Whether you are a newbie griller or have just mastered the art of grilling, you might have concluded that all charcoals are the same. But, what if we tell you that there are different types of charcoal? Continue reading below to know other charcoal types you can find in the market that can level up your grilling experience.
Types Of Charcoal
In general, five common types of charcoal are in use today: lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes, hardwood briquettes, binchotan, and coconut shell charcoal. Each has its benefits, and the type of charcoal you will use may vary depending on your cooking situation or the food you are cooking.
To know more about the different types of charcoal and the best type of charcoal to use for every situation, keep on reading!
What Are Kinds of Charcoal?
As mentioned above, there are two main types of charcoal; however, each type has sprouted subcategories, making it five.
- Lump Charcoal
It is made by slowly burning the pieces of wood without oxygen until all the sap, natural chemicals, and moisture are eliminated from the wood. The remaining charcoal is in its most natural form with many good qualities. Moreover, it doesn’t contain any fillers or additives., making it one of the cleanest ways to use for barbecuing.
While it’s not the least expensive charcoal, several factors can contribute to the higher cost of lump charcoal. It has higher raw material costs, is labor-intensive to produce, is an all-natural product, and has limited availability in some areas.
Lump charcoal burns faster and hotter than other charcoal, so you have to be careful with temperature control. It can burn as hot as 1400°F, making it very effective for grilling chicken wings and searing steaks.
|Burns hotterLittle ash productionAll-naturalLights quickly||More expensiveBags contain uneven pieces of charcoalBurns faster|
- Hardwood briquettes
Briquettes are made from leftover woods and sawdust. They are burnt in the absence of oxygen, like lump charcoal; however, additives are added in the making. These additives are mainly used to bind the materials together to produce uniform blocks of charcoal.
Briquettes are cheaper than lump charcoal, but despite this advantage, people are still hesitant to buy them because they do not burn as hot as lump charcoal (only burn around 1000 °F). Nevertheless, they burn longer, making them perfect for grilling and smoking for long periods.
Unlike lump charcoal, briquettes provide a more stable burn that can maintain a more steady temperature.
|Burns longerEasy to control the temperatureCheaper than lump charcoalConsistent temperature||Take longer to lightEmits chemical smellLarge ash production|
- Charcoal briquettes
The difference between charcoal briquettes and hardwood briquettes is that charcoal briquettes are made from sawdust of scrap wood, which includes both resinous softwoods and hardwood) unlike hardwood briquettes that only use composite hardwoods.
Moreover, they are slower to light compared to their hardwood counterpart. It requires lighter fluid to light up, and it burns cooler around 700°F to 800°F. Charcoal briquettes burn more quickly than hardwood, meaning it has a shorter window for grilling or requires you to add more during grilling.
Since it’s made from resinous softwoods and composite wood, it can produce unpleasant flavors in grilled food.
|You can make it on your ownThey are the cheapest optionThey are widely available in most petrol stations and some supermarkets||Sower to lightIt contributes more pollutants to the air as it burnsBurns coolerIt can produce harsh and off-tasting flavors to food|
Traditionally, binchotans are made from Japanese oak trees, mainly split pieces of wood and branches. It is also known as white charcoal and is the purest charcoal on Earth because of its high carbon content from oak. Because of this, it is completely odorless and can bring out the most natural flavors of the food.
One of the most remarkable things about Binchotan is it can burn for about 4 to 6 hours, and once it’s extinguished, you can reuse it for up to 3 hours longer. Therefore, it is the most expensive charcoal in the world.
When you light up a binchotan charcoal, it produces virtually no flames and smoke, yet it burns hotter. Most of all, it is chemical-free, and it produces an aroma that makes your food flavorful. It is premium-grade charcoal that is often used for yakitori or Japanese BBQ.
|They are eco-friendlyProduces a smoky flavor to foodsDoes not produce ashBurns for 4 to 6 hours and can be reused for 3 hours more.||It is expensiveDifficult to find authentic binchotanNot available in petrol stations and common supermarkets|
- Coconut shell charcoal
Coconut shell charcoals are made from coconut shells, a by-product of the coconut industry. These charcoals do not smell, unlike traditional charcoal. In fact, it’s considered healthier charcoal. Moreover, it does not produce a large amount of smoke, and it’s safe to use in the kitchen because it does produce any spark.
