Even though lump charcoal has become one of the most popular choices amongst culinary coal burners, there is still a place for briquettes. Not all charcoal briquettes are created equal. After compiling our research on all the different charcoal briquettes on the market today, we found some companies are taking an innovative approach to breathe new life into the briquette business.
I personally always keep a bag of briquettes around, and for a couple good reasons.
- Briquettes (most) are more economical than lump charcoal
- Briquettes come in a perfect uniform shape. Every briquette is the same size. This has its advantages.
- Briquettes burn longer than lump charcoal
- Briquettes do not produce as much heat as lump charcoal
Based on these characteristics above, we set out to find the charcoal briquettes that best represent these traits and compiled a list of our top picks.
|Jealous Devil Briquettes||CHECK PRICE|
|Royal Oak Premium||CHECK PRICE|
|Kingsford Original||CHECK PRICE|
|Olivette Organic||CHECK PRICE|
|Blazing Coco Premium Coconut Shell Charcoal||CHECK PRICE|
Best Charcoal Briquettes – Reviewed
Let us take a look at five of the top briquette charcoal products that have all performed exceptionally well in our testing. No matter what your application is, choosing from these products can bring you respectable results.
1. Jealous Devil Max Charcoal Briquettes Review
Jealous Devil made a name for itself with their amazing lump charcoal (which is also one of our favorites). Jealous Devil came into the briquette market with a different approach then the rest. They wanted to differentiate themselves from the competition, so they took a unique approach.
The Jealous Devil briquettes come in a size twice as large as the competition. This allows a couple advantages:
- Extra Long Burn Time – Great for long brisket or pork butt cooks in your Kettle or Kamado.
- Hotter Burn – Due to the very large size of the briquettes, you can get more heat out of them vs other briquettes.
Size does matter. This has always been a bit of the downfall of briquettes. When you compare them to lump charcoal, you’ll notice the lumps can get very large, when most briquettes on the market are half the size of your palm. The larger the briquette, the more heat it will put out which is great for grilling. The larger size also allows longer burn times, so this is perfect for smoking in your Kamado or Kettle.
Jealous Devin claims that their briquettes will produce more heat than most lump charcoals. After our testing, we can concur with their claim.
The quality of this briquette charcoal makes me second guess even bothering with lump charcoal. It is that good.
Of course Jealous Devin keeps everything natural and uses no chemical or fillers. These are simply made from hardwood and starch. Starch is typically used to aid with formation.
What We Like…
- Excellent quality all-natural hardwood charcoal briquettes
- XL Size = High Heat & Long Burns
- Free of chemicals and additives
- Burns longer and hotter than most competing products
What Makes Us Angry…
2. Royal Oak Premium Briquette Review
While Royal Oak might not be one of the more popular brands out there, their products are constantly rated highly due to excellent quality, versatility, and a nice bang for your buck. This high-quality pack of briquettes is made exclusively using hardwoods. The package contains two 12.9-pound bags for a total of 25.8 pounds of charcoal briquettes.
Since these are made from natural hardwoods, it can reach temperatures higher than most other brands of briquettes. In our tests, this product managed to successfully sustain a temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of almost 80 minutes: extraordinary result for a bag of briquette charcoal. This makes it an extremely versatile product, capable for both high-heat searing and low n’ slow smoking sessions.
One unique property of these briquettes is the design. Each briquette measures at about 3” X 1” X 2” and has a uniquely shaped structure with a pronounced ridge in the middle. This promotes airflow and keeps the briquettes burning uniformly for a long time. This also makes the briquettes easy to start: another advantage over most other kinds of charcoal briquettes.
In our tests, these briquettes produced very little ash and left no undesirable tastes on the meat. The smoke is clean and creates a mild, natural smoky flavor. The minimum ash production also means no hindrance to airflow and easy cleanup.
While this product is priced higher than market standards for other brands, the advantages justify the costs.
