Briquettes Vs Lump Charcoal

You’ve chosen or are debating to use Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal out of the 6 most popular fuel sources for cooking outdoors. To help you decide, keep reading to fully understand the pros and cons of these 2 most popular kinds of charcoal. This is included in our Grilling on Charcoal article. Also, it’s a part of our Food Articles category and shown in our Grilling section.

Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal Introduction

So, if you’re just thinking about it, read the article and make or change decisions behind each kind of grill, which dictates your heat source.

If remaining with a lump or briquettes decision, read further below about questions and answers about lump wood charcoal but also has some comparing and referencing to briquettes. And also know that the link(s) to reviews are for different kinds and brands. And, mixed throughout, are some great tips and guidance regarding hardwood charcoal or regular charcoal usage.

We begin with a popular grill brand example of the Weber Charcoal Grills line and some individual charcoal related functions behind some of them. However, Kamado grills are referenced as best in BBQ Grills articles. We just start off the charcoal reference with an extremely popular line of grills.

Using Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal with Weber Charcoal Grill

The Weber Charcoal Grills and charcoal smokers are very good and extremely popular for either briquettes or lump charcoal.

  • 18 inch Weber Charcoal Grill
  • Weber Performer Charcoal Grill, 22 inch
  • Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22 inch, Touch-n-Go Gas Ignition
  • 14 inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker

They tend to be affordable but they do offer a wide range of prices with varying features and functions. Read more about “How To Use Weber Performer Charcoal Grill” to learn more. When considering charcoal, select one that can be readily refilled during the cooking process. Lump charcoal will generally last shorter and will need refilling more often but usually only if the lumps are not large.

With large lumps, you’ll add more lump charcoal less often. Also, not all grills have an opening for refilling charcoal. You can look for a panel front door or the grate itself might have a lift-able section for dumping in more, whether you use lump charcoal or briquettes.

Ash Removal – Ash Catcher: Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal Ashes Volume

Ash removal is always a pain. The common cause seems to be how charcoal is made. When considering briquettes vs lump charcoal, briquettes are made with sawdust at times. This is one of several advantages of using hardwood lump that acts like pieces of wood, compared to regular briquettes. However, Weber does make some grill models with a removable ash catcher.

Some Weber grill models have a “One-Touch Cleaning” system, which is a set of 3 blades resembling a 3-prong propeller on a plane. This is where you repeat the open-and-closing of the base vent as those 3 small bladed arms sweep the base ashes into the available vent slots that lead into the ash catcher pot underneath. It’s extremely handy for both lump charcoal and briquettes.

Ash from 1 10 Lb Briquette and 1 20 Lb Bag Lump Charcoal After 3 Winter Months
Ash from 1 10 Lb Briquette and 1 20 Lb Bag Lump Charcoal After 3 Winter Months

The advantage here with lump charcoal is that you won’t have to empty the bucket out nearly as often as from briquettes ash. With briquettes, you might go through about 20 lbs. and you need to empty it. With lump, you might have to go through 50-60 lbs. before emptying. Overall, it’s about 1/2 – 1/3 the amount of ash production when using lump charcoal.

How Much Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal To Use

When it comes to briquettes vs lump charcoal, charcoal usage will vary depending on how much you’re about to use your barbecue grill. Also, consider its burn rate, if it’s low and slow, and consider its cooking time. And you might enjoy a smaller sized bag of charcoal briquettes compared to the larger, heavier bag of lump charcoal. But, you’ll appreciate the hardwood lump charcoal benefits more.

Regardless of briquettes vs lump charcoal, all of this also depends on how long you need to keep the grill going during your cooking session. Ribs, for example, take the full duration of your charcoal briquettes so you’ll want extra to be sure. Burgers cook real fast but if you’re filling the grill surface area, you’ll need a lot there too.

Most cooking sessions for the average person will tend toward full or half full of grill space being used. With this knowledge, you can easily adjust lower for less than half grill space used. Here’s a rough idea of how much charcoal to use. While it references briquettes or chimney starter quantities, you’ll need to equate that to the type of lump charcoal you use since those sizes vary extremely.

