If you are looking to fire up your Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or other Kamado Grill for the first time what kind of charcoal should you be using?
The main reason Hardwood lump charcoal is my first choice for a Kamado grill is that it produces less ash.
Briquettes produce a large amount of ash which can hinder airflow and in some situations even extinguish the fire.
The best answer is hardwood lump charcoal.
Chances are you may have a bag of charcoal briquettes sitting somewhere in your garage or in the corner of your shed that has been there long enough for spiders to build a fortress inside. Although charcoal briquettes will work and can work, they are not the best fuel source for your Kamado grill.
Charcoal briquettes are made from a combination of wood dust, small shards of wood, and some filler items. The ingredients are compressed and look like little bricks with the corners cut off and rounded. The rounded corners allow air to flow through the briquettes which is essential for combustion.
So why is hardwood lump charcoal different from charcoal briquettes?
If you have ever seen an extinguished campfire, you probably have seen hardwood lump charcoal. Charcoal is what is remaining when the fire campfire has gone out but all the remaining wood or fuel has smoldered or basically turned to carbon due to lack of oxygen.
The pieces of hardwood lump charcoal you see at the bottom of a campfire are quite small, often ranging in size from about the size of a sugar cube to the size of a cherry. When you buy hardwood lump charcoal to use in your Kamado grill the pieces are much larger in size.
Commercial hardwood lump charcoal is made using large chunks of wood. The wood is lit on fire in a very large kiln. After a specific amount of the wood is burning, the kiln doors get closed. This prevents additional oxygen from entering which diminishes the flames. It also allows the wood to continue to smolder and become carbonized. What remains after the wood cools is hardwood lump charcoal.
Where can I find hardwood lump charcoal?
A few years ago hardwood lump charcoal was pretty challenging to find. These days most box stores including national hardware chains will have at least one option. Hardwood lump charcoal is often found somewhere in the garden center near where the grills would normally be in warmer months.
Hardwood lump charcoal can also be found online. Here are a few of my favorites:
Known for some of the largest pieces of charcoal around, Fogo has been a favorite of mine since I purchased my first bag on Amazon in 2016. I found myself rationing how much of it I used and mixing it with other charcoal to make the lesser charcoal perform better.
I met the folks from Jealous Devil Charcoal last year at a trade show and they have a solid offering for fueling your Kamado grill. The pieces are consistent in size and much larger than most charcoal you purchase locally.
For full disclosure, I have not tried B & B Charcoal yet but plan to do so soon. They are a newer charcoal company who I also met at a recent trade show and from what I saw, it looked like a quality product I can stand behind.
How is charcoal made?
Charcoal is made by heating wood, coal, or other organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The heat breaks down the cell walls of the material, leaving behind a black residue that is mostly carbon.
The production of charcoal is a very simple process that has been used for centuries.
Charcoal is made by heating wood in the absence of oxygen. This process causes the wood to break down into carbon and other gases. The gas mixture is then cooled and compressed into charcoal briquettes.
How are charcoal briquettes made?
The manufacturing process of charcoal briquettes begins by cutting down trees in an environmentally responsible way. The wood is then chopped into small pieces and heated until it becomes charcoal. This charcoal is then combined with a binder and other additives to form the briquettes.
What types of charcoal are there for grilling?
There are many types of charcoal for grilling, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Natural lump charcoal is made from compressed hardwood, and it burns hot and clean. The only downside is that it can be difficult to find, and it's more expensive than other types of charcoal.
Briquettes are made from a variety of materials, including wood, coal, and petroleum. They burn more slowly than natural lump charcoal, but they're cheaper and easier to find. The downside is that they can produce a lot of ash, which can be difficult to clean up.
What is the best way to ignite charcoal?
There are a few ways to ignite charcoal.
One is to use a charcoal chimney, which is a metal cylinder with a grate on the bottom and a mesh screen on the top. The charcoal is put in the cylinder and the chimney is lit. The heat from the lit chimney starts the charcoal burning.
Another way to ignite charcoal is to use a charcoal starter fluid. You can buy this at most stores that sell grills and barbecue supplies. Charcoal starter fluid is a liquid that is poured over the charcoal. The fluid will start the charcoal burning.
One of my favorite ways is with an electric charcoal starter. This is a simple device that you plug into an outlet, and it starts the charcoal with an electric current.
The electric charcoal starter is a great way to start a charcoal fire because it is very easy to use. You just plug it in, and the charcoal will start to heat up. You don't have to use any kind of lighter fluid, which can be dangerous.
Another advantage of the electric charcoal starter is that it is very safe. You don't have to use any kind of lighter fluid, which can be dangerous if you're not careful. You also don't have to worry about starting a fire in your grill.
There is a downside to using an electric charcoal starter. If you get distracted the electric charcoal starter will not turn off and can destroy itself and your dinner. Be sure to set a timer (preferably in your phone that is in your pocket) to remind you to check the charcoal starter after a few minutes of igniting. The best bet is to enjoy a cold beverage while the charcoal is igniting and enjoy the show!
Regardless of which charcoal you decide to use one thing is certain. Once you get a taste for food cooked over charcoal you want to recreate that taste again and again.