There are many aspects of smoking and grilling that get the true pitmasters talking! For this reason, we’ve rounded up the best lump charcoal for smoking and provide our lowdown in this article.
|Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood||$|
|KamadoJoe All-Natural Big Block XL||$|
|Royal Oak All-Natural Hardwood||$|
|FOGO All Natural Hardwood||$|
Lump charcoal is very popular due to the fact it doesn’t taint the flavor and provides a beautiful smokey taste.
Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal – Best High Heat Lump Charcoal
Jealous devil is undoubtedly one of the greatest lump charcoals out there. The wood it is made from, a Paraguayan “Quebracho Blanco” is renowned for being really dense.
What this means is that the Jealous Devil charcoal can provide huge amounts of heat with no problems and even burn a little longer than some of its competition. It is also less likely to spark up or pop than other charcoals.
The fact that this charcoal can burn so hot may even mean you can get the same results by using less of it compared to other types of lump charcoal.
The manufacturer claims that users are often able to use 25% less charcoal to get the same level of heat.
This is made in a totally natural way and designed to avoid all chemicals which could taint the flavor.
The product ships in sturdy bags, usually in 35 lb measurements. The sizes of the lumps are pretty consistent, too. Large and medium lumps are the most common sizes which means they will burn longer and you will get less waste.
- Use less charcoal to get the same level of heat.
- Consistent pieces provide consistent heat and less waste.
- Completely natural and leaves an untainted, smokey flavor.
- Due to the hardness of the wood, can be tough to light.
KamadoJoe All-Natural Big Block XL Lump Charcoal
While many of the products listed are great for both Barbeques and smokers, the KamadoJoe big block XL is specifically wonderful for smokers.
When you are smoking food, you’ll probably want to leave it for long stretches of time without having to make alterations.
With the KamadoJoe XL, you’ve got such huge lumps that you will be able to leave it burning for far longer than other brands without having to top up or make alterations, making your life much easier.
This charcoal can burn for between 16 to 18 hours per batch. This means even long smoking sessions can be accommodated with ease.
As well as this, the manufacturer recommends you reuse the lumps up to three times if you don’t use it all in one go, so there is no risk of unneeded waste.
The lumps are made from Argentinian hardwood and the process is totally natural. All chemicals have been removed and the flavor imparted from this charcoal is pure and natural.
Though the size of the charcoal is quite consistent, there is a little variation, and one top tip for smokers is to separate the largest lumps to ensure the longest burn time.
- The world’s largest lump charcoal, great for smoking.
- Burns up to 18 hours.
- Completely natural Argentinian hardwood.
- Doesn’t burn as hot as some of the other charcoals on the market.
Royal Oak All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal – Best Value Lump Charcoal
Royal Oak is a good, affordable brand of lump charcoal which is made in America. The wood is responsibly sourced only from renewable hardwoods including hickory and maple, which are woods which go hand in hand with grilling and smoking.
Their coal is well packed, by which we mean there is basically no dust or unusable flecks. This means that the charcoal you’ve actually paid for is exactly what you get, with no waste.
This is one of the more versatile brands of charcoal. While not specifically made for smoking, the pieces are an even blend of small, medium and large.
While some of the smaller pieces may not be the best for smoking, the charcoal as a whole does a great job for any smoking or grilling needs.
Considering that this has a blend of different woods it actually burns pretty hot. While not as hot as the Jealous Devil charcoal, for instance, it can still do a good job of reaching high enough temperatures.
Once again this is a totally natural charcoal with no tainting of the flavor. No additives and no chemicals are used in its production.
- Only made from totally renewable sources of wood.
- Little dust and waste.
- Burns impressively hot.
- Great woody flavor imparted from hickory and maple woods.
- Some of the lumps may be a little small for smoking.
- Not the most consistent sizes.
FOGO All Natural Hardwood
This is one of the instances where wood is sourced from all sorts of different places, but mainly this charcoal is made out of trimmings from Central America.
It still uses 100% hardwood and one of the great things about the Fogo charcoal is that the best and biggest pieces have already been picked out prior to being sold.
The brand boasts having 85% large and medium pieces and just 5% of dust and other chips, meaning there is very little within the bag that can’t be used for smoking.
