How to Choose the Best Charcoal for Grilling & BBQ – Lump or Briquettes?

Charcoal grilling has been a favorite pastime for many home cooks and for restaurants as well.

We've picked the top 10 best brands of charcoal for grilling to delight charcoal grillers. Any credible griller will tell you that grilling with charcoal gives food a special flavor. And they're right!

Charcoal grilling creates an aroma delight and food tastes amazing when grilled with charcoal. We've picked these popular charcoal bands, and here's our top pick:

Sweetladycook Picks: Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

FOGO makes this Hardwood Lump Charcoal with hand-picked chunks of dense Central American Hardwood to give your barbecued food a natural hardwood flavor.

Charcoal grilling creates delicious meals and provides a fun gathering in your backyard, at a tailgate party, a picnic, or anywhere you can grill your food outside. There are several different types of charcoal for grilling and all can be used on BBQ grills, smoker grills, portable grills, Hibachis, and others. You want to buy a charcoal that is easy to use and one that you like the flavor and aroma from. We've described the different types of charcoal in this article.

Pressed Charcoal Briquettes

Pressed charcoal briquettes are the most common people use. They are typically black, puffed squares made from pieces of wood, seeds, pits, and other organic materials that have been combined and molded into briquettes. 

These charcoal briquettes often have chemical binders and igniter fuel added so they start easier. Brands like Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes are found in abundance in many a griller's arsenal of grilling supplies.

While charcoal briquettes are easier to find and generally priced cheaper, they're not made from natural hardwood and do not have a pure smoky aroma and flavor. But charcoal briquettes burn very hot and last a long time. They are hotter than a gas grill can be because they have plenty of carbon from the materials they're made of and carbon produces energy. These briquettes also come pre-soaked with igniter fluid for easy match lighting. Many brands like

Pressed Charcoal Briquettes with Smoking Woods 

Some companies that produce charcoal briquettes will add flakes of real wood to their materials such as mesquite and hickory hardwood. This improves the flavor by adding a touch of smokiness from real wood.

The wood flakes also help the briquettes to light faster and spreads the heat more evenly. This type of briquette also comes pre-soaked with igniter fluid for easy match lighting. Find this charcoal briquette with flakes of wood in Fire & Flavor John Wayne Briquette Charcoal, one of our favorites!

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is made from pure, natural hardwood chunks of wood that have already been charred. This lump charcoal choice comes in different shapes and sizes and is made from many different types of hardwood.

This type of charcoal offers a very intense heat and quick lighting. They burn less of a mess only leaving a portion of the ash charcoal briquettes leave when done burning. The real wood gives off mild hints of the wood used to make each kind of lump charcoal and no chemicals or additives are used.

Only real wood is used to make lump charcoal and they do not have scrap wood, pieces of siding, or scrap furniture added so you're not getting chemicals in your barbecue fire. This type of charcoal is best for smokers and pot belly grills and will burn hot and clean to allow the flavor of your food to prevail! We chose Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal as our top pick!

Binchotan Charcoal

Binchotan charcoal is a Japanese style super lump charcoal that is typically used in yakitori parlors in Japan and the United States. Binchotan is made from hardwoods from Asia such as the Rambutan tree like our pick, Pok Pok Thaan Thai Style Charcoal Logs.

There is no charcoal flavor when you use this Binchotan charcoal. It burns very clean and comes in log shaped pieces. They can be placed alongside each other to create an even heat distribution. It's best to use a chimney starter or electric starter to allow these lump charcoal bars to light. Once they do, you'll have a very hot and long-lasting fire.

Lump or Briquettes: Which Is the Best Charcoal?

Lump charcoal is a lump of natural wood that has been charred and is actually the original charcoal from many years ago. The original creators of lump charcoal took wood logs and slow burned them in a sealed cave or kiln. This resulted in a dense, heavy limp of wood. There are no chemicals or additives and lump charcoal is as natural as you can get. It also produces minimal if not no smoke and does not flare up. You can add more lump charcoal to a fire without the strong smell of charcoal briquettes being added to an existing fire.

Charcoal briquettes are manufactured and often contain materials like wood scraps, sawdust, coal dust, borax, and petroleum. This gives off the acrid smell when first getting them lit. The match light charcoal briquettes are soaked with lighter fluid for easy lighting but you will deal with the strong odor of the lighter fluid which is said to burn off. If the briquettes are not completely lit you will still smell the lighter fluid and it may transfer to your food. Briquettes also tend to flare up when grease drips from the meat on the rack and will lead to excess smoke and flare ups.

With these two descriptions, you can decide on what charcoal for your barbeque grill works the best.

Which Burns Longer, Lump Charcoal or Briquettes?

