you are cooking.
They come in not-too-big log size and have a strong build that does not break off easily. It produces a highly consistent temperature and also has a long burn time which makes it perfect for any type of cooking be it searing, grilling, or smoking.
Another feature that makes it included in our review list is because these five pounds of charcoal logs result in very low smoke and leave minimal ash behind.
What we loved: We loved how the logs can be stacked. This feature further increases the burn time which gives us the liberty to have a long barbecue session.What we didn’t like: One thing we did not like about this is that the lighting time is a bit longer than other similar products and we have to wait for some time for it to light up completely before we start with our grilling.
4. Duraflame Cowboy 26014 Cowboy Brand Natural Hardwood Briquettes
The next product is Cowboy 26014 from Duraflame that we will be reviewing. This is another hardwood charcoal that is considered to have a premium quality that comes in a pack weighing 14 pounds.
It is able to induce an authentic woody flavor in your burger patties. In addition to this, as it does not require any lighter fluid therefore your food will not smell of any fuel, just the genuine scent you desire.
The feature that makes it stand out is its shape. The briquettes come in pillow-shaped small pieces that can be spread even which ensures uniform heating and not to forget result in a long-lasting burn time which allows you to cook even the thickest region of your meat perfectly without needing to add more briquettes.
It does not produce a sooty and heavy smoke which restores the texture you want in your piece of meat. This also helps to maintain a good airflow between the briquettes and the grill. The reason they have clean burn is its very composition which comprises 95% hardwood and 5% vegetal binding.
What we liked: We enjoyed the compatibility of this product as it can be used for grilling which requires an intense heating condition as well as for smoking, which needs a longer cooking time.What we didn’t like: The lighting time again! We didn’t like that it takes so long to ignite even after being small in size.
5. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes
If we are to name the most common brands of charcoal briquettes, then Kingsford is the first name that will pop up in our minds. Even though it is not among the premium brands, however, this product from Kingsford is a part of our list because of its clean burn and super-fast ignition.
You can get your grill ready in less than 15 minutes because it has surefire groove technology which ensures very fast ignition.
It comes in two packs of briquettes weighing 7.7 pounds made from 100% natural ingredients sourced from North America. The small bags make them suitable only for backyard grilling or a one-time fun barbecue, not hosting bigger parties since they come in small quantities.
Each piece of briquette has more edges compared to other briquettes offered to us by the market which assists it to light up quickly and without any hassle. Not only that, it maintains a consistent airflow between the grill and the charcoal briquettes, providing even heating.
What we liked: The upside of this product is that it only produces authentic charcoal grill tastes and we loved it! No fancy stuff, no extra flavors, just authentic grill flavors.What we didn’t like: We didn’t like how it creates so much ash compared to other charcoal briquettes and it really does not last that long. It burns out quite quickly.
6. MUXI Portable Grilling Charcoal Briquettes
The sixth entry in our list is MUXI portable grilling charcoal briquettes which are composed of all the natural ingredients namely- cornstarch adhesive, botanical combustion improver, and natural charcoal powder. It comes in a bag of 8 pieces with a dimension measuring 9.6*6.4*2 inches.
The feature that stands out in this product is its packaging. It comes with a very elegant kraft packet which is moisture and dustproof and is long-lasting.
So if you place the paper bag directly into your grill just by lighting four corners of the bag using a long lighter and boom! It ignites within 3 seconds. This leaves you out from the hassle you have to face with creating fire with traditional fine firewood or hay. When the charcoal is ignited, you can spread the charcoal evenly for consistent heating.
The ignition is fast but requires about 10 to 15 minutes for it to become hot enough for cooking. With this product in hand, you do not need any extra preparation before a casual backyard barbecue because it requires no lighter fluid.
They are bigger compared to other similar charcoal briquettes in the market and once ignited, it can give you a burn time of about 100 minutes. The food cooked using these briquettes carries no extra smell of any sort of chemicals or artificial substance.
Due to its portable nature, it is fit for camping or hiking trips where it is inconvenient to carry large bags of charcoals. Since no offloading is required and it is suitable for almost all grill kinds, it is one of our favorites.
What we liked: We absolutely loved how burning this charcoal releases harmless and odorless fumes leaving behind no traces in the food.
What we didn’t like: We did not like the fact that other briquettes with the same price burn longer than this product.
7. Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes
Unlike other charcoal briquettes that take an eternity to light up, Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes impregnated with no harmful chemical additives or fillers is at your disposal to give you the best barbecue experience without you worrying even for a bit about the cancer-causing carcinogens present in it.
