• Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online 2020 1
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online 2020 2
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online 2020 3
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online 2020 4
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online 2020 5

Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online 2020

It’s summertime–time for barbecues and ice-cold beer. You’ve run to the store, gotten yourself the best cuts of meat and ingredients for your rub. But then you get to the charcoal section, and there’s bags and bags lined up. Lump, briquettes, all-natural, self-starting… As if getting a good smoke wasn’t difficult enough. Now you have to figure out which charcoal’s the best.

But there is a method to the madness. Let’s talk about what kind of charcoal will get you that smoky, sizzling, melt-in-your-mouth steak that makes the dog days of summer actually worth it.
  • Last updated: 10-24-2019
  • 67 views
Table of Contents

How to Choose Charcoal for Smoking Meat – Buying Guide

First things first: there’s two main types of charcoal. Briquettes and lump. Just figure out which you need, how to separate the good stuff from the junk, and we’ll have you smoking in a jiffy.

Briquettes Maintain a Low, Steady Temperature–For Beginners and Grill Users

Briquettes are little cylindrical or pillow-shaped pieces of charcoal made out compressed fuel–usually wood waste materials (like sawdust or paper). Because they’re regularly shaped, it’s easy to control heat output and keep temperature low and steady. This way, you can smoke slowly, letting the aroma seep in and giving the collagen in the meat time to melt into jelly.
That’s why you want briquettes if you’ve got a grill (and not a smoker). With many grills, it’s difficult to control airflow, which means it’s also difficult to control the size and heat of your flames. But you can arrange briquettes in ways that’ll let you maintain low, consistent temperatures when smoking. (Check out the snake method, if you don’t know it yet!)

Get All-Natural Briquettes for Less Ash and Clean-Tasting Meat

Get All-Natural Briquettes for Less Ash and Clean-Tasting Meat
That pretty shape, however, comes with a price. To maintain their form, many briquettes are bound together with chemical additives, which some say leave a toxic smell–especially on lighter food, like fish.
If you want your meat clean, get all-natural briquettes. Make sure they’re a) composed of wood and b) are held together by something plant-based. In addition, the less chemical additives your briquettes have, the less ash is left over after your smoke. Which means less for you to clean up.

No Fancy Frills like Self-Lighters and Flavored Briquettes

No Fancy Frills like Self-Lighters and Flavored Briquettes
You’ll see a few briquettes around that are “self-lighting” or “self-starting.” It doesn’t matter how much of a beginner you are; stay away from these. Self-starting charcoals tend to have lighter fluid added in; this stuff is chemical and turns your meat acrid. There are all-natural briquettes that light up easily; just read the reviews to see if the flames took quickly.
Also, don’t get anything that’s flavored. When you’re smoking, it’s the wood chips, not the charcoal, that should be controlling flavor profile. The cleaner your charcoal smoke is, the more flexibility you have to play around with different kinds of wood and create a smoke that perfectly complements your dish and your taste buds.

Lump Charcoal: Harder to Use, but Pretty Much Guaranteed to be All-Natural

Lump charcoal’s pretty much hardwood that’s been burned and deprived of oxygen until it’s pure carbon. There’s no need for binders, so they’re all-natural–or are supposed to be. That means they produce less ash–invaluable for smokers like the Big Green Egg, which don’t have a lot of room for ash to collect.
The thing about lump charcoal is that it’s irregularly shaped. That means they aren’t as regular in heat output and don’t nestle together as nicely as briquettes. Gaps between charcoal pieces means airflow, and airflow means higher flames. But, remember, you’re looking for a low and slow smoke–which is why lump charcoal’s compatible with smokers, which allow for more airflow control.

Look for Something with Medium to Large Uniform Pieces

Look for Something with Medium to Large Uniform Pieces
In an ideal world, your lump charcoal would be uniform in size; that way, you know what to expect in terms of heat output, burn-out time, and whatnot. We don’t live in an idea world, unfortunately, but you can at least go for brands that are known for being consistent in the quality and size of their pieces. (Everything we introduce in our rankings, by the way, is reliable.)
If you can, go for medium to large pieces. We say this because large pieces tend to burn longer–perfect for your low and slow. Just make sure the chunks fit in your smoker or charcoal chimney first.
Some brands also add in carpentry or construction debris. Needless to say, bricks and nails do not make good charcoal. This is all stuff that’s hard to check until you open the bag, though. (You don’t get ingredients lists with charcoal.) Again, hearsay and customer reviews are your best friend.

Look for Dense Hardwood Mixtures for Clean Smokes and Long Lasting Fires

Look for Dense Hardwood Mixtures for Clean Smokes and Long Lasting Fires
Most bags of lump charcoal are made up of a mix of different hardwoods, and are super vague about exactly what trees went into them. However, generally speaking, mixes of American hardwoods are pretty reliable–they burn for quite a while, at more or less consistent temperatures, and are neutral in flavor. (Again, so you, the pitmaster, can add in your own woods.)
On the other hand, charcoals that are all one type of aromatic wood, like hickory or mesquite, have a distinct smell. (Especially if the wood hasn’t been carbonized all the way.) We’d say you don’t need these, unless you really want that specific aroma in all your dishes. But, again, why not just depend on wood chips?
By the way, dense woods, like oak, give you a slower cook, perfect for smoking. Oak’s great because it’s also mellow and has a neutral flavor and scent. Another popular wood is quebracho, from South America. The name, by the way, means axe breaker; it’s pretty dense stuff.

Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat to Buy Online

Have you gotten an idea of what you need yet? Because it’s time to look at our 10 favorite charcoals that’ll smoke up your summer.

10. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes (15.4 lb.)

$8.94

9. Royal Oak Natural Lump Charcoal (8.8 lb.)

$22.93

8. COCO-BBQ Eco-Friendly Barbecue Charcoal (9 lb.)

$16.99

7. Fire & Flavor John Wayne Briquette Charcoal (8.3 lb.)

$32.09

6. Rockwood Lump Charcoal (20 lb.)

$57.26

5. Jealous Devil All Natural Lump Charcoal (35 lb.)

$51.95

4. Royal Oak Ridge Premium Charcoal Briquets (15.4 lb.)

$24.52

3. Kamado Joe Big Block Natural Lump Hardwood Charcoal Box (20 lb.)

$26.99

2. Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag (35 lb.)

$55.95

1. Weber Charcoal Briqettes (20 lb.)

$19.99

Summary

What’s summer without the feel of good, smoked meat melting in your mouth? But to get that delectable texture, you need the right amount of flames; to get that low, steady flame, you need the right charcoal.
So we talked about what lumps let you control flavor profile and master the flames. We looked at stuff from different brands, made from different woods, on different ends of the price scale. So, pitmaster, it’s time for you to grab some charcoal and get smoking.

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