• Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2021 (Kamado Joe, Royal Oak, and More) 1
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2021 (Kamado Joe, Royal Oak, and More) 2
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2021 (Kamado Joe, Royal Oak, and More) 3
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2021 (Kamado Joe, Royal Oak, and More) 4
  • Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2021 (Kamado Joe, Royal Oak, and More) 5

Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2021 (Kamado Joe, Royal Oak, and More)

Tired of not getting the right amount of heat and only a big pile of ash to clean every time you try barbequing? It’s time to upgrade to the best charcoals for your smoking needs. 


Take Kingsford’s Original Charcoal Briquettes, for example. It lights quickly and burns slowly and steadily, giving you evenly cooked and oh-so juicy meats. We’ve picked out nine more contenders to revolutionize your BBQ smoking and even included a buying guide to help you pick the right charcoal for your next grilling session.

Experts featured in this article

Anisha Chandra
  • Last updated: 02-15-2021
  • 1,014 views
Table of Contents

Top 10 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat

From lumps and briquettes to Hickory and Mesquites, this lineup below will give you the top 10 charcoals to try for your next BBQ.

1

KingsfordOriginal Charcoal Briquettes

$8.94

TypeBriquettes
Weight15.4 lbs.
Main ingredientsWood char, mineral char, mineral carbon, limestone
2

Kamado JoeKJ-Char Big Block XL Lump Charcoal

$24.99

TypeLump
Weight20 lbs.
Main ingredientsBlend of hardwoods (Guayacan, Guayaibi, Mistal, and White Quebracho)
3

Jealous DevilAll Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

$49.95

TypeLump
Weight35 lbs.
Main ingredientsSouth American hardwoods
4

Fogo35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag

$49.95

TypeLump
Weight35 lbs.
Main ingredientsBlend of tropical hardwoods
5

RockwoodAll-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

$34.99

TypeLump
Weight20 lbs.
Main ingredientsMissouri-grown Oak (Hickory, Maple and Pecan)
6

Expert GrillInstant Charcoal Briquets

$4.43

TypeBriquettes
Weight6 lbs.
Main ingredientsAmerican Oak and Hickory
7

Royal OakChef's Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes

$31.93

TypeBriquettes
Weight40 lbs.
Main ingredientsAmerican Oak and Hickory
8

Duraflame CowboyAll-Natural Hardwood Briquettes

$22.99

TypeBriquettes
Weight14 lbs.
Main ingredientsBlend of hardwoods
9

WeberCharcoal Briquettes

$28.97

TypeBriquettes
Weight20 lbs.
Main ingredientsHardwood
10

Best of the WestPremium Mesquite Natural Lump

$39.99

TypeLump
Weight40 lbs.
Main ingredientsMesquite hardwood

Compare the Best Charcoal for Smoking Meat

Image
1
Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes 1

Kingsford

2
Kamado Joe KJ-Char Big Block XL Lump Charcoal 1

Kamado Joe

3
Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal 1

Jealous Devil

4
Fogo 35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag 1

Fogo

5
Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal 1

Rockwood

6
Expert Grill Instant Charcoal Briquets 1

Expert Grill

7
Royal Oak Chef's Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes  1

Royal Oak

8
Duraflame Cowboy All-Natural Hardwood Briquettes 1

Duraflame Cowboy

9
Weber Charcoal Briquettes 1

Weber

10
Best of the West Premium Mesquite Natural Lump  1

Best of the West

Name

Original Charcoal Briquettes

KJ-Char Big Block XL Lump Charcoal

All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag

All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Instant Charcoal Briquets

Chef's Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes

All-Natural Hardwood Briquettes

Charcoal Briquettes

Premium Mesquite Natural Lump

Features

Lights Fast, but Burns Steadily and Consistently

Huge Lumps in a Bag for a Long, Slow Burn

Pure Hardwood and Zero Fillers for a Clean Flavor

Hand-Selected Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Charcoal With Eco-Friendly Packaging

Sustainably-Sourced Briquettes

Versatile Charcoal for Professional Use

Light the Grill Within Seconds

Briquettes and Packaging That Are Produced Sustainably

Premium Mesquite Charcoal for That Boost in Flavor

Price$8.94$24.99$49.95$49.95$34.99$4.43$31.93$22.99$28.97$39.99
TypeBriquettesLumpLumpLumpLumpBriquettesBriquettesBriquettesBriquettesLump
Weight15.4 lbs. 20 lbs. 35 lbs.35 lbs.20 lbs. 6 lbs. 40 lbs. 14 lbs.20 lbs.40 lbs.
Main ingredientsWood char, mineral char, mineral carbon, limestoneBlend of hardwoods (Guayacan, Guayaibi, Mistal, and White Quebracho)South American hardwoodsBlend of tropical hardwoodsMissouri-grown Oak (Hickory, Maple and Pecan)American Oak and HickoryAmerican Oak and HickoryBlend of hardwoodsHardwoodMesquite hardwood
Link

How to Choose Charcoal for Smoking Meat – Buying Guide

There are two main types of charcoal best used for smoking purposes, because they last long and produce heavy heat. The buying guide below will get you acquainted with briquettes and lump charcoal plus a few more considerations to remember when choosing a particular type. 