How many charcoal briquettes to use for burgers – Full Grill Coverage

The average grill might take about 100 briquettes or 1 full chimney starter. Here are some approximations for cooking quantity examples.

  • 12-15 burgers at a time and good for 2-3 sets.
  • 6-8 steaks for 2 sets.
  • 12 pork chops and good for 2-3 sets.
  • 12-20 pieces of chicken.

Rotisserie style cooking will require a full amount of charcoal but divided in a split style arrangement where the center is empty of charcoal and the drip pan is used there. The sides will be heavy with 1/2 grill’s worth of charcoal on each side. You might have to refill charcoal in this setup.

How many charcoal briquettes to use for Half Grill Space Usage

  • The average grill might take about 50-75 briquettes or 1/2-3/4 full chimney starter.
  • Good for about 6-10 burgers at a time and good for 2 sets.
  • Good for ribs on indirect heat. You’ll need about 75 or 3/4 full chimney starter.
  • Good for about 8 pieces of chicken.

My 4 Year Statistical History of Using Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal

  • Regular Charcoal Briquettes – 2 years – 24 bags, 20 pounds each bag
  • Royal Oak Hardwood Lump (natural hardwood) – 2 years – 5 bags, 30 pounds each bag

Can Charcoal get wet? Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal

If it gets wet, the cheaper charcoal will sometimes just crumble and is not usable. However, if just humid, it still might be salvageable. Just lay it out and let it dry in the sun. If humid or moist, It will usually not burn as hot and it will smoke more. Plus, the smoke will be a bit different in color and it will be a little harder to light.

To try to salvage, one option is to mix it in with some regular charcoal that hasn’t been exposed to the water. Lump charcoal is less prone to permanent damage when exposed to moisture. So, if not exposed severely, lump and charcoal also burn okay when dried. You might need to mix in some extra non-impacted charcoal to the regular briquettes for improving reliability.

How To Know When Lump Charcoal Is Ready: 3 Methods

Lump Charcoal can be ready after lighting, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. If using a charcoal chimney starter, it usually is about 10-15 minutes, depending on what igniting method you used.

Lump Charcoal Heated and Ready
Lump Charcoal Heated and Ready

1. How To Know When Lump Charcoal Is Ready When Using a Gas Igniter

With a built-in propane gas igniter (like Weber’s) that you leave on, it takes about 10-12 minutes total time. Replacement canisters are often going to be far cheaper to buy locally, e.g., via your big box store, instead of online due to shipping and packing requirements for propane under pressure.

With briquettes, usually a gas igniter is intended to only get the charcoal minimally started (from a 5-minute period). Then, you turn off the gas igniter, close the grill’s lid, and wait another 30 minutes for it to “catch” more fully for a total duration of about 35 minutes.

Lump charcoal only needs about 5 minutes with an igniter (at the bottom) and then about 10 minutes wait time after that for the rest of the charcoal to catch.

2. How To Know When Lump Charcoal Is Ready When Using Fuel

If you’re using a fuel to dispense across the charcoal (which is normally not used on lump charcoal), you usually dispense the fuel. Then, you wait about 1-2 minutes. That is its absorption time. Then, after lighting, it’s about a 5-10-minute wait. It’s best to follow the directions on the fuel-based starting methods.

3. How To Know When Lump Charcoal Is Ready When Using a Charcoal Starter

Charcoal Igniters or Starters will vary immensely and you can only know by reading the instructions and other customer’s reviews.

Can Charcoal Go Bad? Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal

When storing briquettes vs lump charcoal, each will have a different life expectancy. But that also depends on storage conditions and types of charcoal. Charcoal that is self-igniting (has fuel in it) can go bad in the sense of the self-igniting function after about 3 months. Other charcoals that have additives can lose their potency depending on what was added. Charcoal overall, does not go bad as long as it’s not exposed to moisture.

