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Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes — Which is Better, When, and Why?

Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes — Which is Better, When, and Why?

When it comes to charcoal, you have one main choice to make: Lump or briquettes? In this guide, we compare and contrast the pros and cons of each. We discuss when to use one or the other and the benefits gained from switching between the two at the correct times.

Leaving aside the favored brand — or even sometimes color — of your grill, and whether to use a Texas Crutch during a ribs or brisket cook, possibly the most heated debate in the whole world of grilling is that of lump charcoal vs briquettes.

Charcoal, because of its high carbon content, has more potential energy than raw wood: it can provide cooking heat that burns hotter, more steadily, and cleaner than dried wood.

To say a fire burns cleaner is merely saying it’s free of eye-watering, sneeze-inducing chemicals going up in smoke. And that’s one of the benefits of using charcoal rather than dried wood.

There are two basic types of charcoal:

Almost everybody has an opinion on which is best, and many will argue fiercely for their chosen side.

So, what is the difference between the two types? What are their origins, advantages and disadvantages? Why do some choose one fuel type over the other?

Lump Vs Briquettes Key Takeaways

  • Lump — Is 100% all natural carbonized wood, burns hotter but faster, irregular shape can mean irregular inconsistent burns. It adds more smoke flavor to food.
  • Briquettes — Are compressed sawdust that’s carbonized, often contains fillers and binders, burns cooler but for longer, burns consistently due to uniform shape. Adds low smoke flavor to food.
  • Can use either in most grills or smokers.
  • Lumpwood is better for high heat searing and grilling, and where you want to add the most flavor.
  • Briquettes are better for controlled, low and slow smoking cooks — except in kamado style grills where you must use lump.

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