What is the Best Charcoal for Smoking?

How to Use a Vertical Smoker

Buying the charcoal often comes last after you have set up the smoker and marinated the meat. Not many people give much thought when they are buying their charcoal, thinking that they are all the same and they all have the same purpose, which is fuel for smoking and grilling.

But did you know that there are actually different types of charcoals in the market? Yes, there are about two types that are really popular. If you think that charcoal is just a minority when doing your smoking job, you will soon find out that it is a big mistake because fuel plays a big part on the smoking process.

Here in this article, you will learn more about the different kinds of charcoal and which one best suits your smoking needs.

Which is the difference between lump charcoal and briquettes?

When it comes to smoking, you will want to get something that will produce the best smoked flavor and grill without having to wait for hours on end. Some charcoals can possibly lessen the cooking time but still produce the same amount of smoked goodness.

There are two types of charcoal: Lump charcoal and briquettes. Each will be discussed below, to give you an inkling of the best one to pick.

Lump Charcoal – This is the ideal pick of purists because this is the most natural charcoal anyone can get. Lump charcoal is created by burning wood with the absence of oxygen, preventing it to burn to ashes. The result is lumps of coal that can be heated and fired for fuel.

Get something like the:

Royal Oak Lump Charcoal

Because lump is charcoal’s most natural form, it has a lot of great qualities. These qualities are:

  • It lights faster – You don’t need to spend too much time heating the charcoal because it ignites quickly.
  • It burns hotter – You can finish your cooking faster and serve food quickly.
  • Produces less ash – Compared to briquettes, lump charcoal produces less ash, which makes the cleaning afterwards easier and hassle free.
  • Temperature control is slightly possible – Controlling the heat of the charcoal is possible, but still a bit difficult and requires a bit of work and adjustable air vents. This is because lump charcoal is more responsive to oxygen.

Of course, if there are pros, lump charcoal has cons too. These are:

  • It burns faster – You need to watch over your cooking from time to time because lump charcoal burns a lot faster and it means you have to add more if you are going for hours of slow smoking. You don’t want the fire to die in the middle of the process.
  • It is more expensive – Because it is all-natural and the effort of creating this is much greater, it’s also more expensive. You have to pay for several bags and consume it quickly because it burns fast.

Briquettes – These are made from by-products of wood (think sawdust) that are compressed with additives to make them appear consistent in shape and form. The additives also allow the briquettes to light and burn consistently. Although it is less natural, it’s an efficient kind of fuel because you can get it almost anywhere.

For this, check out:

MUXI Portable Grilling Charcoal Briquettes

Don’t be put-off by the chemical properties of briquettes because it still has pros, such as:

  • It provides a stable burn – Unlike lump charcoals, you don’t need to watch over it as often because once lighted, it gives a stable and steady burn. Because of this, the temperature remains maintained all throughout the cooking. This may be a con if you want to be able to change and control the temperature.
  • It burns longer – This quality makes it a good option to use if you are going for long smokes. Usually, smoking a large meat would take more than eight hours. Briquettes allow you to do other things while it does the cooking for you.
  • It costs less – Briquettes are cheaper than lump charcoal, which makes it great if you like to go on long, slow cooks all the time.

Some of the cons of using briquettes are the following:

  • It gives out a chemical smell – The smell diffuses after the black part of the charcoal turned white and burning so users suggest waiting for this to come to effect before putting your meat inside the smoker.
  • It takes longer to light – You will have to be really patient with it. Consider tossing a burning wood in the middle of the bunch for faster heat-up.
  • It produces more ash – Compared to lump charcoal, briquettes produce more ash, giving you more to cleanup afterwards.

What is the best type of charcoal for smoking?

After you have read through the differences of lump and briquette, it’s time to decide which one works for smoking. The best one for long hours of smoking is definitely the briquette because it costs less and burns at maintained temperature. You can just leave it to tend on its own while you can spend your time doing other things.

The cons can be easily solved and it should not outweigh all the pros the briquette can give. If you’re worried about flavor, you can always add chips of woods into the fuel bin that will make the entire thing smoke more. And if you want faster lighting, you can get something like the:

Light-A-Fire, All Natural Fire Starter

On the other hand, if you’re aiming for short cooks and grills, the best one to use is definitely the lump charcoal. Both has its own pros and cons and it’s really up to the user which one he thinks suits his needs best.


Pick the best charcoal that suits your needs. Ask yourself how much you want to spend on the fuel, how much time you are willing to sacrifice for cooking, and how much attention you’re willing to give to your smoke. Lump charcoal and briquette may have very slight differences in composition, shape, and form, but at the end of the day, their functions are the same.