There are lots of different types of charcoal and it can be confusing. While the charcoal you use doesn’t really impact the flavor, it does affect the heat produced and how long the coals stay hot. But when it comes right down to it, charcoal is available in two basic forms; lump charcoal and briquettes.
Lump charcoal, a favorite among grilling purists, has a more natural composition. It’s usually made from cherry, coconut shells, mesquite and tamarind. Because it’s not compressed like briquettes, it tends to burn hotter and faster. It’s also less ashy. It’s difficult to layer lump charcoal evenly, so grillers tend to use lump charcoal for low and slow BBQ, like pork, ribs and brisket.
Briquettes are made primarily of sawdust, with binding ingredients added to form their pillow shape. The uniform size of briquettes gives you a standard unit of fuel, making it easier to regulate a more precise fire. Briquettes burn a little less hot than lump charcoal and experts tend to use briquettes for foods that require less cooking time, like steak or fish.
One way to get some of the benefits of lump charcoal without the drawbacks is to build a mixed fire: some briquettes and some lump. This will help you get a hotter fire for searing and still maintain more consistent heat for longer-cooking times.
The charcoal you choose primarily impacts the intensity and evenness of your heat. Whichever type you decide on, use a quality charcoal, like our centercut lump charcoal. It burns cleanly and is uniform in size and quality for dependable results every time.