Smoker Charcoal Guide

The biggest thing you need to know is that any charcoal in a Briquette form is shit and you need to stop using it.  I test this theory every time I see new variety of Briquette from Kingsford and others, and I am always disappointed.  You should always buy lump charcoal for your charcoal smoker and avoid the Cheap-O lump charcoal brands that you find at discount retailers.

Why Should You Only Use Lump Charcoal?

  • Formed charcoal briquettes takes longer to light, delaying the ultimate goal of smoking meat to perfection.
  • Briquettes have a lot of fillers, which cause a lot more ash to form during the cooking process.  This can lead to clogging the air flow in your charcoal smoker and dampening your fire, or perhaps even putting it out all together.
  • Charcoal briquettes do not burn as long or as hot.  So, they do not sear steaks as nicely or smoke brisket as long.
  • Simply, lump Charcoal burns longer, hotter, and cleaner… for great flavor!

What Should I Look for in a Quality Lump Charcoal?

Density – Hardwoods burn longer and cleaner than crappy softwoods.  Hardwood charcoal should be denser than their softer, lighter cousins from the woods.  So, I like to look for lump charcoal that has some weight to it.

Size – Size matters with Lump Charcoal.  For long smokes, the larger the charcoal the better.  Larger pieces of lump promote air flow and prevent clogging from ashes as the smoke session time is extended.  For long brisket and pork shoulder smokes, I like to use chunks of charcoal larger than softball and then fill in around them with smaller charcoal pieces to fill gaps around the edges of the charcoal basket.  If you are only smoking for a few hours, then you are fine to use smaller pieces.

If you can find a good combination of size and density, that is ideal.  The only lump charcoal I purchase now is Fogo Premium Lump Charcoal.  It is the only brand I have found that has consistently large pieces of lump.  Most brands are full of small pieces and a bunch of junk.  Give Fogo Lump a try… I think you will love it if you have not tried it.