Go for Briquettes as a Beginner Looking for Low and Steady Temperatures

Briquettes are little cylindrical or pillow-shaped pieces of charcoal made out compressed fuel–usually wood waste materials like sawdust or paper. Briquettes are a great choice for beginners because they’re regularly shaped, therefore, easy to control heat output and keep temperature low and steady. 

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

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

The pretty shape of briquettes come with a price. They are sometimes formed and bound together with chemical additives leading to a toxic smell that seep onto lighter food like fish. With that in mind, we recommend making sure they’re made with plant-based or natural binding agents like starch, clay or molasses that burn clean. 


You can also check if the briquettes are made with wood. All-natural briquettes not only give you a cleaner taste but also less ash, meaning easier cleanup. Do keep in mind that some brands add a bit of coal to their briquettes for better and hotter burning. Although coal is not an ideal fuel type to cook over, it doesn’t affect the flavor much. 


Briquettes let you smoke slowly, letting the aroma seep in and giving the collagen in the meat time to soften for extra juiciness. If airflow is difficult to control with your grill, you can arrange the briquettes in a certain way for low and consistent temperatures for smoking. You can check out the snake method, for starters. 

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.” Despite not having much experience with grilling or smoking, do avoid these briquette types. Self-starting charcoals tend to have lighter fluid added in, which means chemicals turning 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. 

Step-Up Your Skills With Lump Charcoal for an All-Natural Approach

Lump charcoal is made with one or a variety of hardwood that’s been burned and deprived of oxygen until it’s pure carbon. You get as close to smoking with hardwood without having to split logs. With lump charcoal there’s no need for binders, meaning you get more all-natural components.

Medium to Large Chunks for Better Control

Medium to Large Chunks for Better Control

The hardwood in lump charcoal means more authentic and flavorful smoke. They’re also known to burn cleaner and produce less ash than briquettes. Plus, lump charcoal allows you to reach higher temperatures for meats that need longer and hotter smoking.


The thing about lump charcoal is that it’s irregularly shaped, leading to varying heat outputs. Furthermore, gaps in between each lump means airflow and higher flames. On a positive note, the airflow gives you better control to achieving low and slow flames.

Medium to Large Chunks for Better Control
Your lump charcoal should be uniform in size to better control heat output and burn-out time. However, most brands offer small shards, medium chunks, and large pieces in each bag. Handling also leads to larger chunks breaking. We recommend going for brands known for consistency in terms of size. You can also look at reviews to confirm what’s inside the bag upon arrival.

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.

Dense Hardwood Mixtures for Clean Smokes and Long-Lasting Fires

Dense Hardwood Mixtures for Clean Smokes and Long-Lasting Fires

Most bags of lump charcoal are made up of a mix of different hardwoods. Some contain a mix of American hardwoods like Oak, Maple, Hickory and Pecan. They are knwon to be pretty reliable in long-lasting burn at consistent temperatures.


There are lump charcoals made with one type of wood like Mesquite, which is known for a distinct aroma that yields a smoky flavor. Hickory is another hardwood that can be used solo and has a stronger and less sweet flavor profile than Mesquite smoke.


Dense woods, like Oak, give you a slower cook, perfect for smoking. Oak is great because it’s also mellow and has a neutral flavor and scent. Another popular wood is Quebracho, from South America. The name means axe breaker so it’s pretty dense stuff. 

Store Your Charcoal Properly

Store Your Charcoal Properly

Charcoal can easily become contaminated when not stored in a sealed container or dust-free environment. Since these would often go in the garage, we recommend placing the bag in a storage bin or designated trash can. Close the lid to protect the contents from contaminants such as liquids which make charcoal damp and a breeding ground for mold. 

Check Out These BBQ Must-Haves

Check Out These BBQ Must-Haves

Are you looking to level up your grilling and smoking skills? We've got a few more suggestions to make your BBQ session even more convenient and enjoyable. 

Summary

We talked about what lumps let you control flavor profile and master the flames. We looked at charcoals from different brands, made from different woods, giving you varied results. So, pitmaster, it’s time for you to grab some charcoal and get smoking.

An Expert-Recommended Flavor-Bursting Ingredients to Transform Any Meal

Whether it’s before or after you smoke some meat, flavor infusion might be another step you’re willing to explore. With the help of plant-based food blogger Anisha Chandra, you can experiment with the best ingredients to unleash the full potential of your meal. 

Expert's
pick

Primal KitchenOrganic & Unsweetened Classic BBQ Sauce

2-pack

$15.86

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