Best Lump Charcoal Reviews 2018: Top 5+ Recommended

Lump charcoal brings a distinct aroma and flavor to any dish, and as such, it is unparalleled with this reigning champ of grilling.

Just the other day sent my husband back to the store when he came home with briquettes instead of charcoal and said: "Well, those are the same things".

You think he didn't go back to the store to buy charcoal? Think again.

You can call me a barbeque purist, but lump charcoal is charcoal in its most natural form. It also burns hotter, lights faster and it leaves less ash than other alternatives. Beyond that, the temperature adjustment is easier.

So, no, those are not the same things. However, not all lump charcoals are made the same but don't worry, in this article, I'll guide you through the process of finding the best lump charcoal and present you with the top five products on the market.

Related: Learn To Find The Best Charcoal Grill - Barbara's Reviews

1. Know the characteristics of good quality lump charcoal

  • When purchasing lump charcoal, you should always look for a product that is made 100% out of natural wood, without added chemicals that could compromise your food. A good package will have similar-sized pieces, and it will not have a lot of dust at the bottom.
  • If superior quality is what you are aiming for, look for large pieces, because they tend to burn longer and produce less ash than smaller pieces. You should also know that excessive sparking is a sign of low quality. This also poses a potential danger and makes the wood burn faster.

2. Think about sustainability

  • While this might not be the first thing that pops into mind when you are planning a barbeque party, I always try to remember that I am an example to my kids. That is why I choose sustainable rather than rainforest-destroying lump charcoal.
  • Besides, it is not that difficult to find sustainable charcoal. Many manufacturers decide for eco-friendly practices to protect the forests. This is especially true for companies coming from the U.S. because in some countries illegal deforestation makes up a huge chunk of lump charcoal production.

3. How the types of wood used for charcoal affect the taste?

  • I was just as surprise as you are now when I first heard that the type of wood that is used for producing lump charcoal could alter or enhance the taste and aroma of the food. Through practice and experience, I've learned to observe wood as wine: the lighter woods (e.g., maple and fruit trees) make up for a sweet and delicate flavor, while darker woods (e.g., hickory and oak) leave a strong and pronounced taste.

If you like to experiment with flavors, you should try different types of lump charcoal and see which one you like the best.

In short, these are the basic features of some of the most frequently used types of wood:

  1. Alder: sweet and smoky, ideal for seafood.
  2. Apple: delicate taste, perfect for fish and pork.
  3. Birch: light aroma, great for cold-smoking fish.
  4. Beech: fragrant and musky smoke.
  5. Chestnut: mild and nut-like taste.
  6. Cherry: sweet smoke that works the best for chicken, duck, and salmon.
  7. Hickory: the most loved wood smoke that provides that classic strong flavor everyone adores.
  8. Oak: a strong and bitter flavor.

4. Can you mix them up?

  • Yes, you can. In fact, a typical bag of lump charcoal contains a mix of different types of wood. Those are usually beech, oak, and ash. However, different types of wood are complicated to put together, because they have different burning time and temperature and a different flavor profile, which is why it is always better to go with a single wood type if it is possible. Some packages are carefully mixed up so that the different wood types have some similar qualities. 

5. Know the burning temperatures

  • Not so long ago, I thought that all types of wood when transformed into charcoal burn at the same temperature. After some research, I've found out that is not true. This is a very important takeaway because there is a need for different vent settings to accomplish the same stable temperature if you are using different lump charcoal. For example, maple burns at 1200°F, apple tree at 1190°F and cherry at 1099°F. 

6. What to avoid?

  • A bunch of the "right purchase" resides on what to avoid and not what to look for. With lump charcoal, the most important thing is to avoid brands that have a lot of small broken pieces and excess dust. Still, don't write a brand off right after the first bag. Sometimes the store is to blame for handling the packaging badly so that you can give it a second chance.

Most Recommended Lump Charcoal: Detailed Reviews 2018

Finding the best lump charcoal for barbeque and smoking is more challenging that you can imagine, so I've saved you the trouble of spending hours researching among a bunch of products, and give you the five best lump charcoal currently on the market so that you can enjoy the irresistible smoky flavor and aroma as soon as possible.

Image Credit: Amazon.com

When I first decided to try out this charcoal, I was prepared for a disappointment, because which manufacturer wouldn't say that the bag is full of "hand-selected large chunks of hardwood".

Instead of disappointment, I got a pleasant surprise, because most of the chunks are pretty large.

I also noticed that it lights up without plenty sparks and that the burning lasts fairly long. As for the flavor, it was just as it needs to be – slightly oaky. Compared to many other lump charcoal this one smells clean while burning and it is not overwhelming.

