We love the passion of barbecue fanatics. Everyone has an opinion, a favourite grilling technique, a secret ingredient that makes their BBQ a game-changer.
There are so many energetic chats and comments on social media and it’s great to see how much barbecue fans care about creating their masterpiece. We’re going to deep dive into one of the hottest debates out there. The topic is more sizzling than a succulent steak on a Sunday cook out. So, enough with the dramatic introduction – let’s explore the differences between lumpwood charcoal and briquettes.
If you’re trying to find the right charcoal for your home barbecue, how do you choose?
While the decision over which charcoal to use does come down to your own personal preference, you should know the key differences between lumpwood and briquettes, so you can make an informed decision. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the right charcoal for you and what you’re cooking – so it’s essential to understand the benefits of each type of charcoal.
Lumpwood or briquettes? Briquettes or lumpwood? The good news is that there’s no need to stroke your chin pensively whilst deeply contemplating the question for hours. Simply read on to discover our guide to the differences between lumpwood charcoal and briquettes, and how to make the right charcoal choice, every time.
Lumpwood charcoal is made by carbonising lumps of hardwood. Carbonising is a simple process in which the wood burns very slowly. This creates lumps of carbon, as the other contaminating substances in the wood burn away.
All lumpwood charcoal is made using this straightforward process – but don’t get fooled. There’s still a lot of factors which can differentiate lumpwood charcoals, and lots of reasons why it could be the right charcoal for you.
In general, lumpwood charcoal lights quickly and easily. Most lumpwoods burn with a high temperature, but they tend to burn down quicker than briquettes. This means that lumpwoods are ideal for use if you’re searing steaks or cooking burgers.
Lumpwood charcoal burns with very little ash, and most lumpwoods are 100% natural with no additives, meaning you won’t end up with a sausage that tastes faintly of lighter fluid. All of Big K’s lumpwood charcoals contain 100% natural wood, with no chemical additives or lighting aids added – good news for those taste buds of yours.
Which type of wood is best?
One of the key differences between lumpwood charcoals is the type of wood from which they are made. You might see examples of applewood, oak, maple, or many other kinds of wood used to make lumpwood charcoals. Each of these woods creates a charcoal with different burning characteristics that can make a huge difference to your grilling experience.
In general, lumpwood charcoal is made from hardwoods. These hardwoods create long-lasting, heavy charcoal that burns longer than many lumpwoods, and can rival briquettes for cooking time. For example, Big K’s Dura charcoal uses 100% White Quebracho, which is a very high density wood that creates a charcoal with a cook time of over 3 hours. Our El Cubano charcoal contains 100% Marabu wood. Marabu is an extremely durable wood that gives you up to 3 hours of cooking time.
Size of pieces
After lumpwood charcoal is carbonised, it’s graded by size to create bags of consistently sized pieces. The size of the piece affects the burning time of the charcoal. Larger pieces create a longer burning charcoal, while very small pieces tend to fall apart into ash.
At Big K, we only use the larger graded pieces in our restaurant grade lumpwood charcoal, so you’ll get a dependable, consistent lumpwood that goes the distance.
Briquettes are made by compressing wood products into consistent shapes. They come in a range of different shapes, from the traditional pillow shape to complex hexagonal products designed for enhanced airflow through your barbecue.
Briquettes have a reputation for containing chemical additives and lighting agents that can affect the taste of your food. However, many modern briquettes are 100% natural and don’t contain any of these lighting agents, so it’s worth looking out for these.
Briquettes usually have a longer burn time than lumpwood options, and they mostly burn with cooler heat. This makes them ideal for indirect “low and slow” cooking, or closed appliance barbecues, where the extra time and cooler temperatures come into their own. Briquettes also make temperature control easier. Their consistent shape makes them easy to work with and to build the precise fire that you need.
However, briquettes often take longer to light than lumpwood alternatives. Plus, if you’ve chosen one with a starch binder, this can give off a noticeable smell. 100% natural compressed briquettes are a great way to avoid this, but you may find them more difficult to get started.
Briquettes come in a range of different shapes, and these have an effect on the burning characteristics of the charcoal. Pillow shaped briquettes are very common. These are great for building zoned fires for indirect cooking. They pile well and create compressed areas of heat within your barbecue.
If you’re looking to fill a larger barbecue, or need serious performance over a long low and slow cook, try Big K’s Au Natural or Au Natural Applewood products. They’re compressed into moulded hexagonal tubes, each with a central hole with aids air flow. This creates a high quality briquette that burns evenly across your barbecue, without creating tricky to manage hot or cold spots.
Innovative new materials
One of the exciting attributes of briquettes is that, as they’re manufactured from compressed wood products, there are new and innovative products being created all the time. Big K’s Coconut Shell Briquette is a timber free product created from sustainable sources. We carbonise and compress waste coconut shells, creating a consistent pillow shaped briquette that’s perfect for every barbecue.
Lumpwood vs. briquette: which should you choose?
So, there’s lots of reasons to use lumpwood charcoal, and lots of reasons to use briquettes. Which should you choose? The ultimate answer is that it comes down to your preference and the type of cooking you want to do.
Finally, we’d like to say just take it easy and have some fun. The world will keep spinning no matter whether you use lumpwood charcoal or briquettes. At Big K, we believe a great BBQ is about experimenting and enjoying the experience, so let us help you break out of your comfort zone and try a new fuel. All our charcoal products are expertly crafted to give you the ultimate grilling experience – so why not try a new charcoal for your next BBQ? Sounds like a win-win to us.