When man first discovered fire, he probably wasn’t too worried about the quality of the kindling used and was more likely excited about not having to eat raw meat anymore. But these days, pitmasters and backyard grillers alike will have heated debates on every aspect of grilling, and that includes the fire (and what fuels it). Charcoal, while seemingly simple, can widely divide opinion, with people debating the merits of lumps versus briquettes and varying opinions within those categories.
Lumps and briquettes have their own unique advantages. Lumps are made from burnt wood and are minimally processed. There are no additives, making for a more natural burn. However, this means that lump charcoal is uneven — each chunk will be different, leading to a different burn every time.
Briquettes are less natural because they’re packed with binding agents to hold together. However, their uniform size makes them easier to cook with, and you can eliminate variables that may otherwise affect how your food comes out. They also tend to be more economical, and you can probably find briquettes at just about any grocery store you might go to. If you’re still honing your grilling craft, it can be worth trying both until you settle on a preferred kind of charcoal.
If you’re looking for the best charcoal, we’ve picked out some of the most popular options, which you can check out below.
1. Jealous Devil Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Jealous Devil is so-named because the “charcoal burns so hot it makes the Devil jealous.” And while we can’t vouch for how the Devil feels, there’s a lot to love about this long and clean-burning charcoal. It’s made from hardwood and has no chemicals and fillers, and the larger chunks burn longer. It’s also not overly smoky and leaves less residue to clean up. This particular option is a 35-pound bag, but you can also buy smaller amounts if you just want to try it.
Pros: All-natural option. Burns cleanly and isn’t overly smoky. Long-lasting.
Cons: The larger pieces may be too large depending on how you’re grilling.
Jealous Devil Hardwood Lump Charcoal
2. Kingsford Easy Light Bag, 2.8 lb
New to grilling? Try out the Kingsford easy-light bag. The bag consists of 2.8 pounds of charcoal briquettes. Rather than dumping out the briquettes and lighting them, the entire bag is meant to be lit. That means that you don’t have to deal with messes or worry about measuring out the right amount. It’s also available in a four-pound size.
Pros: Easy to use. Charcoal is meant to be burned inside the bag itself. Made in the US.
Cons: Not as economical if you regularly grill.
Kingsford Easy Light Bag, 2.8 lb
3. Pok Pok Thaan Thai Style Charcoal Logs, 5 lb
While most of the grilling conversation centers on briquettes versus lumps, Pok Pok cuts through the debate with their unique Thai-style charcoal logs. The logs are a more uniform size for more consistent results, and it’s more natural than some briquettes. The wood is made from sustainably farmed fruitwood. It’s designed to burn hot and for a long time, and the five-pound box is a better deal than some commercial options.
Pros: Burns hot and long. Uniform size for consistency. Made from fruitwood and natural ingredients.
Cons: Can be hard to start.