Among the features most disliked in charcoal briquettes including broken pieces and releasing smelly fumes, this product is made from premium charcoal that requires no lighter fluid to light up.
It produces minimum ash and the ignition time is not more than 10 minutes and it restores the authentic smoky flavor that you desire in your grilled meat.
This particular product is not only for backyard grillers but the premium quality of the product makes it fit professional uses by the chefs and pitmasters.
What we liked: We loved how there is no chemical-like smell upon grilling meat with this bag of briquettes.What we didn’t like: We did not enjoy the fact this produces a large amount of ash even though it claims it does not. In addition to this, we have found that it is unfit for camping or hiking because it is not portable.
8. Royal Oak Sales 192-294-328 Regular Charcoal
For the last and final product on our list, we have chosen Royal Oak Regular Charcoal. This product is distinct from all the others because of its unique shape. It comes in a ridge shape which ensures an excellent airflow keeping the oxygen levels appropriate for maintaining consistent heating.
This 7.7 pounds bag of charcoal burns brighter than most charcoal briquettes out there having a burning time longer than ever.
It reaches a very high temperature in very little time which means it gives you more time to grill and less time to waste waiting for it to light up and burns for a long time without almost any drop in temperature. To be precise, it maintains a temperature within a range of 900°F and 1000°F for the first 40 minutes and has an insignificant drop after that in the entire cooking period.
It is made up of mostly hardwood charcoal sourced from renewable woods like American oak and hickory trees (maple and walnut trees at times) having no fillers. Its composition comprises 75%-80% charcoal and about 15% limestone, and 5% to 10% sawdust. The oxidizers namely nitrate and/or nitrite ensure faster and hotter initial ignition.
If you are concerned about added additives, you can be absolutely risk-free with this product because it only restores the smoky flavor without taking over the inherent taste of the steaks you are cooking.
What we liked: It contains no coal releasing only clean smoke that will not overpower your steak making them smell like chemicals.What we didn’t like: We didn’t like the fact that it leaves behind way too much ash compared to other similar products.
Difference between lumps and briquettes
Even though both contain the word ‘charcoal’ but there are some distinct differences between charcoal lumps and charcoal briquettes.
Lump charcoals are made from wood by burning them in no oxygen which gradually turns into charcoal. The no-oxygen-burning drives away all the volatile gases and moisture from the woods and leaves behind pure carbon. The charcoals do not go under any further processing, i.e. no additives are added to it.
Lump charcoals burn brighter, hotter, and faster compared to briquettes. Another advantage of lump charcoals is that the ash production after burning is small. This particular feature helps cleaning your grills easier after you are done cooking because you do not have to go through the repeated process of removing a huge amount of ashes.
The downside of lumps is that they come in very uneven sizes making it a bit difficult for using and moving or placing in a grill. You need to be extra careful while using lumps because it is difficult to manage the heat. In addition to this, it may not be your first choice if you are looking for cheaper alternatives since they are more expensive compared to briquettes.
Briquettes are made from mostly charcoal which is just a form of carbon and is created by burning wood in a low-oxygen condition. The wood is turned into charcoal when all its inherent wood-components are burnt away leaving behind the basic carbon form.
The residual carbon is then mixed with other binders turning it into a thick paste which is molded into different shapes and designs by the manufacturers turning them into small bricks. The binders are added as an ingredient that catalysis the burning and also helps as an adhesive. Usually, wood chips, coals, sawdust, borax, and limestone are used as binders in the making of briquettes. Nitrates and starch are also used as binders in some cases.
The briquettes are passed through a drying tunnel and dried up until it reaches 5% moisture content. It is then packed and shipped. Since they are machine-made, they all come in uniform sizes and shapes unlike lump charcoals making them ideal for ensuring ease of use.
Types of Charcoal Briquettes
1. Charcoal Briquettes
Charcoal briquettes are the regular ones that we have already discussed in the previous section. They are the most common kind of briquettes that are available to you. Not only that, they are budget-friendly as well as confirm your comfort. Its uniform heating makes it perfect for quick cooking food like steak and fish.
2. Instant Charcoal Briquettes
These are also known as self-lighting charcoal briquettes. They are ‘instant’ because they are already pre-soaked with lighter fluids which makes them very easy to light up. However, they leave behind a chemical in your food.
