Grilling is one of the best ways to end up with tasty, succulent, and flavorful food. If you have a charcoal grill at home, you are already taking your own rewarding BBQ journey. Grilling with charcoal provides a wonderful savory, smoky, and umami flavor that can be wonderful for anything from meat and fish to vegetables.

However, there is one crucial component that you need to get right in order to make the most of this experience; choosing the right charcoal. The charcoal you use has a profound impact on the final flavor and aroma of your food. Charcoal comes in many different kinds and choosing the right one for your applications is a great way to start cooking with an advantage.

To find the best charcoal for grilling, you need to know about the different kinds of charcoal available, their qualities and characteristics, and what makes good charcoal. Here, we will discuss these parameters in detail and also review five charcoal products for grilling that we have found to be exceptional performers. 

We hope this will make it easier for you to choose and have a great time in front of your grill.

byb2-table__imageBest Premium Best Premium Royal Oak Premium
  • Made exclusively from hardwood
  • Burns hotter than most competitors
  • Unique ridge design promotes airflow
byb2-table__imageBest BudgetBest BudgetKingsford Original
  • No chemical or additives
  • Burns consistently
  • Easy to start
byb2-table__imageMost SustainableMost SustainableEcoNew EcoCharcoal
  • Made from all natural hardwood
  • Certified for sustainable practices
  • Very little smoke and ash production
byb2-table__imageBest All-NaturalBest All-NaturalOriginal Natural Charcoal
  • Free of chemicals and additives
  • Easy to light
  • Burn hotter than most competitors
byb2-table__imageBest Coconut Shell CharcoalBest Coconut Shell CharcoalBlazing Coco Premium Coconut Shell Charcoal
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly
  • Clean burning
  • Burns a lot longer than hardwood charcoal

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.

All About Charcoal

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

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 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.

  1. What ingredients are you looking to cook?
  2. How much heat do you need for cooking?
  3. How much time do you need for cooking?
  4. How much do the briquettes cost?
  5. 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. 

Product Review Roundup

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.

Best Premium Charcoal Briquettes

Royal Oak Premium

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…

  • Expensive
  • Ash production is slightly higher than some competitors

Best Budget Charcoal Briquettes

Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes

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
  • Consistent burning over time
  • Easy to start
  • All-natural with no chemical additives or accelerants.
  • Budget price and great value

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Not the highest heat briquettes on the market
  • Does not burn as long as some competing brands

Most Eco-Friendly / Sustainable Charcoal Briquettes

Econew EcoCharcoal Natural Hardwood Briquettes

If you are looking for a product that is all-natural, organic, and sustainable, this offering from Econew can tick all the right boxes. The USP (unique selling proposition) of these briquettes is the use of all-natural hardwood as the prime ingredient. These come in 6.61-pound or 17.63-pound bags.

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 Econew 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 six hours.

If you want a sustainable product, the Econew EcoCharcoal comes certified by the Rainforest Alliance and FSC. The sourcing of ingredients, the manufacturing of the product, and the packaging are all done using environmentally-friendly practices. This creates minimal negative impact on the environment and the manufacturer keeps the production process completely transparent and traceable.

What We Like…

  • Made from all-natural hardwood
  • 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

Best All-Natural Charcoal Briquettes

Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes

If you are looking for an all-natural product, look no further. The Original Natural Charcoal Hardwood Briquettes can be a great way to make your grill work for you and produce food that is highly flavored and aromatic.

The USP of this product is the use of all-natural hardwood as ingredients. This makes these briquettes excellent in terms of grilling food that retains its natural flavors. There is no unpleasant taste or smell introduced in the food since it contains no artificial additives or chemicals. A sweet, smoky flavor and hassle-free grilling is all you get with this pack of briquettes.

The use of all-natural hardwoods also means that these briquettes are easier to light up than most competitors, burn longer and hotter, and produce very little in terms of smoke, sparks, and ash. This is a winning combination that can make grilling easy, convenient, and rewarding.

In fact, these briquettes can be considered “chef-grade” making them a noteworthy choice for BBQ beginners and seasoned pit masters alike. Since they are easy to get started even without the aid of accelerants like lighter fluid, you can be ready to grill in about ten minutes time. In fact, the manufacturer is so sure of the quality that it provides a unique guarantee; if the product does not satisfy you, you can let them know within 30 days and get a full refund.

What We Like…

  • Excellent quality all-natural hardwood charcoal briquettes
  • Easy to light up in ten minutes
  • Free of chemicals and additives
  • Burns longer and hotter than most competing products
  • Unique money-back guarantee

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Expensive
  • Some users experience fast burnouts

Best Coconut Shell Charcoal Briquettes

Blazing Coco Premium Coconut Shell Charcoal

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

You Only Live Once: Make it Worthwhile

When it comes to rewarding grilling at home, choosing the best charcoal can make or break your experience. You need to keep your needs in mind and choose the best option available that fits your budget and cooking expectations.

With these products, you have enough options to choose from if you are looking for excellent quality, value for money, and great results on the grill. Choosing an eco-friendly and sustainable option lets you enjoy your grilling experience guilt-free while choosing a briquette product with no additives or chemicals ensures that your food can retain its pristine taste.

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