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Best Lump Charcoal – Top Choices for Smoking and Grilling

I remember when I first started grilling, I had no clue that lump charcoal was even a thing.  Growing up, all I had ever been exposed to were traditional briquettes that you’d find at a local grocer.

As it turns out, lump charcoal is more than just an alternative to briquettes.  Some people absolutely swear by it and compare using lump charcoal to going organic with your ingredients.

The reason is, lump charcoal is more natural and doesn’t contain any additives or lighter fluids like many briquettes do.

On top of that, lumpwood has its own distinct flavor that can greatly enhance your BBQ to deliver the sort of legendary results that your friends and family can’t stop talking about.  It has a uniquely deep, woody, smoky flavor that you just can’t quite replicate with briquettes.

You’ve probably spent a decent amount of money on your charcoal or kamado grill, so now it’s time to do your grill justice by working with the best fuel possible.

In this post, we’ll go over our picks for the best lump charcoal you can buy, followed by some tips for how to use it along with answers to some frequently asked questions.

By the end of this article I hope you have an idea of what the best lump charcoal for you will be, along with a little more knowledge on how it’s made and how it affects your food.

In a Rush?  Here’s Our Top Picks:

  1. Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal – Top Choice!
  2. Kamado Joe All Natural Argentinian Lump Charcoal
  3. Fogo Premium Oak All Natural Charcoal
  4. B&B Oak Lump Charcoal
  5. Cowboy 24220 Lump Charcoal

Best Lump Charcoal – Reviews

Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

When it comes to the best lump charcoal, it’s hard to not see the case for Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

It’s made from a South American wood called “Quebracho Blanco” that’s insanely dense and is logged using sustainable methods.  No fillers, chemicals, or scrap were added to the bag at any point in the process.

The great thing about the really dense wood is that it burns incredibly hot without any sparks or crackling like you might get with other woods.  In fact, the maximum temperature of this wood can go north of a scorching 1170(!!) degrees Fahrenheit.

The density of Jealous Devil also lends it to burn for a long time.  In an open grill, you can get around 4 hours of burn.  In a more enclosed smoker, it’s not uncommon to see this lump charcoal burning for up to 20 hours.

The bag itself also has a couple of nice little design features that come in handy.  Namely, it’s waterproof and dustproof and also resealable with a carrying handle on top.

Flavor wise, expect that traditional, deep smoky flavor to come off of Jealous Devil.  You’ll have to experiment to get the perfect amount down, but for reference the flavor and intensity is akin to smoking with oak.

Things We Like:

  • Has the ability to burn very hot and/or long depending on your needs
  • No sparking, no popping, and low ash output
  • Great flavor
  • No chemicals, fillers, or scrap added
  • Bag is resealable with a convenient carry handle

Things We Don’t:

  • Because of the density, this lump charcoal can be challenging to light if you are using a traditional chimney starter

 

Check Price on Amazon

 

Kamado Joe KJ-Char Hardwood, Extra Large Lump Charcoal

For those of you who might not be aware, Kamado Joe is one of the best kamado grill manufacturers on the planet.  In particular the Kamado Joe Classic is a best seller year after year, and the Big Joe is a personal favorite of mine.  When it comes to charcoal grilling, they really know their stuff.

As it turns out, they also make one of the best lump charcoal blends on the planet too!  The Kamado Joe KJ-Char Hardwood Extra Large Lump Charcoal is a proprietary blend of South American Hardwoods that can burn extremely hot and long.

More specifically, Guayacan, Guayaibi, Mistal and Quebracho Blanco are the hardwoods of choice in this lump charcoal blend.  We learned about Quebracho Blanco in the previous review, and the other woods used share a lot of characteristics.  Namely they are pure, extremely dense hardwoods.

In the bag you’ll find all kinds of different sized pieces.  Small pieces are included that light quickly and help to get the fire going.  Pieces so large that they can burn for up to 18 hours and be reused 3 times are also included to provide heat and longevity.  There are also plenty of pieces in between those two ends of the spectrum.

The flavor profile is a robust, deep wood-fired flavor that you’d expect from an award winning BBQ restaurant.  All around, this one gets our vote for best lump charcoal for kamado grills.

