A question that we’ve been fielding a lot lately is what makes lump charcoal so great. Fortunately, that’s a pretty easy question to answer and one that we wanted to answer for our readers. However, once we started writing we knew that we just couldn’t answer the question as to what makes lump charcoal superior to briquette charcoal, that we had to do a deeper dive into the subject. The result is the guide that you’re reading right now.

In this guide, we’re going to do an in-depth expose on lump charcoal. We’re going to talk about what it is, what makes it superior to other charcoal products, and how to use it. Yes, we know that charcoal briquettes are still the best selling form of charcoal right now and millions of people enjoy using them. We’re not trying to take away from that fact. All we really want to do is to illuminate the positive aspects of lump charcoal and hopefully entice a few people to try it out for the first time. Okay, let’s begin examining lump charcoal a little bit closer, shall we?

What Is Lump Charcoal & What Makes It Special?

Lump charcoal is simply firewood that’s been charred and packaged. That makes it different from most briquettes that have to be formed by compressing charcoal made from wood byproducts and sawdust, with a binder and other additives. Lump charcoal is only made from firewood, so there’s no additives or binders added to it. That makes it healthier charcoal in our opinion.

What Should I Look For In A Lump Charcoal?

The next thing that we want to talk about is what people should look for when they’re purchasing lump charcoal for the first time. The first thing that you should think about when buying lump charcoal is the type of wood that it’s made from. There are a variety of different woods used to make lump charcoal, and we’ve examined a few of them below.

Consider The Lump Charcoal’s Wood Composition

Apple

Apple-wood is widely available in the northeast and the Midwest, so it’s one of the more popular lump charcoals in those areas. This wood provides the consumer with a delicate smoke that’s perfect for pork or for fish.

Alder

Alder is a type of wood that’s popular all over the U.S. Its sugary profile makes a sweet smoky flavor that’s good for beef, chicken, and pork. It’s also good wood for grilling seafood or veggies as well.

Beech

Beech is a wood that isn’t talked about too much when people discuss different woods and the flavors they introduce to foods. We think that’s a shame because this wood has a musky scent that’s very similar to hickory. It’s a nutty wood that’s good for grilling pork, beef, or even cheeses.

Birch

Birch is another wood that’s rarely talked about in informed charcoal circles but is definitely one that should be talked about. This wood produces a light smoke that’s perfect for smoking fish. Thankfully, commercial birch lump charcoal has the outer bark of the tree burned off—otherwise, it would produce an acrid smoke that would be too strong for cooking food.

Cherry

As a fruitwood, cherry has a sweet profile that’s good for cooking any number of different things but is especially good for smoking or grilling beef, chicken, pork, lamb, bread, or salmon.

Chestnut

Chestnut trees not only produce the perfect Yuletide snack—chestnuts—but they also produce a great wood for grilling. This wood is particularly popular in the United Kingdom and produces a nutty smoke that’s perfect for beef, lamb, chicken, or pork.

Hickory

In the United States, and other places around the world, hickory is the king of woods for smoking. It’s also a great wood for making lump charcoal out of as well. It gives that special BBQ taste to meats that no other wood can equal. This wood is good for beef briskets, pork butts or shoulders, and whole chickens. It’s also good for grilling veggies and wild game such as elk, deer, or moose as well.

Oak

The last wood used for making lump charcoal is oak. This is a wood that’s similar to hickory but it’s much stronger and has a more bitter flavor profile than hickory. Therefore, we would only recommend using oak to grill beef or fish.

Look For Large Lumps

When buying lump charcoal, it’s also a good idea for you to look for the largest pieces that you can find. The larger the pieces of lump charcoal, the hotter it will burn and the longer it will burn. Therefore, you should always examine any lump charcoal you intend on buying in person or read the product’s reviews when buying online. You’ll want to make sure to buy large pieces of lump charcoal that don’t have a lot of dust in the bottom of the bag.

Look For All-Natural Lump Charcoal

To make sure that the lump charcoal you purchase hasn’t been adulterated with chemicals or unnecessary ingredients, it’s important to make sure to read the label. It should say on the label that the product is all-natural.

How Should Lump Charcoal Be Stored?

Another question we’re frequently asked is how lump charcoal should be stored. After the charcoal bag is opened, you should place the unused charcoal into a container that can be sealed. This will help to prevent the unused charcoal from absorbing moisture. It’s also important to keep the lump charcoal as dry as possible, so you’ll want to store the sealed container in a shed or garage for safekeeping. If the charcoal gets wet, it will not only burn poorly but may also mold and that can cause it to pass terrible flavors to your grilling food.