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.
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
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
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
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
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.)
Lights Fast, but Burns Steady and Consistently
Mention briquettes, and most people will think of Kingsford. It takes only a second to light, but keeps a nice, low flame for hours. It’s also readily available and consistent from pack to pack–so you know exactly how much heat you’re going to get before you even start cooking.
The ingredients are all natural, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s not wood. There’s your usual sawdust, as well as mineral char and coal (extra heat), limestone (keeps the charcoal burning longer and makes the ash a lovely white), borax (keeps it from breaking in the press), and sodium nitrate (helps the briquette combust faster). So all the stuff here’s got a purpose, but they also mean you’ll have a lot of ash left over after your smoke.
9. Royal Oak Natural Lump Charcoal (8.8 lb.)
Readily Available and Has a Delectable Oaky Aroma
Royal Oak’s also readily available, and you get medium-sized pieces pretty much throughout the bag. The wood’s clean and has this mild flavor that works well with fish and all kinds of wood chips–peach, hickory, apple, you name it. It’s quick to light and can go on for a few hours before you need to top it off. And it leaves barely any ash behind.
The only thing is, Royal Oak isn’t the best at being consistent. Some bags come with mountains of dust–though some of it is probably from rough handling at the store or shipping center–and a few people have complained about stones. But, anyway, most of the time, RO works pretty darn well.
8. COCO-BBQ Eco-Friendly Barbecue Charcoal (9 lb.)
Steady Temperature, Low-Maintenance, and Eco-Friendly
This was made for the low and slow. It stays between 225 and 250–your perfect smokey temperature–for around 10 hours, and you don’t have to lift a finger. There’s not much smell; some report a subtle sweetness, like coconut, which makes meat just that much more irresistible.
The pieces light up easily and don’t throw sparks. They’re actually pretty big for briquettes and give off less ash. But the biggest draw, of course, may be the fact that no trees died for the smoking of your meat. How’s that for eco-friendly?
7. Fire & Flavor John Wayne Briquette Charcoal (8.3 lb.)
Tastes as Clean as Lump, but Has the Uniformity of Briquettes
This bag’s oak and hickory, so the smoke’s already got a woody scent to it–but it’s a little sweet and delectable. John Wayne is also all-natural, and there’s no weird aftertaste. The charcoal burns long, low, and steady.
Basically, they’re as clean as lump, but the temperature’s easy to control, since they’re briquettes. You get lumps of a consistent size. Some say they’re a little finicky to light–avoid the temptation to use lighter fluid!–but the taste is well worth the extra effort.
6. Rockwood Lump Charcoal (20 lb.)
Burns Clean Fast and Tastes Pure
You’ve got three good American woods: oak, hickory, and maple–which give off this mouth-watering aroma and a consistent burn. It imparts flavor, even if you don’t use wood chips–but you can also throw them in and be in full control over the smoke profile.
And there’s very little waste. First off, you get a good number of medium-sized pieces and not much dust. Next, Redwood uses wood from trees already felled, so no living trees were harmed in the making of this charcoal. And last off–you know that acrid smoke that comes out right when you put the charcoal in the grill (and you have to sit there until the clean smoke comes)? Redwood burns clean fast (in about 10 minutes), so you don’t need to waste time and charcoal waiting.
5. Jealous Devil All Natural Lump Charcoal (35 lb.)
Pure Quebracho Wood for a Long Burn and Clean Flavor
This is made from quebracho wood–the good, dense stuff that gives you a long, consistent burn. They’re split pretty consistently–mainly medium pieces, bit larger than a briquette, with some softballs and a little dust (about 5% of the bag). It’s got a subtle aroma and leaves just a bit of ash.
Jealous Devil’s pretty good about being consistent between bags. You get duds once in a while, but the team’s usually quick to send replacements as well. The biggest downer to this charcoal is the packaging; it’s like a breathable mesh, and dust seeps out of it and gets all over your clothes. Some repackaging may be in order.
4. Royal Oak Ridge Premium Charcoal Briquets (15.4 lb.)
Versatile, yet Reliable–One of the Hottest, Longest-Burning Briquettes
Royal Oak is back–in briquette form. Again, we love it because it’s easy to find, and because there’s no junk in it. There’s also relatively little ash (for a briquette), and no funky tastes. It lights quickly, with little fuss.
But what sets RO apart is how long it burns. The pieces are bigger than average, so if you control the airflow and temperature well, and it’ll last you hours. It also gives you consistent heat–and can actually blaze pretty hot (close to 1000 degrees), just in case you’re looking to do some high-temperature searing after your smoke.
3. Kamado Joe Big Block Natural Lump Hardwood Charcoal Box (20 lb.)
In a Box so You Get Huge Pieces for a Long, Slow Burn
The thing about buying charcoal online–it gets tossed about during shipping, it crumbles, and you’re left with a bunch of useless pebbles. So KJ has done the innovative thing and started packing their lumps in boxes. So you get a good mix of big pieces half the length of a child’s arm, some medium fist-sized pieces, a few smaller ones, and some useless dust. Basically, the useful to useless lump ratio is really good, as far as truck-shipped charcoal goes.
