• 7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2022 (Chef-Reviewed) 1
  • 7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2022 (Chef-Reviewed) 2
  • 7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2022 (Chef-Reviewed) 3
  • 7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2022 (Chef-Reviewed) 4
  • 7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2022 (Chef-Reviewed) 5

7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat in 2022 (Chef-Reviewed)

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


There are a variety of charcoals sold out there, but we've done the research and found the best ones, with smoking in mind. Our favorite is Jealous Devil's All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal. These are made from one of the densest hardwoods, which burn slowly and consistently, perfect for slow cooking. We also put together a list of 7 of our favorite charcoals and even created a buying guide reviewed by a professional chef to help you pick the perfect charcoals for the next time you smoke some meat.

Featured in this article

Jim Quast
mybest US Editors
  • Last updated: 08-16-2022
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Charcoal for Smoking Meat – Buying Guide

There are two main types of charcoal that are best used for smoking purposes, both of which last long and produce consistent heat. Our buying guide below will get you acquainted with the two, briquettes and lump charcoal, as well as go into detail of a few things to consider when choosing a particular type. 

Consider Briquettes if You're a Beginner

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, and therefore, it's easy to control their heat output and keep temperatures low and steady. 

All-Natural Briquettes Are Preferable

All-Natural Briquettes Are Preferable

Though briquettes come in a convenient shape, they are sometimes formed and bound together with chemical additives, leading to a toxic smell that seeps into lighter food like fish. With that in mind, we recommend looking for plant-based or natural binding agents like starch, clay, or molasses that burn clean.


It's also worth checking if the briquettes are made of wood. All-natural briquettes not only give you a cleaner taste, but also less ash, meaning an easier cleanup. It's worth nothing, though, that some brands add coal to their briquettes for better and hotter burning. Although coal is not an ideal fuel type for smoking, it doesn't affect flavor much.


Briquettes let you smoke slowly, letting the aroma seep in and giving the collagen in meat time to soften for extra juiciness. If airflow is difficult to control with your smoker, you can arrange the briquettes in a certain way for low and consistent temperatures. The snake method is one type of arrangement, for example.

Avoid Flavored or Self-Lighting Briquettes

Avoid Flavored or Self-Lighting Briquettes

Some briquettes are marketed as self-lighting or self-starting. These should be avoided for smoking since they tend to have lighter fluid added in, which means your meats will take on a chemical flavor when the charcoal burns. There are all-natural briquette alternatives that light up easily if this is a feature you appreciate.


Any briquettes that are flavored are best to avoid as well. When you’re smoking, it’s the wood chips, not the charcoal, that should be controlling the flavor profile. The cleaner your charcoal smoke is, the more flexibility you'll have to play around with different kinds of wood and create a smoke that perfectly complements your dish and your taste buds.

Use Lump Charcoal for the Best Results

Lump charcoal is made from hardwood that has been burned and deprived of oxygen until it has become pure carbon. As such, this is a great way to imitate smoking with wood. With lump charcoal, there is 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

Lump charcoal, being made from hardwood, produces a more authentic and flavorful smoke. It's also known to burn cleaner and produce less ash than briquettes. In addition, lump charcoal allows you to reach higher temperatures for meats that need a longer and hotter smoking.


However, lump charcoal is irregularly shaped, which can lead to varying heat outputs. Furthermore, gaps in between each lump means more airflow and higher flames. Airflow has its positives, however, as it can allow for better control in achieving low and slow flames.

Medium to Large Chunks for Better Control
It would be best for lump charcoal to be uniform in size to better control heat output and burn-out time, however most brands mix different sizes of lump charcoal together, using anywhere from small to large chunks in each bag. Shipping and handling also leads to larger chunks breaking. 

We recommend going for brands known for consistency in terms of size. If you can, choose ones that generally have medium to large pieces, as large pieces tend to burn longer, which is perfect for low and slow smoking. It's always best, however, to make sure the chunks can fit in your smoker or charcoal chimney first.

Dense Hardwood Mixtures for Clean, Long-Lasting Fire

Dense Hardwood Mixtures for Clean, Long-Lasting Fire

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 known to be reliable for long-lasting burns at consistent temperatures.


