Lump Charcoal vs. Charcoal Briquettes
A few weeks ago, I talked about the advantages of charcoal BBQ over gas. Assuming you were listening or already have a charcoal BBQ, you might be wondering, ‘ok, now what do I fuel it with?’
More than likely, everyone you know uses charcoal briquettes, commonly called Heat Beads in Australia. In fact, over 90% of charcoal BBQs are fueled using briquettes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better. As more and more emphasis is being placed on food quality, lump charcoal is coming to the fore as a favourable alternative.
Photo Credit: www.seriouseats.com
So what’s the difference and which is better? I mean, charcoal is charcoal, right? Well, not exactly.
Like the name suggests, lump charcoal comprises lumps of hardwood that have been charred to create charcoal. And that’s exactly how they look as well: like small lumps of burnt wood.
- Light quickly
- Burn hotter (over 600°C) than briquettes
- Don’t produce much ash when cooking
- All natural with no chemical additives
- Infuse the food with great flavours and aromas
- Offer the ability to experiment with different flavours depending on the wood type
- Burn faster than briquettes
- Are more expensive
- Some lumps in the bag are often so small that they are unusable
- Lumps lack uniformity in terms of size and degree of charring; as such, temperature and cooking times lack consistency
- Unable to maintain high temperatures for long periods of time
- Not as accessible for purchase
Charcoal briquettes are often referred to as the “fast food of charcoal” because they are cheap, easy to find and you’re not entirely sure what’s in them. Like lump charcoal, they start out as charred pieces of wood, but they are then combined with certain binders, oxidising agents and fillers to create those uniform, pillow-shaped blocks we’re used to seeing.
- Burn longer
- They come in uniform sizes, meaning that when cooking it’s easier to maintain consistent temperatures
- Can still get “woody” flavours in your food by adding hardwood chips to the briquettes
- Able to maintain high temperatures for long periods; if you’re slow cooking, you can “set it and forget it”
- Take longer to light and sometimes require chemical additives such as lighter fluid or firelighters
- Don’t burn as hot (about 400°C)
- Some have a chemical taste and smell
- Produce a lot of ash
So does that answer the question of which is better? No, because as with most things, there is no clear-cut answer. It just depends on what is important to you. But at least now you know the difference and can make an educated decision.
What do you think? What kind of fuel do you use for your charcoal BBQ? Leave your comments below.