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Welcome to the briquettes breakdown! A guide just for you.

A close up picture of two different briquettes burning in two grills

As Hamlet once pondered, “To briquette or not to briquette?” Now that is the question indeed. Ok fine, we’re taking some massive rhetorical liberties with the doomed Prince of Denmark. But as the #seasonofsizzle is upon us, now is the ideal time to have a closer look at the mighty charcoal briquette. Come with us and be enlightened.


What are briquettes?

This is probably a good place to start. Now the word briquette comes from the French word ‘brique’ which literally translates as brick. This isn’t too far away from an apt description to be fair. Basically charcoal briquettes are just manufactured hard ‘blocks’ of charcoal fines or sawdust (technically any combustible biomass but more on that later). This is all good and well but what does that actually mean? Please read on.

When you break things down, there are essentially two CEOs of Briquette Corp. First up we have the traditional pillow shaped or oval briquettes. And more recently, compressed hexagonal or square shaped briquettes have burst onto the scene. Let’s explore these two players in the BBQ briquette game.


Normal household briquettes – overview

These traditional treats are produced from charcoal fines – AKA extremely minute pieces of charcoal. The mixture is then crushed and mixed with vegetable starch or water. Moving on, the mixture goes through a press, forming the well known oval briquette shape. Lastly, once the mixture has dried, we have our standard briquette. Conventional briquettes are very popular with casual grillers, as they have a uniform shape and size, plus they perform well in closed lid or smoke style barbecues. What’s more, the uniform shape and density of each briquette produces a consistent, and therefore controllable, burn. The potential issue with traditional briquettes boils down to the binders used in production. When the briquettes are lit, the internal binders combust creating a particular odour. Obviously this can affect the flavour of your food.


Some hexagonal shaped charcoal briquettes are stacked in a pile in a test furnace ready for burning


Compressed Charcoal Briquettes – overview

Now these babies are definitely a step up. Why? The answer lies in the manufacturing process itself. We begin by collecting a mixture of very fine waste wood sawdust. Then we place the mixture in a mould and compress the sawdust at extremely high pressures. This compression removes internal moisture from the mixture, as well as releasing natural resin from the wood. The newly formed briquette is then carbonised into a charcoal briquette. The process doesn’t use any starch or artificial binder, delivering a totally odourless and natural briquette. Increased density equals longer cooking times and more consistent heat. Plus, thanks to a central air hole running through the middle of the briquette, they are easier to light – producing a more even heat distribution.


What’s the difference between lumpwood charcoal and charcoal briquettes?

This is a topic that has been bouncing around the BBQ subculture for a long time. Not so much relating to the differences between the two, but rather which one is better for your grill. As we’re sure you know, there are rarely definitive answers to these kind of questions. Best isn’t really an objective thing. It’s actually more of a subjective idea – meaning what’s best for you. When it comes to the old briquette versus lumpwood debate, many factors come into play such as your BBQ skill level, budget, flavour preference and more. It is these things that will ultimately determine whether you love lumpwood or big up briquettes. Of course many people enjoy using both – so there’s that too. We’re not here to force an option on you – we think both are awesome. Rather we’ll break down the comparison for you, so you can make your own decision.


Lumpwood charcoal  – key information

  • Usually made from 100% natural hardwoods such as oak, maple, birch, or more exotic woods such as White Quebracho, Kachi stick or Marabu.
  • Charcoal takes a ‘natural’ form meaning irregular sized and shaped pieces.
  • Lights quicker than conventional charcoal briquettes.
  • Burns hotter than BBQ briquettes at about 538°C (1,000°F).
  • Usually creates a smaller amount of ash.
  • Lumpwood burns from 1-3 hours depending on the type of lumpwood charcoal
  • Produces a specifically smokier wood fire flavour to food than briquettes.


BBQ briquettes – key information

  • Produced from charcoal powder or other materials such as sawdust and waste wood.
  • Compressed briquettes are compressed into uniform shapes at high pressure.
  • Conventional briquettes are made from drying a mixture of charcoal fines and binders.
  • How long do briquettes burn for? This depends on the type – you’re usually looking at between 1-3 hours. Generally speaking, the lower quality briquettes tend to have a shorter burn time than lumpwood.
  • Usually burns a little cooler than lumpwood at 371-425°C
  • Yes there are some briquettes out there that contain binding agents and accelerants. However there are also plenty of 100% natural compressed briquettes out there.


Meet a few members of the Big K Briquette Family!

As we’re sure you know, we are somewhat charcoal specialists over here at Big K. We’ve been at this for over 50 years, crafting, refining and producing quality charcoal in all shapes, sizes and forms. Our passion for what we do drives us. And it is the reason why we have a wide selection of briquettes for the Big K Fam. Let’s look a little closer.


A product picture of Big K cocoshell briquettes in their packaging


4KG Professional Coconut Shell Briquettes

If you have your heart set on a natural and sustainable option: our Coconut Shell Briquettes will bring a smile to your face. Check out the product run down below.

  • High quality briquette produced from waste coconut shell
  • Great performance with up to 3 hours cooking time
  • Super quick and easy to light
  • Low smoke, low odour
  • High heat output
  • Timber free product made from sustainable sources


A product picture of Big K Premium FSC briquettes in their packaging


Premium FSC® Charcoal Briquettes

Feel the high performance from high intensity compression. Our Premium FSC® Charcoal Briquettes  are pressed in specialised moulds, creating a uniform shape and density. These amazing briquettes are also FSC® certified, meaning that you can BBQ and be kinder to the planet too.  How? Well, FSC® certification indicates that both the packing and production of this charcoal were done safely, sustainably, legally and ethically.

  • Low Smoke
  • Low Odour
  • Easy to Light
  • High Heat
  • Clean Burning


A product Picture of Big K Easy Light Briquettes in their packaging


Easy Light Compressed Charcoal Briquettes

Forget binders, additives or hidden chemicals. Our dynamic Easy Light Compressed Charcoal Briquettes are a 100% natural and sustainable compressed briquette. With no sparking or odour, each briquette delivers consistency, heat and quality  every time. Of course you can also enjoy a whopping cooking time of up to three hours depending on the grill. This is thanks to the unique briquette shape. You see the ‘tube’ form, including  the central air chamber,  is specifically designed to improve airflow and circulation, meaning there’s more oxygen to help combustion. Searching for versatility? Each hardwood briquette breaks easily to the size that you want, reducing waste and giving you more temperature control.


Can you burn Peat briquettes in a wood stove?

Taking a detour away from the grill for a minute, let’s look at briquettes and home heating. This may seem like a random question, but we have received a few DMs about it so let’s clear things up for you. The simple answer is yes with a few caveats.  You see peat and firewood are two very different materials.  Basically firewood is denser than peat, so it burns longer with fewer emissions. All in all, peat briquettes may not be the best, or most efficient, way to heat your home.

So there you have it – charcoal briquettes broken down brick by brick (pun intended). If you’re keen to grab some briquettes and fire up the grill, there’s no need to type ‘ fire briquettes uk’ into Google. Just visit our website now and get crack-a-lacking. We’re not quite done yet. You can brush up on more briquette knowledge here and here  Want to know more about Lumpwood? Read this Ok now we’re done.

Bye for now.