So, in a sense, it might take a few years but eventually could go bad over gradual exposure to light moisture in the air. I’ve had charcoal outdoors stored in a plastic storage bin, not moisture-proof but the bag closed up, and it lasts easily to the following year without any noticed difference. And, I’ve burned a bag of charcoal discovered in a garage after 3 years with the same result.

Does Lump Charcoal Go Bad?

If kept away from moisture, it will be just fine. You can read above question about “Can Charcoal Go Bad?” for further details.

Is Lump Charcoal Better? Pros & Cons of Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal

Overall, lump is better; however, it has its pros and cons like other grill heat sources and here they are.

The Pros of Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes

  • Lump burns hotter
  • It often is easier to light
  • Lump produces about 1/3 of the equivalent to briquettes ash.
  • The flavor of food is considered by some to be better, compared to briquettes.
  • Contains no additives

The Cons of Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes

  • The number one con is that it costs more, and often a lot more.
  • It’s much dirtier.
  • It burns faster.
  • It’s harder to handle and dispense due to irregular shapes and sizes of its contents.
  • Many of the brands sold have a huge disparity in differences of effectiveness and quality.
  • Timings of refilling for long term cooking or smoking are inconsistent due to variety of sizes of lumps
  • Although not a technical con, it can impact your purchasing power and your cooking effectiveness if you’ve received an inferior product. Because of the high cost, there is a high level of scams claiming their lumps will burn longer or having a higher percentage of larger chunks. And, it even happens with branded products if their quality levels have gone down or, if their producer (in another country) has made some changes. I’ve seen some reviews even of some alleged popular brands are potentially a fake knockoff and not from an ethical reseller.
Royal Oak 30 Lb Bag Hardwood Lump
Royal Oak 30 Lb Bag Hardwood Lump

Lump Charcoal for Smoking

Is Lump Charcoal Good for Smoking?

Yes, if it satisfies two key requirements, which one of them is dependent on the other. Let me explain.

1) First off, you can use any charcoal for smoking as long as it will last the length of the intending smoking session. That’s the primary requirement. Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster so you’ll want to learn the proper venting to manage the air flow and temp. Also, the sizes of the lumps are an impact to its duration between refills so, that’s our next item.

2) So, the second part of the equation is the dependent item. In order for the charcoal to last long enough, it will be dependent on its size of the lumps overall. However, even the large lump charcoal bags will have a percentage of medium and small lumps. So, that’s why you’ll want to read reviews of those who mention an excessive or low amount of small pieces, which is often professionally rated as a percentage of a bag.

So, if you are planning on smoking a lot, you’ll pay more to get a higher percentage of large lumps per bag. It’s also a reason that some people will resort to getting a smoker that allows wood burning because obtaining wood in certain sizes is much easier to manage on the manufacturing side of things.

So, in summary, you have to manage its heating properties as it will burn hotter (usually) than charcoal briquettes. And, you’ll need to manage the refilling processes as most lump charcoal comes in varying shapes and sizes. Also, it burns faster. So, if you’re filling the smoker and you notice a particular batch has a lot of smaller lumps, you’ll need to schedule to return sooner as that batch won’t last as long.

Wood Smokers Using Lump Charcoal

If you’re trying to replace using wood, getting a lump charcoal made from a hardwood is the best way to get closest to actual wood. Also, it’s been recommended to just put some burning lump coals on the top of the fresh charcoal bed and allow it to naturally light the lumps under it.

Having a longer burn life would be of interest to those deciding on using it in their smoker. Here are some different size examples of Weber smokers that work with lump charcoal.

  • 14 inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker
  • 18 inch Weber Smokey Mounter Cooker
  • 22 inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Lump Charcoal Burn Time

Lump charcoal vs briquettes burn time varies significantly across the different brands and types of lump charcoal. However, if you equate with the same size of lumps with briquettes, overall the burn time is about 15-30% quicker with lump. However, I have experienced times where it appears the same.