This type is more efficient than regular charcoal because it can burn for 4 to 5 hours and produces less smoke and fumes, making it more efficient during usage. As no trees are deforested in making coconut charcoal, it’s considered sustainable and better for the environment.
Since it is made from waste, the price is cheaper than briquettes. However, there’s only a limited supply of this charcoal since experienced workers only produce it.
|They are sustainableIt doesn’t produce a huge amount of smokeIt’s healthier to use than other kinds of charcoalCheaper than briquettes||Produced by skilled workers and undergoes the process of distillationLimited supplyIt may contain sulfur|
What Type Of Charcoal Is Best?
For most people, the best charcoal to use would be briquettes. They are cheaper, much more easier to light and the uniform shape makes for a much more even heating. However, some purists prefer lump charcoal due to the lack of additives added during the manufacturing process.
However, there is really no evidence that the additives in briquettes have a negative impact on the food that is being cooked.
Which Charcoal Is Used For Cooking?
For more traditional cooking, wood charcoal is commonly used because of the natural flavors it can impart. There are many benefits of using natural wood charcoal when cooking, such as
- It imparts natural flavor (no additives)
- It is renewable
- It lights quickly and produces little ash
- It can quickly heat up as fast as 7 to 10 minutes
Another type of charcoal that works best for cooking is using charcoal briquettes. It is one of the most accessible and most convenient options. Here are the benefits of using charcoal briquettes:
- It can add flavor to foods
- It burns longer and more evenly
- It has a more consistent size
- It is less expensive
Which Charcoal Is Used In Barbecue?
Lump charcoal is the most appropriate type when planning for an outdoor grill. It gets hot quickly, around 10 to 15 minutes, which can brown the surface of the meat in a couple of minutes while giving off a woody smoke aroma.
One potential problem with using lump charcoal is losing the heat quickly once it reaches its hottest point. Therefore, you have to keep a specific temperature range to prevent the charcoal from burning too fast.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a more stable burn, you may consider charcoal briquettes or coconut shell charcoal. They can maintain a steady temperature for an extended period.
Which Charcoal Is Best For Smoking?
If you want to get the most out of your grilling experience, you have to use the best charcoal for smoking.
There are two types of the best smoking charcoal you can find.
- Briquettes: If you are a newbie to smoking, briquettes are considered the best fuel source. They are essentially made from wood chips and sawdust that have been compressed and bound together using a filling agent.
- Lump charcoal: Once you’ve mastered using briquettes in smoking, you can try the lump charcoal. Any barbecue enthusiast might agree that it is the most authentic form of charcoal to use when smoking.
What Type Of Charcoal Burns The Hottest?
When looking for charcoal that burns the hottest, you have to go for lump charcoal. These kinds of charcoal are pieces of wood with no additives, charred into lumps of charcoal. It burns hotter and produces cleaner smoke than briquettes.
However, the heat produced by lump charcoal varies and is not consistent because it requires a little more experience in using it to get better results in cooking.
For briquette fire, the temperature can range from 420°C to 530°C (approximately 800°F to 1000°F), while lump charcoal can get up to 760°C (approximately 1400°F). Choosing between a briquette and a lump is up to you, depending on what you’re cooking.
Whether you opt for a lump or briquette, we all agree that charcoal grilling can make everything taste better. Each type of charcoal has its use depending on what you are cooking.
As a rule of thumb, lump charcoal is suitable for quick grilling of thin cuts of meats and veggies, while charcoal briquettes are an excellent choice for all-day grilling as it produces steady temperature for a more extended period.
Choose the best charcoal you think is the best fit for your situation.