Only a few things in this world beat the strong aroma and taste of barbecued meat grilled over hot coals! But when it comes to choosing the right fuel for your BBQ, you enter into one of the most debated areas in the BBQ world.
If you’re a BBQ enthusiast, you know how charcoal zealots argue about whether lump hardwood charcoal is better than briquette or if it’s the other way around. You probably have an opinion on the subject too.
But as with all controversial topics, there are several factors involved that make coming to a clear-cut answer near impossible. However, it ultimately depends on what you’re trying to cook, as well as your personal preference.
That’s why we’re going to explore the differences between lump charcoal and briquettes, so you can understand their pros and cons. This will help you make the right choice for your cooking needs. Let’s get started.
Lump Hardwood Charcoal
Lump charcoal is made in a process referred to as carbonization. In this process, wood is slowly burned in the absence of oxygen. The absence of oxygen prevents the total combustion of the wood into ash. During this process, all chemicals, sap, and moisture are removed from the wood. At the end of the day, what you have is a little more than pure carbon.
This sophisticated process of lump charcoal production offers a lot of pros and cons. Some of which include.
- Fully natural
One significant advantage of lump charcoal is that it is fully organic. Asides from the fact that harmful chemicals are removed from the wood during the production process, no extra addictive are included. This makes them a healthy choice.
- Better Aroma
Lump charcoal produces purer smoke which penetrates the meat, making it tender and giving it a smoky flavor. That’s why people say lump charcoal adds flavor to the food.
- Easy Maintenance
Lump charcoal leaves very little ash after combustion. This means less cleaning is required after you’re done cooking.
- Easy to Ignite & Control
Because it is primarily composed of carbon, it doesn’t require lots of effort to light up. Moreover, it produces intense flames up to 1,400oF. As a result, you get the perfect sear on your steak or hamburger in no time.
Since lump charcoal is easily influenced by airflow, it is very easy to control the intensity of the flame by varying the airflow.
Lump charcoals are generally expensive than their briquette counterpart. Moreover, they tend to be scarcer. Therefore, you need to have lots of lumps before you start cooking.
Bags of lump charcoal usually contain uneven pieces of charcoal, which causes fluctuations in temperature. Because it burns quicker, you have to use lots of it. In terms of fire configuration, it is not versatile. As a result, cooking with the snake method, for instance, is difficult.
Briquettes are like the fast food of the charcoal world; they’re cheap, reliable, but things begin to get ugly when you closely examine them.
They are typically made from wood pieces like coal dust, sawdust, wood chips, and biomass. The raw materials are then dried in a huge rotating barrel. Thereafter, it is heated in a special oven referred to as retorts, with a little amount of oxygen. The char produced from this stage is about 25% of the original weight. Then, the char is mixed with additives like cornstarch, and other fillers to act as binders. This helps to provide consistency in shape, which makes for more efficient cooking.
Here are some of the advantages and drawbacks of briquettes:
Because briquettes are more consistently shaped, it’s easier to maintain a consistent temperature for an extended period. Also, heat is evenly distributed inside the zones.
Compared to lump charcoal, briquette charcoal is cheap and readily available. Many people like it because it allows them too barbecue or grill without spending excessive money. Because it burns for longer, you also get to save on fuel.
- Large Ash Production
Because of the presence of noncombustible binders, briquette produces lots of ash. This translates to intensive clean up after each use. Moreover, if not properly cleaned, the ash may damage your appliance.
- Presence of Chemicals
Some of the inorganic addictive in briquette can find their way into food, thereby ruining its taste. Because it produces less smoke, it doesn’t give a natural or smoky flavor to the food.
- Difficult to Ignite and Control
Because it contains inorganic materials, briquette charcoal takes time to light up. Moreover, controlling the temperature with the airflow is challenging because its flames are not easily as influenced by airflow.
- Low temperature
Briquette will burn anywhere been 800 and 1000oF. For steaks that require higher temperatures, they may not be well-suited.
Which Is Better?
As you can see, both types of charcoals have their strengths and weaknesses. The right choice is a matter of preference, cooking skills, and goals.
For quick grilling, lump charcoal may be better suited. But if you plan to cook your meat for longer and create a temperature zone, then briquette might be more appropriate.
If you’re cooking something like a tuna steak, where you want a great sear outside but a medium center, then high heat is perfect, which makes lump preferred. But if your goal is to cook your chicken or pork chops all the way through for an extended period, then briquette will be a perfect choice. Although note that there are workarounds to make any charcoal type suited for what you want to do.
Most professional cooks stick to lump because it adds flavor and better taste, thereby augmenting their skills. Home cooks, on the other hand, prefer briquette because it is easily accessible and cheap.
Irrespective of what charcoal you choose, what matters at the end of the day is that you have fun and enjoy your BBQ. Our Neanderthal Butcher Board and Neanderthal Butcher Plate will make your BBQ experience complete.
One final note, over here at Neanderthal, we prefer natural lump charcoal.