There are a lot of factors that affect how long your charcoal burns, whether it's lump charcoal or briquettes. The type of grill, use of the vents for air circulation, amount of charcoal you add to your barbecue grill, and other conditions affect both lump charcoal and briquettes equally.

If you created the exact same conditions in the same grill for both lump charcoal and briquettes, briquettes will burn longer. The drawbacks are the materials used in these briquettes versus the natural materials used to make lump charcoal. Briquettes are made with various materials and many of them are not natural.

You may want to consider the alternative of lump charcoal versus the briquettes if a fire made with natural materials is more important. But lump charcoal will cost more in price and quantity needed.

How to Make the Most of Your Charcoal When You Grill?

When you fill your grill with charcoal, you'll probably start the fire with the charcoal arranged in a pyramid to get the best start. With lump charcoal, it's likely you'll use a fire starter. Once the coals have a gray/white ash coating, it's time to flatten out the pyramid for even grilling.

If you plan on grilling for more than a half hour, add a bit more charcoal in the middle and around the edges about 2 inches from the outside line. This will allow the new charcoal to catch slowly so the heat will last longer. Add 5 to 10 pieces of charcoal at a time. If you have half your charcoal left, you'll need to add more every 30 minutes. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes for the new charcoal to ignite and form the gray/white coating.

If you need a larger fire, or your fire to be hotter, open the vents on the top and the bottom of the BBQ grill to allow more air and oxygen to the fire. Fire grows with oxygen. If you want to sear your meat, do so with the grill lid open and the vents open for the highest temperature. Once you've seared all your meat or poultry, put the grill cover back on for a slower cook and close the vents if you want less heat. Remember to get a hotter fire and temperature, open the vents and close them for less heat. You can regulate the temperature by keeping only one vent open at a time. Closing the top vent is best for smoking because it traps the smoke near your food.

To help the coals last longer empty the ash several times so more air can circulate. Use the bottom lever to empty the ash so it doesn't smother the charcoal coals.

Now, here are the reviews for the best charcoal!

The Top 10 Best Charcoal for Grilling Reviews

1. Best Choice - Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal

FOGO makes this Hardwood Lump Charcoal with hand-picked chunks of dense Central American Hardwood to give your barbecued food a natural hardwood flavor.

FOGO's lump charcoal is made to match restaurant quality standards and lights quickly. Fogo is the word for fire in Portuguese, and this hardwood lump charcoal is just that—hot fire. It lights fast and it's ready to grill in 15 minutes.

The natural hardwood burns hot and the high temperature sears meats and poultry to lock in flavors. FOGO adds nothing to its wood. It's all natural so you can be sure you're grilling without chemicals. Available in 35lb and 17.6lb.

2. Jealous Devil All Natural Lump Charcoal, Restaurant Quality for Smoking and Grilling

Jealous Devil Natural Lump Charcoal is restaurant style for the backyard griller. This hardwood lump charcoal is made from hardwood sourced from South America and is then hand-cut and hand-fired in brick kilns.

This lump charcoal lights fast, burns hot, and provides a clean burn for that perfect hardwood taste. This all-natural hardwood lump charcoal contains no fillers, no chemicals, and no scrap wood. It provides a clean burn so you get a pure, natural flavor from your food—not the taste of chemicals.

Hardwood lump charcoal also burns free of smoke and will not produce sparks. Cleanup is easy and there is a lot less waste because of a very low-ash burn. Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal gives off a performance type heat and uses up to 30% less charcoal and burns longer than other fuels. This is a 35 pound bag made with durable, heavy duty kraft paper.

3. Fire & Flavor John Wayne Briquette Charcoal

Fire & Flavor created this oak and hickory hardwood lump charcoal with all natural hardwood. Each lump has burn ridges to allow for better air flow. This assists with faster lighting and a sustained heat.

This hardwood lump charcoal is made with hand-picked wood from their Missouri mill and never from scrap wood remnants. The natural wood aroma provides just enough flavor enhancements to your grilled foods, but never overtakes the delicious flavor of the food.

Fire & Flavor is the exclusive manufacturer of all John Wayne BBQ products. A percent of all sales are donated to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation! This bag weighs 8.3 pounds.

4. Pok Pok Thaan Thai Style Charcoal Logs

Thaan Thai Style Charcoal logs are made from natural Rambutan Fruit Wood in a Thai-Style binchotan extruded log.

The Rambutan fruit tree was first cultivated by Malayan jungle tribes and they are found in Southeast Asia. The wood is very dense and makes these logs long lasting. Although they have a mild flavor, it does not interfere with the flavors of your grilled food. These logs are restaurant quality but made for the home grill master!

The natural fruit wood logs burn long and hot and are easy to get started. They are practically smoke free and do not produce flames or sparks. The even heat you get by stacking these logs make for easy grilling, barbecuing, and indirect cooking. Bring an exotic touch to your grilling with these charcoal logs! This package contains 14 logs equaling 5lbs.

5. Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes

Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes are premium quality briquettes that light fast without lighter fluid. Instead of a bad smell or broken pieces, these 100% natural pillow-shaped charcoal briquettes have no chemical smell.

They produce no smoke and do not give off sparks. You can set these up in your grill and be barbecuing in 10 minutes! The smoky, almost sweet aroma infuses our food with a natural, grilled flavor. And these natural wood briquettes aren't made with fillers or chemicals so your food is safe from carcinogens!

Original Natural Charcoal made this charcoal 'chef-grade' for pitmasters and lovers of barbecue. Cleanup is easy as these briquettes leave little ash. And if you're not 100% happy with this charcoal, the company guarantees a full refund within 30 days of purchase!

6. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes

The all American Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes have a long history of being the most popular barbecue charcoal.

It's made with all natural ingredients including real wood for a light, smoky flavor. Each briquette is made with Sure Fire Grooves to provide more edges for faster lighting. These briquettes will heat up to glowing white covered coals that burn hot and last long.

They're ready to cook on in 15 minutes. This bag weighs 7.7 pounds so it's easy to carry along to picnics, for tailgate parties, and camping. Kingsford also makes various weight bags of these Charcoal Briquettes and other versions of their time-tested barbecue products!

7. Royal Oak Lump Charcoal

Royal Oak Lump Charcoal only gets its wood from renewable sources and uses natural oak, hickory, maple, and walnut hardwoods.

There are no chemicals, additives, or fillers in their lump charcoal and it burns much cleaner than charcoal briquettes.

This lump charcoal lights within 15 minutes and is ready for you to grill delicious foods, fruits, and vegetables with a light smoke flavor. Lump charcoal lasts longer and goes further; one pound of Royal Oak natural lump charcoal will put out the heat of two pounds of charcoal briquettes.

Grill eats to perfection with the even heat distribution of these charcoal lumps and delight your guests with the aromatic authentic barbecue flavor! This is a 17.6 pound bag.

8. Kamado Joe 20 pound Big Block Natural Lump Hardwood Charcoal Box

This Big Block Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal is a big, 20 pound box of the best lump charcoal for your barbecue! Kamado Joe only uses wood from real trees without any additives.

They never use scrap wood of scrap furniture pieces that contain chemicals and toxins. This all natural lump charcoal burns clean and imparts a wonder wood-fire flavor to your grilled foods. It burns hot so your meats retain their moisture and have a flavorful, crisp outside with whatever barbecue sauce you use. Hardwood is dense and burns hotter so this lump charcoal does well on pot belly grills, ceramic Kamado grills, and smokers. Each box contains faster starting small pieces and large pieces that maintain the fire for extended periods of time.

Not only does Kamado Joe 100% Natural Lump Charcoal burn hotter and longer, but if you close the vents on your grill when you're done barbecuing, there will still be some hot coals in the grill for your nest use!

9. Primo Natural Lump Charcoal

Primo only uses all natural lump charcoal created with real American hardwoods. It makes for a premium fuel source for grilling and smoking and is free of tars and any other foreign chemicals.

This lump charcoal is created to weigh much less than other lump charcoals and it still lights fast, burns long, and creates high, hot heat. When using this lump charcoal in a smoker, it can burn for up to 36 hours! This 20 pound bag of Primo lump charcoal can be used for up to 35 smoking sessions. It provides a light, smoky flavor and creates much less ash than charcoal briquettes making cleanup easer!

10. Kingsford Match Light Charcoal Briquettes

Kingsford Match Light Instant Charcoal Briquettes are well known for grillmasters everywhere. These briquettes are made with Sure Fire Grooves and contain a perfect amount of lighter fluid in the actual briquette for easy lighting. There's no need to use any fire starter methods; just hold a match to the coals and they will light automatically. The briquettes are made with real wood and natural ingredients for a light, smoky flavor. Don't fight with newspaper, twigs, or other starters, just light these wherever you are and they catch right away. Use these on all barbecue grills, smokers, and Kamado grills. Kingsford is an American favorite for backyard barbecues! This is a 6.2lb bag.


The choice of charcoal will depend on the barbecue grillmaster, but there are many options for everyone's taste and barbecue style. While you want a charcoal that will be hot enough and last long, you may not want to use the briquettes with lighter fluid. This is the more common backyard barbecue method and works great for many people.

Lump charcoal and Binchotan charcoal are dense and made from real, natural wood. It takes more to get it started, but for smoker grills, and slow cooking, lump charcoal is a better choice. We hope the reviews and information here have given you enough knowledge to purchase the best charcoal for grilling that meets your barbecue needs.

Enjoy your barbecue parties, backyard gatherings around the smoker grill, and tailgate parties when you buy one of these top rated charcoal products!

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