What We Like…
- Made from hardwood like hickory and oak
- No added coal
- Burns hotter than most other kinds of briquette charcoal
- Unique ridge design promotes airflow
- Easy to start
- No unpleasant fumes or tastes in the food
What Makes Us Angry…
- Ash production is slightly higher than some competitors
3. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes Review
The Kingsford brand has now become almost synonymous with charcoal briquettes, having produced quality briquettes for more than a hundred years. The Kingsford Original product is one of the best you can get if you are on a budget.
The package contains two 16.7-pound bags of briquettes, more than enough for the average cooking session.
Kingsford is the number-one selling briquette charcoal brand in America, having delivered excellent quality over the years and maintaining a stellar reputation. The Original is one of the most used kind of briquettes and the results speak for themselves.
While there are additives in these briquettes, they are also natural and organic. There are no chemical additives like lighter fluids. This means that your food can retain its actual taste and not be riddled with chemical fumes that taste and smell unpleasant.
The briquettes are uniquely designed and have grooves on both surfaces. This can promote superior airflow and ensure more even, consistent burning over time. It can make it easier for you to maintain a consistent temperature with these briquettes. The grooves also make it easier to start than many other briquette charcoal products.
These briquettes are made from ingredients sourced in America and represent great value for money. While premium competing products can give you higher heat or longer burn times, these briquettes can be the perfect way to get started with charcoal briquettes and develop the right technique. The low price sweetens the deal even more.
What We Like…
- Created in America using ingredients sourced in America
- Unique grooved design creates better airflow
- All-natural with no chemical additives or accelerants.
- The Classic Kingsford
What Makes Us Angry…
- Not the highest heat briquettes on the market
- Does not burn as long as some competing brands
4. Olivette Organic Charcoal Briquettes Review
If you are looking for a product that is all-natural, organic, and sustainable, this offering from Olivette can tick all the right boxes. The USP (unique selling proposition) of these briquettes is that they are entirely made of recycled olive tree byproducts.
With these briquettes, you can be sure that your food retains its flavors and does not develop any unpleasant taste and aromas. These things happen while using charcoal briquettes that contain chemical additives or accelerants. Since this Olivette product is completely free from these, you can enjoy the taste of your food without any distraction.
This clean-burning charcoal is also easy to get started. If you want to forego the use of chemical accelerants like lighter fluid, the easiest way to get these briquettes started is a traditional chimney starter or electric starter. You can also get great results by using paper or kindling.
The flavor of your food remains uncompromised as the briquettes give off very little smoke and produce very little ash. This means that your food ends up with a subtle, smoky flavor that is a signature of BBQ and the briquettes receive optimum airflow at all times due to the low ash production. In fact, these briquettes can go on burning for a long time and can be good for up to five hours.
If you want a sustainable product, the Olivette Organic charcoal briquettes comes certified as 100% organic by the USDA, and guarantees no chemicals or byproducts.
What We Like…
- Made from all-natural Olive Trees
- Certified for sustainable practices
- Very little smoke and ash production
- Burns for a long time
What Makes Us Angry…
- Lower heat output compared to competitors
- More expensive than some competitors
5. Blazing Coco Premium Coconut Shell Charcoal Review
Coconut shell charcoal has a number of advantages over natural hardwood charcoal. It is easier to get started, burns hotter and longer, and produces very little in terms of ash and smoke. It also gives food a clean, smoky taste with no unpleasant tones. You can enjoy all of these advantages with a quality package of coconut shell charcoal like the Blazing Coco Premium.
This pack of coconut shell charcoal logs burns up to three times longer than traditional hardwood charcoal. This makes it a profound choice for low and slow smoking sessions and Kamado grills. The use of all-natural coconut shells means that these products are eco-friendly and sustainable and do not contain any additives or fillers.
Using these charcoal logs can give your food a subtle, enjoyable smoky aroma while not changing the flavor profile in any way. This is made possible due to the fact that these logs give off very little smoke and create very little ash. The low ash production also means that these logs burn consistently over time.
