Natural Charcoal or Briquette?

Nothing says summer quite like an outdoor cookout. From grilling hot dogs to smoking fresh salmon, a summertime cookout is one of the best ways to celebrate those long summer evenings with your friends and family. And some of the best food around comes from grilling with charcoal.

There is a continual debate among grill-masters and novices alike as to whether or not natural lump charcoal or briquette charcoal is better to cook with. So next time you decide to fire up the grill, consider these pros and cons.

Natural Lump Charcoal – Pros

One of the biggest draws of natural charcoal is that it contains no additives or fillers. It is 100 percent natural and therefore gives your food a nice, natural smoky flavor. It also lights quicker, burns hotter and doesn’t produce as much ash as its briquette counterpart. As a bonus, natural charcoal is more responsive to oxygen, so it is easier to adjust its temperature with air vents.

The more serious grillers tend to use hardwood lump charcoal, which is made of pieces of hardwood with no additives that have been charred into lumps of charcoal. It burns hotter and cleaner than briquette, but the heat is variable and not as consistent, so it definitely requires someone who is comfortable managing fire temperatures.

Natural Lump Charcoal – Cons

Because natural charcoal lights quicker and burns hotter, it also burns faster, meaning that it takes more to maintain the heat for a consistent amount of time. It is also more expensive than briquette and the size and number of pieces is not always consistent.

Briquette Charcoal – Pros

Briquette burns longer, is easier to maintain a consistent temperature without much help and overall it is cheaper than natural charcoal. A batch of 45 briquettes will give you consistent heat for one hour, and solid hardwood charcoal briquette has less fillers, and burns cleaner and hotter than regular briquette.

Briquette Charcoal – Cons

Briquette is pulverized raw charcoal that’s been binded with cornstarch and other additives. Translation: it contains chemicals that, if not managed properly, can cause your food to have an unappetizing chemical smell. It also takes longer to light and produces more ash compared to natural charcoal.

What do you think? Do you prefer to use one type of charcoal over the other?