Tip #2: Lumpwood Charcoal vs Briquettes – 30 Days to Better BBQ

Lumpwood vs Briquettes

In today’s article we’re going to look at the main differences between lumpwood charcoal and briquettes. In Phil’s tip yesterday, he explained the importance of choosing the right fuel for your cook so today I want to explain a little bit more about these two fuel types.


What is the difference between Lumpwood Charcoal and Briquettes?

In its most basic form, lumpwood charcoal is almost pure carbon created by heating wood in the absence of oxygen. Heating wood in this environment removes water, gasses and other substances to leave you with dry lumps of carbon. The lumps of carbon, known as ‘Char’ burn hotter and more consistently than simply burning wood making it perfect for cooking on your BBQ. It is the closest you will get to cooking on the embers from a hardwood fire.

Charcoal Briquettes are made from the same carbonised wood that is ground down and formed into the famous pillow shaped briquette. This form of fuel is generally bound using natural ingredients such as starch. As they are tightly formed, they burn at a slower rate extending your cook time but still provide enough heat to cook over.


Why quality matters

Unfortunately, not all lumpwood charcoal or briquettes are made equal. Some fuels are treated with accelerants to make them “easier to light” however these can taint your food. These products will often recommend not using the charcoal until it is completely covered in a layer of white ash, at which point most of the accelerants should have burned off. If you open a bag of charcoal or briquettes and all you can smell is lighter fluid, I would avoid them. These products are often labelled ‘Easy light’ but in my experience, a good quality natural product will light easily in a chimney starter so there is no need for these accelerants.


Everyone has their own preferred fuel choice so I’m not trying to tell you what brand to buy. Try out some of the more reputable brands such as Weber, Aussie Heat Beads or some of the great local British charcoal brands. Once you find a brand you are happy with, stick with it. Learning how your fuel burns in your BBQ and how to achieve your desired temperature will make your life a lot easier. Different brands of lumpwood or briquettes will burn differently so being consistent with your fuel choice will help you learn the best way to set up your BBQ.


Deciding which fuel to use

Lumpwood charcoal burns hot and fast for around one hour. Whilst it’s possible to control how quickly lumpwood burns by controlling the airflow, it can be a little difficult to master for long cooks. If you are simply cooking up a couple of steaks or a few burgers then you can’t beat lumpwood. However, if you are cooking for anything over an hour, the easiest way to maintain that temperature inside your BBQ is to use briquettes as they will burn more consistently for a longer period of time.


Join us tomorrow when we will look at the easiest way to light your Charcoal and get you cooking in the shortest time possible.


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Tip #1: The importance of fuel – 30 Days to better BBQ

Welcome to day one of  ’30 Days to better BBQ’, I’m so glad to finally be able to get the event under way and I am fired up about encouraging more people to get out and use their BBQ’s to cook all kinds of exciting food.

The theme for week one is all about learning how to set up your BBQ and keep that temperature under control. This will include tips on lighting your BBQ, choosing the right fuel, adding the correct amount to achieve your desired temperature and then keeping that temperature under control while you cook.

Love2BBQ.co.ukKicking off with the first tip is my good friend Phil Hoyle from Love2BBQ.co.uk. Phil is passionate about showing people the variety of different food they can cook and why their BBQ is the best way to cook it. You can follow Phil on twitter (@love2bbquk) and check out his recipes on his website Love2BBQ.co.uk

Take it away Phil


The importance of Fuel

One of the key elements to doing good, relaxed BBQ is the fuel you use and how you light it – both can be areas of pain. When I started out on my BBQ journey I would use instant light charcoal BBQ bags. They are great for getting your BBQ going quickly but they will give you a relatively short cook time, which will find you rushing to get all your food cooked. Couple with this the quality is typically poor and you won’t get a consistent heat source each time you use them.

I graduated onto briquettes, mainly to get a longer cook time, and then had the challenge of getting them lit, which invariably took forever. Some people are put off by briquettes as they are manufactured and don’t have the natural smokiness of charcoal, but coupled with smoking chips or wood chunks you can easily infuse smokiness into your food.

If I were starting out again today I would really recommend buying good quality briquettes, such Aussie Heat Beads, Weber Briquettes or an environmentally friendly option such as Nature Coconut Shell Briquettes. All of them give a really long and consistent cook. By consistent, I mean each time you cook with them you will pretty much get the same temperature on your BBQ and same cook times, which will help you improve your cooking each time you BBQ. Also, knowing you have heat for a long period will make you BBQ in much more relaxed way, which will be reflected in the quality of your food.

Coupled with good quality briquettes I would invest in a Chimney Starter. This makes it incredibly easy to light your briquettes quickly and hassle free (around 20 minutes depending on the brand of briquette). Once ready simply empty them into your barbecue and begin you cook.


Cooking over the wrong fuel will make the task of creating outstanding BBQ a lot harder than it needs to be, but choosing the right fuel will give you the confidence to try new things as you can be sure of a consistent heat. In tomorrow’s tip, we’ll dive into the differences between lumpwood charcoal and charcoal briquettes plus some tips on choosing a good quality fuel.

Big thank you to Phil for getting the event under way with a killer tip and one that is so important when starting out.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to sign up to become a free member of Barbechoo.com to stay up to date with everything that is happening throughout ’30 Days to better BBQ’. Simply enter your name and email address below to receive notification when tips or videos are released.


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