Things We Like:

  • Dense hardwoods burn incredibly hot and long
  • No sparking, no popping, and low ash
  • Robust, deep smoky flavor
  • Nice mixture of small, medium, large, and extra large sized pieces
  • Some large pieces can be reused if you shut your vents off in time after you’re done cooking

Things We Don’t:

  • With so many different sized pieces, some being extremely large, it can be tough for beginners to get the hang of properly using this charcoal.  After you get it down, the sky is the limit though

 

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Fogo Premium Oak Restaurant All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal for Grilling and Smoking

A worthy challenger to the title of best lump charcoal is the Fogo Premium Oak Restaurant All-Natural Lump Charcoal.  They aren’t kidding when they describe this stuff as restaurant grade.

One attribute that makes Fogo Premium lump charcoal stand out is how fast it lights up.  Relative to other lump charcoals, it lights up incredibly easy and quickly – allowing you to reach searing temperatures pretty fast.

The oak flavor is a great, all around versatile type of wood that will impart delicious flavor on all kinds of food.

Medium to large sized pieces are provided in the bag, which are ideal for long lasting, consistent fires.  It’s an ideal lump charcoal for any kamado grill, kettle style grill, or drum shaped charcoal grill.

Things We Like:

  • Lights easily and gets hot fast
  • All natural oak hardwood provides fantastic traditional smoky flavor
  • Medium and large pieces included

Things We Don’t:

  • Occasionally you will get a piece so large that you need to break it with a hammer to get it to a usable size

 

Check Price on Amazon

 

B&B Charcoal Oak Lump Charcoal

If you’re looking for an easy to use, all around solid lump charcoal, the B&B Charcoal Oak Lump Charcoal is very much worth a look.

The nice part too, is that this bag comes at a very reasonable price point.

The oaky flavor profile is similar to what you’d get from smoking with oak wood.  It’s a versatile flavor that works with just about any type of food.

As you’d expect, the contents of this bag are 100% natural with no additives or fillers.  It burns hot, long, and clean – everything you want out of the best lump charcoal.

Things We Like:

  • Good price point
  • Oak hardwood has a versatile smoke flavor profile
  • Burns long, hot, and clean – great for searing or smoking

Things We Don’t:

  • These bags are prone to having too many small pieces and/or dust in them
  • Coals are harder to light than some other brands
  • A few customers have reported sparks and popping coming from the coals – not ideal

 

Check Price on Amazon

 

BIG CP 20-pound bag of natural lump charcoal

Big Green Egg is another brand name that you’ve likely heard of.  They’re also one of the top manufacturers of kamado grills.  Like Kamado Joe, they’ve taken the time to curate what they believe to be the best lump charcoal.

The BIG CP 20-Pound Bag Of Natural Lump Charcoal is a great choice for kamado grills and traditional charcoal grills alike.

As far as wood goes, their lump charcoal is comprised of a blend of hickory and American oak.  It’s easy to light and burns hot and long.  One thing to note, if you’ve ever smoked ribs using wood (or any other type of BBQ really) you’ll know that hickory is one of the strongest flavored smokes.

There’s nothing wrong with it at all.  On the contrary, proper amounts of hickory yield delicious results.  I just bring it up because if you aren’t careful with this lump charcoal blend and use too much, you could end up with bitter results.

All of that said, Big Green Egg undoubtedly makes one of the best lump charcoals on the market, and their bag is very much worth a try.

Things We Like:

  • Coals are easy to light and burn long and hot
  • All natural oak and hickory blend is as pure as it gets.  No additives or chemicals
  • Minimal ash produced from burning, which makes cleanup relatively easy
  • Great taste when used in the proper amounts

Things We Don’t:

  • Very expensive – a 20 pound bag costs more than most other brand’s 35 pound bags
  • The inclusion of hickory makes it easier to overpower your food with smoke flavor.

 

Check Price on Amazon

 

Cowboy 24220 Lump Charcoal

If you’re looking for a budget pick for the best lump charcoal, the Cowboy 24220 Lump Charcoal is very much worth a look.

It’s a hickory and oak blend that leads to really nice tasting, traditional smoky BBQ flavor.

For those who grill with lump charcoal multiple times per week, your bank account might not like you very much if you’re constantly buying super expensive bags.  On a per pound basis, Cowboy lump charcoal offers a really nice value.

The coals burn long and light quickly, which is all you’re really needing from a value pick like this.

