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.
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.