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The Best Lump Charcoal For Grilling Like A Pro

If you’re a charcoal barbeque enthusiast, then you probably already know the advantages of cooking with lump charcoal over traditional briquettes.

Lump charcoal burns cleaner, offers a customizable flavor profile depending on which hardwood it’s sourced from, and can even be reused for your next cookout. The best lump charcoal is furthermore typically all-natural whereas briquettes often contain additives such as limestone and borax that may negatively affect flavor. Read on below to take a closer look at the pros and cons of briquettes vs. lump charcoal, as well as for more info on the specific flavor profiles of different source-woods.

Our top list of the best lump charcoal has pinned down a variety of different options each offering their own unique cooking experience so you can select just the right fuel source for your pitmaster endeavors.

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Lump Charcoal Vs. Briquettes

Cooking with lump charcoal is widely viewed within the barbeque world as superior to briquettes, but there are some details to consider when choosing your fuel source nonetheless.

Lump Charcoal offers longer burn times than standard briquettes, a higher maximum temperature, faster lighting, and less ash due to a cleaner burn.

Lump charcoal is therefore less of a mess to clean up, and can furthermore be reused if you have pieces leftover and properly store them.

Controlling the temperature of lump charcoal can be more difficult than with briquettes because the pieces are not uniform, so particularly controlled cooking in which you want to maintain a constant heat level will require a bit more attention and maintenance.

The smoke output from lump charcoal is quite variable depending on which brand you buy, but the best options are all-natural and will therefore not negatively affect cooked food with unpleasant, acrid flavor tones.

Briquettes are easy to light and maintain, burn at a consistent rate and temperature, and are far more affordable than purchasing higher-quality lump charcoal.

For simple cookouts where you're just whipping up some burgers and dogs, it may be worth utilizing briquettes and saving your barbeque fuel-funds for searing steaks, ribs, and other special occasion feasts!

Keep in mind however that briquettes are typically made with chemical additives such as Borax and Limestone and can therefore negatively affect the flavor of what you're cooking if you're not mindful of charcoal-timing and food placement.

In summary: Lump charcoal is the way to go for barbeque enthusiasts passionate about cooking the most mouth-watering meal possible. That being said, utilizing briquettes offers a heightened level of brainless convenience, and is far more affordable - so all things considered, both fuel sources have their ideal cooking contexts!

Flavor Profiles of Different Woods

If you want to get really technical with the resulting flavor profile of your charcoal cookout, then you ought to consider the hardwood origins of the lump charcoal you buy. 

Each type of wood generates a unique aroma and resulting flavor when properly cooked with - some of which are wonderfully suited for specific meats or food types. 

Keep in mind that once turned into charcoal, the flavor profile of each wood type is far less bold. To really taste the differences in flavor between fuel sources try adding some wood chips or chunks to your charcoal bed or smoker.

Here are some brief, surface-level flavor profiles of some of the most popular woods used for making charcoal and for cooking on their own as described by Char-Broil, a highly reputable brand in regards to all things barbeque:

Apple offers a very mild, subtle, sweet, fruity flavor. It's quite popular for smoking essentially any meat (including seafood) in its wood-form and is a renowned crowd favorite for cooking pork. 

Cherry offers a sweet mild, fruity flavor that is a great friendly choice for all meats. You can think of this one as your salt and pepper!

Hickory puts off a sweet and strong bacon-typeflavor, so for that reason it's an obviously popular fuel choice. The smoke can be comparably pungent to other wood choices and promotes a strong flavor to essentially all meat cuts. Hickory is particularly popular for preparing pork and ribs.

Maple has a mild and slightly sweet flavor profile that's popular for preparing poultry and small game birds, as well as vegetables and cheeses.

Mesquite is one of the hottest burning woods, offering a strong and earthy flavor that is wonderful for most red and dark meats. 

Oak has a medium smoky flavor that is bolder than apple and cherry, but lighter than mesquite and hickory. It’s great neutral fuel source that offers a nice flavor profile on its own, while also pairing nicely with other woods. Oak is a great choice for essentially any type of meat.

Alder is a particularly delicate wood with a subtle sweet flavor. It’s popular for grilling and smoking salmon, and pairs nicely with most fish and poultry.

Olive wood has a similar flavor to mesquite but is less bold. It's a popular choice used to cook poultry

Peach wood puts off a sweet, fruity flavor that’s comparable to most other fruit wood. It's a sought after choice for grilling pork, poultry, and small game birds.

Pecan is an especially bold fruit wood, but is still milder than hickory and mesquite. It's most popular for grilling poultry but adds a nice flavor to more or less any meat.

If you want to dive deeper into the world of wood flavor and how to properly implement your newfound knowledge, check out this handy break-down written by barbeque expert Derrick Riches.

Wood Chips For Smoking

Adding some wood chips or chunks to your charcoal bed is a great way to further customize the overall flavor profile of your fuel source.

If you utilize lump charcoal with a relatively mild, neutral flavor, then you can nail just the flavor/aroma you're seeking by simply pairing your charcoal with wood chips characteristic of your desired flavor profile. 

Wise pit masters will find a lump charcoal that they enjoy cooking with, and then customize the fine points of the aroma and flavor with wood chips or chunks that precisely match the meal at hand!

For more information on how to properly utilize wood chips or chunks along with your charcoal fuel source, check out this informative piece by Cory Baldwin.

Apple Wood For Smoking

Hickory Wood For Smoking

Cherry Wood For Smoking

Rotisserie Spits For Outdoor Cooking

There are countless ways to cook with charcoal, but utilizing a rotisserie is an especially fun, engaging, and effective method.

Perfect for group gatherings and parties, turning and burning meats and veggies over a rotisserie spit is an age-old tactic that will never get old.

Be sure to check out our top list of the best rotisserie spits for outdoor cooking while you're getting geared up for barbeque season.

Electric Fire Starters and Charcoal Starters

While using a traditional chimney is an effective way to light your charcoal, the benefits and convenience of an electric fire starter or charcoal starter are astounding, to say the least. Enabling you to quickly and effortlessly get your briquettes or lump charcoal going in a matter of moments, these devices change the game when it comes to campouts, barbeques, backyard bonfires, and everything in between.

Our top list of the best electric fire starters has pinned down the best options for every context.

Blow Torches

If getting your charcoal going is a burden and you're not terribly interested in owning a fancy electric charcoal starter, consider owning a simple blowtorch for adding some oomph to your barbeque ignition. A powerful blow torch works wonderfully for getting lump charcoal red hot in moments, and is of course a versatile tool that can be used for all sorts of other applications.

Our list of the best mini blowtorches for camping has highlighted some stellar options for barbeque contexts.