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Our charcoal barbecue guide will refresh your BBQ knowledge

Is authenticity becoming extinct? As technology advances we experience more and more degrees of separation from the real. Do your best mirror impression and reflect for a sec. Face to face is being replaced by the virtual, friends are now followers, physical objects transform into augmented reality, natural food is substituted with processed chemicals: the list goes on and on. We’re not saying that this is good or bad – it is merely a testament to the times we’re living in. So where does the charcoal barbecue come into the equation? Slow your metaphorical roll there for a minute. We’ll get there. If you peel back the layers of digital networks, pocket gizmos, mega malls and fast food, one truth remains – human beings are simple creatures. Basic wants. Basic needs. So visceral experiences make us tick. In other words we crave the authentic. It stands as a counter point to the superficial world around us – a balance of internal spirit if you like. Step forward the charcoal barbecue.

 

Meat and vegetables are midway through cooking on a charcoal barbecue

 

Does charcoal or gas provide a more authentic grilling experience? 

Talk about tucking into a big serving of the obvious. However please indulge us while you masticate. It’s time to insert some weapons grade plutonium into the flux capacitor, fire up the Dolorian to 1.21 gigawatts and travel back 1.8 million years ago. Don’t have a Scooby Doo (AKA a clue) what we’re talking about? Seriously, put this charcoal barbecue blog on ice and go watch Back To the Future please. It’s a great film.  As we were saying, cast your mind back to an ancient time. Picture our industrious ancestor Homo erectus roaming the wild terrain. No time for a status update on FB #survivalofthefittest. He was busy discovering and mastering fire, as well as rudimentary charcoal making. The seeds of cooking over flame were sown.

Skipping forward to about 30 000 years ago (the Middle Paleothic period) both Neanderthals and the first modern Homo sapiens were deep into the charcoal barbecue grilling game, cooking the spoils of their epic hunting expeditions. We can’t break down the full evolution of the charcoal barbecue here. It would be like BBQ history repeating itself, as we did this very thing last month. You can catch up here if you missed it. The cerebral nugget here is obvious – the mechanics of cooking food over flame have remained unchanged for literally thousands of years. It is, in fact, one of the most quintessentially human behaviours – a truly authentic experience. And, due to this fact, the natural chain of logic leads us to determine that cooking with a charcoal barbecue offers more authenticity then a gas grill ever could. Still on the fence? Let us put it another way. Imagine your average Nick Neanderthal returning to his cave, dragging a slayed sabre tooth tiger behind him. In between all the grunting he cheerfully exclaims ‘Honey me home, please fetch the 13kg propane canister’. Point proven.

 

Do gas barbecues need charcoal? What’s the best charcoal barbecue?

To elaborate on authenticity a little more, a charcoal barbecue is definitely the way to go. You see a charcoal barbecue offers all those genuine smoky tastes, aromas and textures. This isn’t just some brand-marketing hybrid spin. It’s scientific fact.  When charcoal is burned it reacts with the oxygen in the air. This combustion process releases many compounds from ash and water to various gases. Most of the smoky goodness that we all love so much comes from two specific compounds, syringol and guaiacol. These helpful taste augmenters are absorbed into the meat, attaching themselves to other chemical compounds in the flesh. This fantastic fusion forms that true blue real deal authentic BBQ flavour. Now we’re not gas bashing here. We want everyone to enjoy their BBQ however they want. However we do feel that you deserve the best, and most authentic, BBQ experience possible. A charcoal barbecue definitely delivers in this department. What’s more, gas barbecues are generally more expensive to buy than charcoal barbecues. Not only do they offer less chargrilled delight, they are often bulkier and more difficult to store. Plus gas canisters can be heavy and not too easy on the eye in the aesthetic arena. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as they say. So keep it real – keep it 100% charcoal barbecue.