Some bags also contain lump charcoal made from woods mostly found in South America, like quebracho blanco and inga wood, both of which are very dense woods. Quebracho blanco's name itself means "ax breaker," which gives repute to its dense nature. Dense woods like those and oak give you a slower cook, which is perfect for smoking. Oak is also great for its neutral flavor and scent. 


There are also lump charcoals made with one type of wood, like the aforementioned quebracho blanco. Hickory is another type of hardwood that lump charcoal can be made from, and it even has a strong flavor profile.

7 Best Charcoals for Smoking Meat

From lumps and briquettes to Hickory and Mesquites, this lineup below will give you the 7 best charcoals to try for your next BBQ. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available.


*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Jim Quast. For more on our selection process, check out our editorial policy. Prices were gathered from respective EC sites on August 16, 2022.

Image
1
Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal 1

Jealous Devil

2
Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal 1

Fogo

3
Royal Oak Chef's Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes  1

Royal Oak

4
Duraflame Cowboy All Natural Hardwood Briquets 1

Duraflame Cowboy

5
Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes 1

Kingsford

6
Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal 1

Masterbuilt

7
Big Green Egg Oak & Hickory Lump Charcoal 1

Big Green Egg

Name

All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Chef's Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes

All Natural Hardwood Briquets

Original Charcoal Briquettes

Lump Charcoal

Oak & Hickory Lump Charcoal

Features

Best Pure Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Best Hand-Selected Large Lump Charcoal

Best Versatile Charcoal Briquettes

Best All-Natural Hardwood Briquettes

Best Briquettes For a Steady Burn

Best Naturally Sourced Lump Charcoal

Best Charcoal Made From Premium Carbonized Wood

Price$39.99$65.99$53.99$25.00$9.88$11.97$59.89
TypeLumpLumpBriquettesBriquettesBriquettesLumpLump
Main ingredientsQuebracho blancoBlend of inga woodAmerican oak and hickory hardwood95 percent hardwood charcoal, 5 percent vegetable binderWood char, mineral char, mineral carbon, limestoneBlend of hardwoodsOak and hickory
AdditivesNoNoNoNoYesNoNo
Amount35 lbs.35 lbs.40 lbs. 14 lbs.16 lbs. 16 lbs. 20 lbs.
Link
1

Jealous DevilAll Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

$39.99

TypeLump
Main ingredientsQuebracho blanco
AdditivesNo
Amount35 lbs.
2

FogoAll Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal

$65.99

TypeLump
Main ingredientsBlend of inga wood
AdditivesNo
Amount35 lbs.
3

Royal OakChef's Select Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Briquettes

$53.99

TypeBriquettes
Main ingredientsAmerican oak and hickory hardwood
AdditivesNo
Amount40 lbs.
4

Duraflame CowboyAll Natural Hardwood Briquets

$25.00

TypeBriquettes
Main ingredients95 percent hardwood charcoal, 5 percent vegetable binder
AdditivesNo
Amount14 lbs.
5
TypeBriquettes
Main ingredientsWood char, mineral char, mineral carbon, limestone
AdditivesYes
Amount16 lbs.
6
TypeLump
Main ingredientsBlend of hardwoods
AdditivesNo
Amount16 lbs.
7

Big Green EggOak & Hickory Lump Charcoal

$59.89

TypeLump
Main ingredientsOak and hickory
AdditivesNo
Amount20 lbs.

Be Sure to Store Your Charcoal Properly

Be Sure to Store Your Charcoal Properly

Charcoal can easily become contaminated when not stored in a sealed container or dust-free environment. As such, we recommend placing the charcoal bag in a storage bin or designated container. 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

If you're looking to level up your grilling and smoking skills, we have a few more suggestions below to make your barbeque session even more convenient and enjoyable. 

Amazon's Best Selling Grilling Charcoal

If you still haven't been able to narrow down your choices, or if you just want to get an idea of what other kinds of charcoal are out there, check out Amazon's best selling list of grilling charcoal.

Buying Guide Reviewed by Executive R&D Chef Jim Quast

Jim Quast
Executive R&D Chef
Jim Quast

This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary, as well as extra tips and advice. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.

Updated by: Rui, 8/7/2022


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