Things We Like:

  • Cheap price – your dollar goes a long way
  • Oak and hickory blend imparts nice flavoring onto your food

Things We Don’t:

  • Lots of customers report receiving bags with way too many small pieces and/or too much dust

 

Check Price on Amazon

Picking Out the Best Lump Charcoal

There are a few things you should definitely look out for when shopping for lump charcoal.

First, you should make sure the bag clearly states that it’s 100% all natural with no additives.  Otherwise, you’re buying a knock off.

You also want a bag that has medium to large size hardwood lumps.  It’s also ideal for the charcoal to be uniform in size.  You want to steer clear of any brands that deliver bags with small pieces or dust at the bottom.  If you buy multiple bags with this problem, you should definitely try a new brand.

When you pull your the best lump charcoal out of the bag, it should look like charred or burnt logs and branches.  You might even see something that resembles a burnt piece of furniture – that’s ok!  Some of this stuff is repurposed wood.

What you can’t have is dust or little tiny bits of wood that are any smaller than a credit card.

What is Lump Charcoal?

After all of this talk you might be wondering what exactly is lump charcoal and what makes it so special?

It’s made from natural hardwoods with high carbon.  This hardwood is taken and burnt in an oxygen free environment until all impurities are gone and only coals remain.  Visually, lump charcoal looks like burnt or charred wood logs.

Burning the wood in an oxygen free environment purifies it as any oils, moisture, chemicals, and other impurities vaporize out of the wood during the burning process.

This process is not as easy as it sounds, and many aspects of the process are manual and not the most efficient.  It takes an especially long time and lots of effort to yield large pieces.

In fact, only about 16% of the initial volume of wood that begins the burning process ends up turning into the lump charcoal you’d find in a bag.  In other words, it takes about 125 pounds of wood to fill a 20 pound bag of lump charcoal.

When it comes down to it, lumpwood charcoal is the most natural form of fuel you can use for grilling your food.  There are no additives, chemicals, or fillers anywhere to be found, making it an all natural fuel that is perfect for at home and professional pit masters alike.

Lump Charcoal Pros and Cons

Simply put, here are a few benefits and drawbacks to using lump charcoal:

Pros:

  • It’s is all natural, with no additives, fillers, or chemicals.  This attribute translates to the quality of your food.
  • It lights quickly, burns hot, and burns long.  You spend less time messing with your fire and more time paying attention to the food you cook.
  • The best lump charcoal is very reactive to oxygen, so you can easily control your temperature with a grill that has a good ventilation system.  Lumpwood is the ideal fuel choice for kamado grills.
  • There is little to no ash produced from lumpwood, so the cleanup process is pretty easy.
  • Much of the wood used is repurposed, so in a small way you’re helping to put use to something that would otherwise be scrapped away.

Cons:

  • Lump charcoal is more expensive than briquettes.  Could be an issue if you grill multiple times per week.
  • Bad manufacturers will sell bags with a high proportion of unusable small pieces or dust.
  • Beginners might get overwhelmed by how hot the coals get.  It’s not hard to manage your temperature, but you do need to pay attention and know what you’re doing.

Lump Charcoal vs Charcoal Briquettes

We’ve already touched on the fact that lump charcoal is more natural than briquettes, which are known to have additives and chemicals like lighter fluid added to them.

On top of that, lump charcoal actually lights faster and will produce hot coals in just minutes.

Lump charcoal also burns hotter and leaves less ash compared to briquettes.  The hotter burn helps you get a better sear on your steak or a delicious crust on your burger.  It’s by far the fuel source of choice compared to briquettes for searing steak, as some species of lump charcoal hardwood can reach temperatures near 12oo°F.

Last but not least, the best lump charcoal is better for temperature control.  This is because it’s more reactive to oxygen, and therefore can be controlled and managed precisely by your grill’s adjustable vents.  This makes lump charcoal particularly great for kamado grills, as the best one have highly adjustable air vent systems.

Read our full breakdown of lump charcoal vs briquettes here.

What Makes the Best Lump Charcoal?

High quality lump charcoal should always be 100% pure all natural hardwood that’s free of chemicals, additives, and fillers.  The best lump charcoal bag will have little to no dust or small pieces in the bottom of the bag.  On the contrary, it will be loaded with medium to large sized pieces that are ideal for burning long and hot with minimal ash.