Though this doesn’t reach the same heat level as some of the other charcoals out there, it does have enough heat for any “low and slow” smoking methods.
- 100% hardwood and includes high quality oak.
- 85% large and medium pieces.
- Doesn’t reach as high heats which may mean needing to use more.
Advantages of Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes
Lump charcoal is very different to briquettes. It is a common misconception that the two are more or less the same thing, and the process used to make them (and to smoke with them) is different.
Lump charcoal is created by burning wood without oxygen in a bid to remove all of the moisture and any chemicals and other substances from within the wood.
The aim in creating it is to basically leave just carbon, meaning it won’t taint the flavor or add anything unwanted to the food.
Lump charcoal is also great for smokers due to its reactivity to oxygen. If your smoker uses vents you can control the heat level more easily using lumps vs briquettes.
It burns hotter and is easier to light than other types of charcoal. This does mean it will burn away faster, so it is worth being careful with this and ensuring you have enough charcoal in your smoker at all times.
The fact that there are no additives means it is cleaner for both eating and for the clean up that inevitably is needed afterwards. Lump charcoal may cost a little more, but it is worth it for these extra benefits.
Maximum Flavor, Minimum Additives
We can’t stress enough how chemicals and additives are totally unnecessary for smokers. The flavor can be created totally naturally by properly seasoning your ingredients using the right cooking methods.
Some companies even offer flavored charcoals, which they claim will add a certain style of BBQ flavor or heat to your smoked meat.
This is more often than not just a gimmick, and is totally unneeded. What’s more, this may introduce more artificial ingredients which is far from ideal.
The ideal method of maximizing flavor is to use a very high quality and natural lump charcoal. Any of those mentioned on this list are completely natural and as such, any flavors imparted are natural, too.
Most pitmasters will tell you that the right smoking environment is a mix of charcoal and hardwood. It may be that you wish to add some hickory or maple to add flavor and a different style of smoke.
Even if using wood, lump charcoal is the most efficient and long lasting fuel and should therefore be included to keep a consistent heat.
This is another important tip and something you need to remember when buying lump charcoal. Some will have features such as ‘easy lighting’. Usually what this means is our old enemy, chemicals.
Adding anything petroleum based or that involves gas or chemicals of any kind is going to taint the flavors, even if the people manufacturing them would tell you otherwise.
Natural is always best, and lighting with a match is the most efficient way. There are some natural firelighters out there which don’t use any of these nasty extras, but will avoid spending lots of time trying to get your charcoal to catch properly.
Lump Charcoal and Temperature
This is another area of some debate. Lump charcoal can often burn a lot longer and hotter than briquettes and other grilling fuel.
That said, it is not always necessary to have this level of heat. Some of the charcoals we’ve listed can reach over 700 degrees, but realistically for smoking, you probably won’t need them to go over 300.
The temperature is normally controlled by the air flow into the smoker. This will depend on which smoker you are using.
Most lump charcoals are very reactive to oxygen and therefore you will have a lot of control over the heat, and can quickly increase the heat if you need to.
Some people like to increase the temperature towards the end of the smoking process to finish the meat and also to darken the ‘bark’ of any meat, but it depends on your recipe and techniques.
So why do we recommend hardwood lump charcoals capable of handling high temperatures? Well, it is good to have this option and the ease of increasing temperature should you need to.
Also, the hardwood charcoals which can burn hotter are usually capable of burning longer, too, which is very useful for smoking for long periods of time.
Lump Charcoal Storage
Charcoal lasts forever, right? Well, yes it does. However, this doesn’t mean you can store it however you like.
There are correct ways and incorrect ways, and these can have a big impact on the effectiveness of the charcoal and the taste of your food.
A sealed container is always recommended. Once your charcoal has been opened, a bag can be susceptible to allowing moisture in.
Charcoal will absorb lots of different chemicals and flavors, and ideally you don’t want it to be exposed to anything at all.
Some people will just throw the half-empty bag in the garage, but this isn’t the best method. Our recommendation is a sealed and preferably air tight container.
Though your charcoal is extremely hard-wearing, it is also able to develop mold if there is a lot of moisture, all the more reason to store it properly. Mold can cause a bad taste and even ill health.