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.