Due to the high carbon content and low moisture content, these logs are really easy to get started with a regular chimney starer. You can easily use a natural fire starter and avoid having to use volatile organic compounds like those present in lighter fluid.
As these charcoal logs are long-burning, you can easily keep them going for those overnight smoking sessions. They are also great for a quick grill or sear, making them one of the most versatile choices that you can have in your BBQ arsenal.
What We Like…
- Coconut shell charcoal is sustainable and eco-friendly
- Clean-burning charcoal with little smoke or ash
- Can burn a lot longer than hardwood charcoal briquettes
- Leaves no unpleasant tastes on the food
What Makes Us Angry…
- Can be a little difficult to start due to high density
- Packaging is a little difficult to open
Determining the Best Charcoal Briquettes
To find the best charcoal for your grill, you need to look at what is available and the characteristic properties of different kinds of charcoal. The best charcoal briquettes for smoking might not be the same as the best charcoal briquettes for grilling, as the duration of the cook and the temperatures you want to reach are certainly going to be different.
Let us take a look at some interesting facts and insights about charcoal in general and what you need to look for when choosing the right charcoal for your grilling needs.
How Charcoal Briquettes were invented
Charcoal is made from wood by burning it at a very low heat in a dry environment. This removes sap and moisture from the wood and the slow burning creates an end product that is almost completely carbon.
While grilling meat has probably been practiced since prehistoric times, an important precursor of grilling over charcoal as we know it today, comes from the Arawak tribe of Hispaniola in the 17th century; who would cook meat suspended over a fire made from wood. This practice was called “barbacoa”. This is where BBQ comes from.
Later on, in the 18th century, pit-roasting large cuts and whole animals became prevalent. During this time, the use of wood smoke and different sauces slowly became fashionable.
Often, the credit for conceiving and creating the charcoal briquette is allotted to Henry Ford and the Kingsford Products Company. Ford wanted a way to reuse sawdust and scrap wood from the Ford vehicle factories and came up with a rudimentary design of the briquette. However, a design for charcoal briquettes was patented earlier, in 1987, by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer.
In the 1940s, grills became a regular fixture in the homes of many American families embracing the suburban lifestyle. A major breakthrough came in 1952 when the first Weber grill was born. Since then, grilling with charcoal has risen in popularity and the current landscape is proof.
Most charcoal is made by a retort process where the wood is passed through a series of ovens or hearths. Charcoal can also be made using a traditional kiln that burns the wood in batches. The charcoal is then carbonized to get rid of volatile compounds. The briquetting process involves mixing the charcoal with a binder and other components and then pressing it into a set shape. This can then be cut into consistent pieces and packaged for use.
Heating Coal vs. Grilling Charcoal – What’s the Difference?
It can be easy to confuse the two, but heating coal and grilling charcoal are vastly different. When cooking it is important to use grilling charcoal that is specifically meant for this use case. Using coal to cook can result in inedible and even possibly dangerous results.
Coal is a naturally formed mineral created deep within the earth’s crust due to time and pressure action on plant and animal remains. Natural decomposition of the organic material under high pressure in a moist environment devoid of air usually creates this end product.
On the other hand, charcoal is created by slowly heating wood in the absence of air. Due to the heating, water and other organic compounds are removed from the wood, resulting in a material that is almost completely pure carbon. This is charcoal, which has relatively less density than wood and remarkably less density than coal.
Cooking with coal can be hazardous as it contains many volatile organic and inorganic compounds that can instantly vaporize and affect the food. Burning coal can also release sulfur dioxide gas which forms dangerous sulfuric acid when it comes into contact with water.
Briquette and Lump Charcoal
Briquettes are usually made from sawdust and very small pieces of wood. These are burned slowly and converted to charcoal and then shaped into pieces using a binder. Many times, they have organic fluids sprayed on the outside to make them easier to light.