I have also experienced lump charcoal lasting longer when using large chunks. Again, it depends on brands, sizes, and types of briquettes as well as the lump you’re comparing. Here’s our article on “How To Keep The Weber Charcoal Grill Hot” while grilling or smoking on a charcoal grill; it also mentions times of briquettes vs lump charcoal burn times.

Does lump charcoal require lighter fluid?

No; it does not. Lump charcoal can be lit just like charcoal briquettes but without lighter fluid. And, coincidentally, lump charcoal lights easier (usually) and burns hotter than briquettes. Also, the natural aspect of no additives to lump charcoal is another reason to avoid adding a fuel.

What are some good brand ideas for buying lump charcoal?

For the lump charcoal brands shown below, the ratings were shown as being consistently very high.

  • Big CP 20 pound bag of natural lump charcoal
  • Cowboy 20 pound lump charcoal
  • Fogo 17.6 pound bag Natural Large Sized Hardwood Lump Charcoal
  • Royal Oak, 100% All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal, 30 pounds
  • Royal Oak Chef’s Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes, 40 pounds
  • Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal 35 pound bag

Typical Evolution of Grillers Starting with Charcoal Briquettes

Here’s an example of a popular evolution of many who go through life cycles of outdoor grilling over many years. It’s not everybody, of course, but it’s a good example of what one might go through. If you’re somewhere in this cycle, you might relate. And many will stop and settle in on their own preferred phase, which is perfectly fine.

Costs Less and Easily Lights with Charcoal Lighter Fluid

Charcoal briquettes is what most people start out with using a cost-effective, simple charcoal grill. And many will also start out with lighting the charcoal via charcoal lighter fluid. It’s basic and simple.

Little Cost with Lots of Ash: Switching To Gas

Over time, it’s learned that there’s a lot of ash as the by-product. But, maybe that’s just the way charcoal cooking is. So, some will switch over to gas grills to do away with the ash issue and enjoy the convenience of an instant start for immediate grilling.

Miss That Smoky Flavor: Switch from Gas back to Charcoal

Over time, the deep, smoky flavor of foods is missed and people sometimes return to charcoal. But, when returning to charcoal and lighter fluid again, there’s a lot of “fuel” taste in the food from the lighter fluid. So, many will quickly learn how to start charcoal without using lighter fluid., using the various methods. Even the self lighting charcoal briquettes and the easy igniting starter cubes have that gasoline taste in the food. Through persistence, doing away with the chemical forms of igniting charcoal is reached.

Skip the Charcoal Lighter Fluid Taste: Use an Electric Charcoal Starter

However, over time, using the electric heat element starter or the paper under the charcoal pitcher, there’s still that subtle chemical taste in grilled foods. Then, after trying different brands of charcoal, it’s later learned that this remaining fuel taste is coming from the additives in the production of charcoal briquettes.

The First Time To Try Lump Charcoal Instead of Briquettes

This eventually leads most to want to change over to a natural wood lump charcoal but it’s much pricier by the bag. You read about the claims of getting more grilling sessions per bag but, is it really? Well, my first mistake was that I didn’t change any of my times or vents for lighting or cooking on the grill. The lump charcoal was lit well enough and I should have started cooking sooner.

Also, I should have adjusted my vents down a bit. Everything was cooking hotter. It took longer to cool down and burned up the coals too quick. So, I needed to adjust those other aspects covered in this article to match the kind of charcoal I was using.

So, when you review the overall benefits, it’s not necessarily more expensive. Read on as we now address lump charcoal.

Conclusion of Briquettes vs Lump charcoal

Now, you’ve seen a whole let of pros and cons regarding briquettes vs lump charcoal. You’ve read about burn temp values, burn duration rates, ash volume differences, storage concerns, pricing comparisons, and more. For your own benefit, ask “Where can I see serious reviews of charcoal?” I’ve gone through a tons of good and bad articles. Here’s an excellent set of considerations.

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