Choosing the Right Charcoal for Your Grill

Smoldering charcoal in a charcoal chimney.

Picking which type of charcoal you’ll be grilling with is almost as important as choosing your grill itself. It’s not enough to simply grab the first bag of charcoal you see — the differences between the two main types of charcoal affect both the fire inside your grill and how the food you cook over it tastes. We’ll detail what separates charcoal briquettes from lump charcoal and why we prefer lump when it’s time to grill.

  • Bag of Jealous Devil lump charcoal.

  • Lump Charcoal

    Thanks to its ability to produce high heat and its clean-burning nature, lump charcoal is considered the best type of charcoal. It’s generally the required fuel source for most ceramic kamado grills, and we highly recommend it for other charcoal grills, too. Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a kiln without much oxygen for a long period of time, resulting in what’s essentially dense hunks of carbon. With lump charcoal, your grill can get extremely hot and even pack the potential for an excellent sear on any meat.

    Unlike briquette charcoal, lump fuel has no fillers or additives that give food a charred, oily taste. Lump charcoal also allows you to refuel your grill without being exposed to excessive smoking and unpleasant smells. Additionally, the pure wood composition of lump charcoal opens the door for a wider variety of regional-specific flavors like pecan, hickory, oak, and apple.

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  • Bag of Jealous Devil premium lump charcoal
  • Lump charcoal embers.

  • Charcoal Briquettes

    This kind of charcoal is typically made using a combination of sawdust, coal dust, binders to maintain shape, and other fillers. Because of their makeup, briquettes are a cheap and easy way to light a charcoal grill. Match light charcoal, meanwhile, is a certain type of briquette that has been saturated with lighter fluid so the fire will be easier to start. We don’t recommend match light briquettes (or ever using lighter fluid on any kind of charcoal) because the gas used in the fluid tends to create a chemical aftertaste in food.

    Briquette charcoal is usually rated to keep a consistent “broiling” temperature around 600 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a solid choice for grilling just about any type of food. When it comes to flavor, the variety of woods (hickory, mesquite, etc.) used to make briquettes provide subtle differences to complement the classic charcoal taste. However, briquettes also leave behind a good bit of messy ash that will need to be cleaned.

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  • Bag of Bayou Classic charcoal briquets