Lump charcoal, on the other hand, is made from burning whole pieces of wood. There are no additives of any kind. The pieces hold their structural integrity after the process.
Briquettes usually take longer to start and do not reach high levels of heat. However, they can burn for a long time. On the other hand, lump charcoal is easier to start and can reach very hot temperatures. However, they do not usually last long.
How Long do Charcoal Briquettes Burn?
Briquettes are a lot denser than lump charcoal, due to the smaller particle size of the starting wood and the use of a binder, usually a starch-base compound. This means that briquettes burn a lot longer than lump charcoal. Your initial batch of briquettes might burn at full strength for up to an hour. When they start getting depleted, you would need to add more briquettes in order to keep the temperature at a steady level.
While briquettes burn longer, they do not reach high temperatures. If you are looking to achieve a quick sear on your grill with burning hot temperatures, you might need to use lump charcoal.
Coconut Shell Charcoal Briquettes
Frequently, coconut shell is used as a vital ingredient in the process of making briquettes. Naturally occurring coconut shell is hard and has a very high carbon content. This makes it a great choice for this use case.
Usually, the coconut shell is first carbonized. Then, it is crushed and processed by machines before the start of the briquetting process. It can be easily briquetted and has some unique characteristic properties.
Most importantly, coconut shell charcoal briquettes can be made without having to cut and destroy live trees. This makes it a sustainable way to create charcoal briquettes that also perform well in the grill. They naturally have low moisture levels and high carbon content, which makes them easy to ignite. These properties also means that coconut shell charcoal briquettes can last longer than traditional hardwood charcoal.
Coconut shell charcoal briquettes can be a great choice for grilling and smoking. This safe, sustainable product does not give off any toxic or irritating fumes while burning and produces very little amount of ash- both problems of standard briquettes. There is usually no need to introduce chemicals in the manufacturing of these briquettes and they can be used without introducing unnatural tastes or aromas to the food.
In short, coconut shell charcoal briquettes can be an excellent choice if you are looking to get great results out of your grill.
How to Choose the Best Charcoal Briquettes for Grilling
In order to find the right charcoal product for grilling, you need to consider a few questions. The answers to these questions would point you towards the right direction.
- What ingredients are you looking to cook?
- How much heat do you need for cooking?
- How much time do you need for cooking?
- How much do the briquettes cost?
- Are there any additives or chemicals in the briquettes?
With these fundamental questions, it can become easier to choose the right charcoal briquettes for grilling. You should be looking for something that fits your budget and can last you a long time. Ideally, you should also be looking for a product that is completely organic and does not have any added chemicals or accelerants. These can negatively influence the taste and flavor of your food.
What Can You Cook on Briquette Charcoal?
You can get to a lot of BBQ classics using briquette charcoal, especially using the low and slow cooking method. However, you can get good results with a quick grill as well, provided you choose the right kind of charcoal and control your temperature expertly.
Cooking with briquette charcoal is a particularly good way to get meat to taste great. For example, smoking a brisket low and slow using charcoal briquettes and the right kind of aromatic wood can bring a new dimension to the cut. Similarly, you can use briquettes to create excellent herbed prime ribs or BBQ pulled pork.
In fact, other ribs recipes like smoked baby back ribs or rotisserie ribs with BBQ sauce can also go incredibly well with briquette charcoal. You can also receive stellar results with pork chops, burgers, stuffed flank steak, and poultry. Briquettes can also help create aromatic grilled pizzas, smoked cheeses, and quality vegetable sides. There’s nothing wrong with eating vegetables – in fact – it’s asinine/unhealthy not to.
Best Charcoal Briquettes Summary
Overall we feel the Jealous Devil Charcoal Briquettes offer everything you want out of charcoal, and that is including lump and briquettes. Though they are more expensive then the rest, you could use these for the rest of your grilling/smoking days and not worry about using any other charcoal.