Lighting a good charcoal should be hassle free.  Personally I like to usefire starters for maximum convenience, but the best lump charcoal should also light easily with a chimney starter.

After you’ve lit your charcoal, it shouldn’t spark, crackle, or pop.  That’s a sign that that either your wood is low quality or a poor job was done during the carbonization process.

Another aspect of a quality lump charcoal is its smell.  The scent of lumpwood doesn’t necessarily directly translate to your food, but it should generally smell like smoky wood and BBQ.  If you light your coals up and get chemical-like smells, something is probably wrong.

How Was It Sourced?

In this day and age, with the amount of resources we all have access to, there really isn’t a reason to buy sustainably sourced “things” – other than sheer laziness.

When it comes to lump charcoal, unfortunately there are manufacturers out there who import wood that was sourced by destroying rainforests.

For U.S. manufacturers (typically oak and hickory wood), this isn’t much of a problem because most use sustainable farms or scrap as their sources of wood.

You should be careful though with brands and importers from around the globe, particularly South America.  If buying from an international brand, do your part and research to make sure the lumpwood charcoal was sourced with sustainable methods, and not illegally.

*Note* all of the choices on this best lump charcoal list are sustainably sourced.

Storage

One of the most overlooked aspects of using lump charcoal is storing it properly.

After all, it would kind of be a waste to buy an expensive lumpwood bag and potentially take away from the quality of it because you didn’t store it the right way.

Not storing your opened charcoal properly can lead to it absorbing moisture.  That’s not great because moisture can make it not burn properly or worse, contract mold and definitely ruin your food.

You want your charcoal to remain extremely dry.  It will last a very very long time if stored properly with this in mind.

The way to do this is simple – you just need to place any unused charcoal into a sealable container.  That could be a plastic bin, a new bag, or if you’re lucky, the original bag your lumpwood came in will have a resealable top.

Does Size Matter?

As with many things in life, size makes a big difference.

Larger pieces will burn longer and hotter.  Some really big pieces can actually be reused multiple times!

It’s important to pay attention to how big your lumps are.  If you buy from a certain brand and they consistently deliver bags with small pieces and/or dust, it might be time to move on and try something else.

Dust and small pieces, in addition to not burning hot or long, will be prone to clogging your air vents and fire grates.

Which Types of Wood Make Lump Charcoal?

There are actually quite a few different types of wood that can make up a bag.  In fact, many bags are blends of multiple woods.

What you’ll find across the board is that all of the woods used are hardwoods.  Some woods are more predominant than other simply due to supply.  That is, how many trees and scrap is there available to source for creating lump charcoal.

With that in mind, here is a short list of some of the most common woods used for lump charcoal:

USA:

  • Alder
  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Chestnut
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Walnut

South America:

  • Guayacan
  • Guayaibi
  • Mistal
  • Quebracho Blanco

Honestly, it’s pretty rare to find a bag that’s truly 100% of the exact same wood.  Blending is perfectly fine, but the best lump charcoal bag will be comprised of woods that all burn at a similar heat and rate.

Do Different Woods Have Different Flavors?

Yes, they do.  I would say though that the differences in flavor are pretty inconsequential if you are cooking something quick, like a steak, burger, or some fish.

If you’re smoking on the other hand, that’s where the choice of wood might make a difference.  Take a look at our post on the best wood for smoking ribs for some guidance on which woods produce which types of flavor.

Generally speaking, oak is a great starting point and provides a robust, traditional smoky BBQ flavor.

Can I Use Wood Logs or Chips With Lump Charcoal?

Absolutely!  It’s very common for pit masters to use wood chips for extra flavoring.

It’s something that is completely subjective, so you should experiment with which flavors work the best for you and the foods you like to make!

Personally, I like to add fruitwoods like apple, peach, or cherry to my fire if I’m looking to add a sweeter note to the flavor of my BBQ.

Wrap Up

When it comes to smoking meats or using charcoal as a grill fuel source, the best lump charcoal is the way to go.

It’s all natural, burns hotter, burns longer, and the best ones are as consistent as they come.  The quick light up and consistent burn means you can spend less time messing with your fire and more time grilling and smoking.

I hope this post has helped point you in the right direction for the best lump charcoal, and that it’s helped you a little bit on your journey to delicious brisket, ribs, chicken, or whatever else you’re whipping up for dinner!  Let us know which one you chose and how it went in the comments section below.