Side note here – we would not suggest trying to integrate charcoal into your gas grill. This is because the majority of gas barbecues are simply not designed to handle charcoal. Basically the heat emitted from your burning charcoal could cause a significant level of damage to the components of your gas grill. You might even need to replace several parts, if not the entire grill. In modern gas grills, the burners are extremely sensitive, so they can be easily damaged by charcoal ash and debris. As with anything there are exceptions to the rule. Some gas grills are indeed made to work with charcoal. However these are often either not very good at the task or they tend to be quite pricey.

Charcoal burns brightly at the base of a charcoal barbecue.

What’s the best charcoal barbecue to buy? 

So you want that authentic, passed-down-for-thousands-of-years, deliciously smoky, charcoal barbecue experience, but what is the best charcoal barbecue to choose? People always ask us about the best, however the BBQ world isn’t a black and white landscape. There are multiple shades of grey to explore. This is what makes grilling so interesting. What we’re getting at here is that ‘best’ is a subjective term. In other words, the idea of the best charcoal barbecue is relative to you – your skill level, your preferred BBQ style, budget, available space, portability desires and a host of other mitigating factors and needs. The good news is that charcoal barbecues come in all shapes and sizes, with different performance characteristics and capabilities, so (with thousands of options to choose from) you’re sure to find the right one for you. We can’t amble too far down the charcoal barbecue rabbit hole, as the topic is an entire blog in itself. Check out our charcoal barbecue blog deep dive from last month for more info on what’s out there.

Have no fear Big K famalam, we’re not going to leave you hanging like that shell suit from 1990 in the back of your wardrobe. Here’s a super brief recap on charcoal barbecue types. If we were to reduce things down into a tiny rhetorical nutshell, there are three main types. Knowing these will help you choose the best charcoal barbecue for you.

 

Free standing – the tried and tested, and often more economical, charcoal barbecue choice. We’re talking charcoal barbecue basics here – a stand, grill and basin. You’ll find all kinds of different shapes and sizes, as well as additional features to select including storage shelves, wheels, and grill height options.

 

Oil drum – think a larger charcoal barbecue for larger numbers.  You can choose between a half-barrel and a full oil drum. Either option is perfect for cooking larger joints or a whole animal on a spit.

 

Kettle – the classic circular charcoal barbecue complete with hood to cover the grill. The ingenious addition of the hood allows for roasting and baking using indirect heat from your charcoal arrangement – basically don’t have the food directly above the charcoal and you’re good. Many Kettles have temperature gauges and vents for monitoring and regulating temperature respectively.

 

Kamado – Kamado grills have their design roots in Japanese grilling techniques. They are made from heavy ceramics rather than metal, and they are usually egg-shaped. Lumpwood charcoal is the perfect partner for your Kamado and luckily we’ve got you covered. Pick up your lumpwood charcoal now from our website.

 

Smoker – A barbecue smoker (often referred to as an offset barrel smoker, horizontal smoker or pipe smoker) is a piece of BBQ kit designed for cooking and smoking food at low temperatures in a regulated, smoky environment. The usual barbecue smoker consists of a horizontal chamber within which food is positioned next to the heat source, rather than directly above it as with regular charcoal barbecue grills. If you’re looking to BBQ American style, cooking ribs, large joints, pulled pork and brisket, then a smoker could be right for you. Learn more about smokers in this mega hyper smoky blog of goodness.

Fish pieces lie within a charcoal barbecue smoker surrounded by smoke

 

What is the best charcoal for barbecue?

Again with the old ‘best’ conundrum here. Our previous statement about relativity and subjectivity in the barbecue game applies to charcoal too. Just to be clearer than a drop of morning dew, your charcoal choice will be determined by your personal situation and particular needs – including your barbecue type, desired grilling style and even BBQ experience perhaps. This may be slightly less definitive, so here’s something concrete to digest. Choosing the right charcoal is absolutely essential. It is the lifeblood of every grilling experience, determining everything from the taste and texture of your food, to the aroma on the palette and the look on the plate. So it goes without saying that you need high quality, perfectly performing charcoal that you can trust.