However, the quality of the bag in which it is packed is not good, so it can happen that the lumps get beaten and crushed, and thus unusable. This may be a problem especially if you are ordering an online shipment.

Things I Liked

  • Mostly large chunks of charcoal
  • Delicious woody flavor
  • Lights up quickly and burns long
  • All-natural with no added ingredients

Things I Didn’t Like

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    Poor packaging that causes large pieces to break and leaves sediments
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    The price is slightly higher than expected

Image Credit: Amazon.com

Unlike the previous product, this lump charcoal comes in a heavy duty craft paper bag, so you don’t have to be worried when ordering delivery. The product doesn’t include scrap wood, fillers or chemicals. When I used it the first time, I've noticed there are about 3-4lbs of unusable small pieces and dust.

According to the manufacturer, the charcoal burns with over 7000 cal/g of cooking power. While I can’t vouch for that, I can say that it burns clean and hot. The flavor is nice and smoky.

I was unpleasantly surprised to see that the bag I ordered was covered with charcoal dust from the outside and my hands were completely black.

Also, while the bag is firmer than with the previous product, the lumps are significantly smaller. This was especially noticeable with my second batch.

Things I Liked

  • Great heavy-duty packaging
  • The charcoal is completely natural without scrap wood and chemicals
  • It has an admirable cooking power
  • The flavor is nice

Things I Didn’t Like

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    Charcoal lumps are smaller than they should be
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    The bag came to my address dirty from the outside

Image Credit: Amazon.com

The first thing I noticed when I started grilling meat with this charcoal is that there is no strong chemical smell while it is burning, as with some other products.

This must be because is made of 100% natural blend of cherry, apple, and oak. As such, it gives you an ideal combination of sweet, delicate, strong and bitter taste.

The charcoal chunks are of reasonable size, and they burn quite long and evenly. I particularly like how easily it lights and how long it lasts.

My biggest disappointment is that the bag contains approximately 20% of the small charcoal material, especially because it costs more than some of the similar products. So, is it worth the extra money? Not really.

Things I Liked

  • It is made of completely natural hardwood, such as apple, oak, and cherry
  • The flavor is the ideal balance of sweet and bitter
  • It lights up so easily
  • It burns long

Things I Didn’t Like

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    A lot of the pieces in the bag are very small, and there is a lot of dust
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    It is above the average price range for lump charcoal

Image Credit: Amazon.com

Hickory is definitely my favorite type of wood used to make charcoal. It gives you the ultimate smoky taste everyone adores, which is why I have decided to try out this product which contains hickory and oak lump charcoal.

Like all of the previous lump charcoals I've tried, this one also doesn't contain chemicals, treated wood, fillers, petroleum products, nitrates, or any other unnatural ingredients. It lights better than many of the other charcoals I've tried out, and it lasts longer. I liked that it burns evenly at a low temperature, which is necessary for smoking.

However, I still think this product is overpriced, especially because the size of the chunks is pretty inconsistent and it ranges from a marble to a tennis ball. 

Things I Liked

  • Marvelous aroma of hickory joins well with the oaky taste
  • It is completely natural
  • It lights fast and burns long
  • Great for smoking food on low temperatures

Things I Didn’t Like

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    The price is too high for such a product
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    The size of the chunks is inconsistent
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    There are many unusable pieces

Image Credit: Amazon.com

This product is something new on the market, at least when it comes to packaging. Unlike the four previously reviewed products, Kamado Joe’s charcoal comes in an enclosed bin which makes transportation much safer.

Since it is made of real trees, this charcoal burns clean and hotter than many other on the market. It even allows you to reach the steak-searing temperature.

Most of the pieces are large, and sometimes even reusable. The medium and smaller pieces work well for veggies, burgers, etc. There were still some tiny pieces and dust on the bottom of the box, but nothing too concerning.

The first time I bought it the flavor and smoke was fantastic. However, when I bought it another time, I have noticed that there is an odd smell to it, but maybe it's just me.

Things I Liked

  • Great bin packaging
  • Burns hot and clean
  • It reaches high temperatures
  • The size of the pieces is satisfactory
  • Excellent price

Things I Didn’t Like

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    Large pieces can be too large for normal handling
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    An odd smell

Final word

While trying out these charcoals I have made some delicious meals for my family and friends, but now it is time to decide which one met the most of my requirements.

If you are willing to pay a higher price, you should definitely go with Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal. Sure, it can happen that there are some dust and tiny pieces on the bottom of the bag, but that is only because of the poor packaging. I'm hoping they'll upgrade it soon because everything else is perfect.

If you want to save some money, but still end up with an excellent product try Jealous Devil All Natural Lump Charcoal. The product has some issues, but I still believe that they were caused by one bad packaging and that the next time I order it, I’ll be more satisfied.

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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