The best charcoal for grilling

Grilling & Outdoor Cooking

Adding some wood chips to your charcoal can really enhance the taste of your food by embedding it with a smoky flavor.

What’s the best charcoal for griling?

Few other methods of cooking can match grilling with charcoal when it comes to taste, especially if you love that smoky flavor. While most people put a lot of thought into choosing their grill, they’re considerably less picky when it comes to the fuel source and often just grab the first bag of charcoal they see on the shelf at their local store. This is a mistake, as charcoal plays a bigger role in the flavor of your food than the grill itself.

There are two types of charcoal: lump and briquettes, and each offer its own benefits.

Lump charcoal

Lump charcoal is made by burning wood until all the sap and moisture have been released. What you’re left with is pure carbon charcoal with no impurities, which is why many purists swear by it. Lump charcoal lights quickly and generally burns hot and fast, making it ideal for getting a heavy sear on meats. Because it has no impurities or additives, it doesn’t produce too much ash and will never impart a chemical flavor on your food.

Best lump charcoals

Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Made of an ultra-dense hardwood and completely free of chemicals, this lump charcoal burns hot and for a long time with minimal popping. This makes it a good choice for both low-and-slow and high-temperature grilling. 

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Fogo Super Premium Oak Restaurant Lump Charcoal

Fogo Super Premium Oak Restaurant Lump Charcoal

This restaurant-quality option lights up quickly and has an oaky smoked flavor. The chunks are all at least 4 inches long, so you get a lot of airflow through the coal, which results in a high-temperature fire great for searing meats. 

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Cowboy 24220 Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Cowboy 24220 Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Eco-conscious consumers will appreciate that Cowboy Lump Charcoal comes from renewable sources and is made following sustainable practices. It has no additives, so the only flavor it imparts on your food is the one you want from the smoke. 

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Harder Charcoal Natural XL Restaurant Style Lump Charcoal

Harder Charcoal Natural XL Restaurant Style Lump Charcoal

Harder Charcoal Natural XL comes from the Quebracho wood, a tree species that are known as the “ax breaker” because of its density. The result is lump charcoal that burns longer than many other varieties. Also, it’s harvested without cutting down a single tree. 

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Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Thanks to its mix of oak, hickory, maple and pecan woods, Rockwood All-Natural imparts a unique flavor to your food. In addition to using wood left over from timber milling as the source, the company also packages it in recyclable bags printed with soy-based inks. 

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Ozark Oak Premium Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Ozark Oak Premium Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Designed for both high- and low-temperature grilling and smoking, this lump charcoal is a versatile option. It comes from Arkansas and is affordably priced for the quality. 

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Charcoal briquettes

BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity Charcoal Starter

When most people think of charcoal, they’re picturing charcoal briquettes. These are what you see stocking the shelves of every big-box retailer when spring rolls around. Usually, they’re made from a combination of sawdust, fillers and other additives, though there are also some pure options. Many people like briquettes because they burn for a long time and maintain a steady temperature.

The downside to briquettes is that they leave behind a lot of ash and can be difficult to light if you don’t have a chimney starter or aren’t using lighter fluid. Also, some claim the additives can impart an unwanted flavor on foods.

Best charcoal briquettes

Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes

Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes

Unlike many other briquettes, Original Natural is made without any fillers or additives. Despite that, it holds together well and can be lit without the need for lighter fluid. It’s a chef-grade option suitable for pitmasters and serious BBQ enthusiasts. 

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Royal Oak Chef’s Select Premium Hardwood Charcoal Briquettes

Royal Oak Chef’s Select Premium Hardwood Charcoal Briquettes

Despite being sustainably sourced and made from just American oak and hickory hardwoods without any unwanted fillers, Royal Oak Natural is affordably priced and great for people on a budget who grill often. It leaves behind little ash and can be used in any kind of grill. 

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Kingsford Professional Competition Briquettes

Kingsford Professional Competition Briquettes

Kingsford Competition is designed to burn hotter and longer than their popular original variety. If you can handle the extra heat, it’s great for getting a hard sear on meats or for events where you’ll be grilling for hours. 

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Jealous Devil Maxxx XL All Natural Hardwood Charcoal Pillow Briquets

Jealous Devil Maxxx XL All Natural Hardwood Charcoal Pillow Briquets

These extra-large briquettes are twice the size of most others, so they burn hot and for a very long time. If you don’t like to have to deal with constantly adding charcoal to your fire during extended backyard BBQs, these are the ones for you. 

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MUXI Portable Grilling Charcoal Briquettes

MUXI Portable Grilling Charcoal Briquettes

If you plan on grilling while camping, there are few more convenient options than this. It comes in a moisture-proof bag that you simply light when you want to start the fire. However, it’s best for small grills and cooking food for just one or two people. 

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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