 

As always there are some general lights to illuminate your BBQ path. You should be aiming to buy high quality sustainably produced charcoal derived from coppiced wood or forestry commission approved wood where possible. Naturally there are other products out there for you, such as our instant light charcoal, which you can use on your charcoal barbecue. At the end of the day it all boils down to what you need. If you’re still a little tentative, we can give you peace of mind as you are in the very capable hands of charcoal and charcoal barbecue experts. For over 50 years we’ve been developing, producing and refining a range of quality charcoal products, so we’ve got something for the seasoned pros to the complete BBQ newbie, and everyone in between. From premium restaurant grade charcoal and sustainable choices to minimal smoke outputs and disposable options, you’ll find what you’re looking for at bigkproducts.co.uk.

 

Lumpwood versus briquette? Which is right for you?

Right so it’s safe to say that you’re putting all your eggs in the charcoal barbecue basket. A strange mixing of metaphors but you get the gist. Now, planet charcoal is a rich and diverse place with countless products offering all kids of performance characteristics. You’ll have plenty of time to school yourself on every intricacy and nuance. So for now we will narrow things down for you. Once we indulge in a little whittling, you are left with two principal categories – Lumpwood and briquettes. Here’s some info to help you decide between these epic charcoal choices.

 

Lumpwood charcoal

Introducing the gorgeous natural stuff that leaves all that smoky loveliness on your palette.  Lumpwood charcoal is made by carbonising lumps of hardwood. Carbonising is a simple process in which wood is burned slowly in kilns. During the burn all contaminants are burned away leaving lumps of carbon perfect for a little combustion and grilling.  Lumpwood is quick and easy to light, burning with a higher temperature than briquettes, but with shorter burn times. So our lumpy friends are perfect for the BBQ basics such as steaks, burgers and chicken. Not to get too much into the self-love here, but we are known in the industry as Lumpwood specialists. Why? Well all of our Lumpwood charcoal is made from 100% natural wood, with no chemical additives or lighting aids required. We even have a Premium Grade Lumpwood charcoal that is FSC® certified and very popular in the restaurant industry. Get your hands on our high quality Lumpwood charcoal now.

 

Charcoal briquettes

Perhaps your loving Lumpwood charcoal right now, but briquettes offer some sizzling performance to your charcoal barbecue. We make briquettes by compressing wood and other natural materials (such as coconut shell, peat, saw dust and coal dust) at extremely high pressures in specifically shaped moulds. The shapes vary from the traditional pillow shape to hexagonal tubular forms. The uniformity in size and shape translates into consistent universal performance from every single piece.  And reliable performance per piece ultimately leads to more control, as you can customise your burn literally on a piece-by-piece basis. Most briquettes have a longer burn time than Lumpwood, offering lower heat outputs. This makes briquettes perfect for indirect cooking techniques such as low and slow grilling and smoking. From Au Natural to our Coconut shell creations, all our briquettes are 100% natural without any binders or nasty chemicals – meaning more flavour to savour.

 

Chicken pieces cook within a charcoal barbecue grill

 

How to barbecue chicken with charcoal?

Honestly this is only a fraction of the charcoal barbecue story. We could write volumes and volumes on these carbonised creations but we can’t lose sight of the end goal – all those delectable treats to sink your teeth into. That being said, here’s a quick chicken fix for the passionate poultry heads out there.

Chicken breast, bone-in – 10 – 12 ounces – 30 to 40 minutes over indirect medium heat.

Chicken leg or thigh, bone-in – 30 to 40 minutes over indirect medium heat.

Chicken wing, bone in – 10,12 ounces 20-30 mins over indirect medium heat.

Chicken breast, boneless, skinless – 6 – 8 ounces – 8 to 12 minutes over direct medium heat.

We’re out of time and words, so for more info on all things chicken related read our previous blog examination of chicken and charcoal. It’s packed with all the insight you could ever need to grill your bird blissfully.

See when the digital Gods allow.