3. Flavored Briquettes
Some briquettes are made from ingredients that give them a very distinct flavor of their own. Among the popular flavors, hickory, mesquite, and applewood are the most common ones. It depends on the preference of the grillers whether they want these flavors in their grills or not. Even regular grillers can add these wood chips with their regular briquettes if they crave such flavors.
Features best charcoal briquettes must have
It is wise for you to go for a brand that guarantees easy and fast ignition because imagine how frustrating it would be if you already had to waste your time preparing your grill barbecue- ready. Grilling is already a time-consuming process and wasting any extra time will only make you mad.
2. Burn Time
If you are grilling for small hours then this may not an issue but if you are hosting a day-long barbecue party, it is an ultimate necessity to have a fuel for your grill that has a long burn time because you would not want to go through the repeated process of loading your grill.
If you are someone who feels responsible for the environment, all-natural briquettes must be high on your priority list. They do not carry synthetic materials and release no harmful fumes when burnt. This leaves no traces of any bad smell in your food serving only signature smoky meat. In addition to being ‘greener’, it not only makes your taste buds happy but also takes care of your health.
4. Shapes and sizes
Small-sized briquettes give you the advantage of arranging them in a grill. Too large lumps or briquettes may give you a long burn time but will not create uniform heating.
Your choice of briquettes must have such a shape that it does not create hot and cold spots in your grill which may result in an unevenly cooked steak.
5. Burn Temperature
The burn temperature can be altered as per your wish by changing the orientation, amount, or oxygen level the charcoal is exposed to, but the average temperature of cooking with briquettes is around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you are looking for briquettes with temperatures that reach higher than this for your cooking method, you need to check out the ones which provide intense heat.
1. It is very important for you to choose a briquette that does not require a fluid lighter. This can impregnate your food with a gasoline-like smell.
2. It is wise for you to avoid self-lighting briquettes because when they are burnt, they release harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide which not only produces an odd smell but also poses health risks.
3. NEVER light briquettes when you are indoors because burning this in low oxygen can release carbon monoxide which can result in deadly reactions if breathed in large quantities.
4. Make sure your choice of briquettes do not have a huge percentage of wood fillers in it since they produce more ash.
5. The briquettes you have decided to purchase should have natural binders like corn starch and not chemical ones which can result in food that smells fuel-like.
6. Be careful not to choose briquettes with softwood fillers which when burnt release bitter resins.
1. When do I know your grill is ready for cooking?
You know your grill is hot enough for cooking your meat when you see the briquettes have reached a deep red glowy color and have light ash dusting over it.
2. How do I light up the briquettes?
The easiest and usual way to ignite the charcoal briquettes is by the means of using newspaper. You can roll up some newspaper and light fire in its first letting it spread over the briquettes and light up.
New briquette additions in the market
With the existing variations of charcoal briquettes available to you, the market is introducing more add-ons for you which are gaining quick popularity.
Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
Coconut charcoal briquettes mostly popular in Asian countries are made from charcoal powder, cassava starch and water are being considered as one of the safest charcoal briquettes versions in the market today. It is a ‘green’ grilling fuel that not only takes care of your health but is harmless to the environment.
Coconut is used as a raw material in this type of briquettes because of its tough woody nature. They are formed in a hexagonal shape with a hole in the middle which produces minimum ash and releases light smokes. Even though they have a sweeter smell than other charcoal briquettes, they do not leave a considerable smell in the food.
These briquettes originated from Australia, are made by adding sand, and a carbon mineral called char as additives are another version of briquettes that you can use for grilling. The additives ensure longer burn time.
They come in pillow-shapes which ensure uniform heating and the starch used as a binder is of premium quality which gives it the tough texture so that it does not collapse when subject to high heat. The oxidizer used in these briquettes is a salt mineral which gives it its easy-light feature. Sand used in this product acts as a magical ingredient that holds the thermal mass together when exposed to the intense heat produced upon burning of the briquettes.
Our Final Thought
In our opinion, charcoal briquettes among all the other grilling fuels are more convenient, easy to use, and not to forget the safest kind of fuel because they pose very low health risks and you surely do not want your cooked meat to smell or taste bad. Not only that briquettes are easier to stack and control.
Charcoal briquettes having features like fast ignition and high and long burn prepares your meal quicker than compared to other conventional methods of cooking in a grill and are important to keep in mind while making your purchase. This will not only save you from hassle but your guests and family can be served with mouth-watering food in no time.
Regardless of whether you are a backyard griller or a professional chef, we sincerely hope our reviewed best charcoal briquettes have somewhat added some value to your buying decision and have successfully introduced you to your desired product that will take your culinary skills to the next level.