KJ’s made from this dense Argentinian hardwood, so you get a long, steady, slow burn (helped along by the fact that there’s entire tree trunks in the box). The ash and the smoke is clean. So you, the smoke master, can add in your wood chips and control the flavor of the smoke.
2. Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag (35 lb.)
Here’s another one for your long and slow–over half the bag is pretty big, large than softballs. Then you get some smaller fit-in-your-palm-sized pieces, and the rest (about 10%) is dust and shards. Fogo’s pretty good about being consistent from bag to bag–but the size variation within a bag means you have to sift around for pieces of about equal size (which you want for that consistent burn).
The smoke’s clean; there’s a mellow oaky aroma–not overwhelming at all–so the flavor of the meat is all up to you. It’s easy to light, doesn’t spark, and leaves you with just a bit of ash.
1. Weber Charcoal Briqettes (20 lb.)
Large Briquettes for a Long-Lasting Burn, Waterproof Bag for Long-Lasting Briquettes
These briquettes are bigger, which does mean better; they burn longer and distribute heat evenly, leaving you with meat that slides down your throat. Weber is also all-natural, which means no chemical aftertaste. It also leaves you with less ash–for a briquette, anyway.
And we used to never think much about packaging, but Weber taught us a thing or two. The bag is resealable, so you don’t have charcoal dust flying everywhere, blackening up your shed and the trunk of your car. It’s also waterproof; you can be smoking close to the sprinklers, and if the water suddenly comes on, your charcoal is safe. If you really want to nitpick, we admit the ziplock technology isn’t the best. (It takes a few attempts to close the bag.)
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.
Selecting the right kitchen knife from numerous sizes, shapes, types, and brands can be daunting and overwhelming. A good knife can save you time and trouble when it comes to slicing, chopping, dicing, and mincing. So, what to look for in a kitchen knife? Our buying guide and list of the best kitchen knives will help you find the right one. How to Choose a Kitchen Knife – Buying Guide If you don’t have cutlery, you don’t have a kitchen. You use knives every day (assuming you cook), so put some time and effort into choosing one. Here are some features you need to consider. Size and Shape Kitchen knives come in different sizes and shapes. Home cooks, get a chef’s knife or santoku knife. They’re the most useful and versatile and can slice, chop, dice, and mince their way through anything–from fruits and vegetables to fish and meat. We all want something sharp, but size, shape, and weight are also important factors, as they’re what gives you control over the knife so you don’t hurt your
At some point in our lives, we all need to hang something on a wall. Whether you’re a parent proudly showing off your child’s art or a college student decorating a dorm room, there’s always something new to be displayed. Unfortunately, a lot of times putting things up on the wall also means ruining walls. But while heavier items may actually require some nail pounding, lighter objects like posters and pictures can easily be mounted with some mounting putty. However, there are seemingly endless amounts of mounting putty out there, and almost all of it looks the same. So naturally, it can be a pretty tough decision. Luckily, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you find one that works for your needs. If you still find that you’re having a hard time choosing, we also have a list of our ten favorite mounting putties for you to consider. How to Choose a Mounting Putty – Buying Guide Having the right putty can make or break your decor. Here’s how to make sure you choose the right one
Barbecue sauce has a history that stretches as far back as the 1800s and is a common ingredient in many American foods today. From Sweet Chuck’s All Natural Barbecue Sauce to Annie’s Original Original BBQ Sauce, choosing the right sauce that’s healthy and that also complements your food can be a tough choice. In this article, we’ll show you how to choose the right healthy barbecue sauce, tell you which ingredients to avoid, and recommend some delicious, healthy barbecue sauces. Whether you’re looking something sweet and subtle or something bold and spicy, there’s a healthy barbecue sauce out there for you; here are our top picks for the best healthy barbecue sauces that you can buy online today. How to Choose a Healthy BBQ Sauce It can be difficult to decipher what sauces are healthy and which are not. A healthy barbecue sauce is going to have low sugar and low sodium, ingredients you will recognize, and still provide substantial flavor. Let’s break down what exactly you sh
It takes two to choose cat litter: the human and the cat. You have a rough idea of what you want. Great. But do you know what your cat wants? Do you even know how to begin to ask? To him, which litter smells the least offensive? Which is the safest? Which is the most comfortable against her little paws? Here, we’ve compiled some questions (and answers) to go through with your cat the next time the litter box runs empty. We’ve also categorized common types of cat litter and summarized their characteristics. And we wrote up a list of litter we’d recommend. So all you need to do is consider the unique situation and tastes of you and your cat. How to Choose Cat Litter – Buying Guide When you’re picking out something that’s so subjective–that depends so much on personal taste–experience is the greatest teacher. So, this time around, we asked Jenny, who has shared her home with cats almost her whole life, about how she looks for cat litter. Invalid Short Code. There is not profile. Please write expert_id = 5 comment.
Cats Have Sensitive N
When choosing a cordless electric knife, there are many factors to consider, such as blade length, handle design, safety features, and battery life. On top of all that, you want to pick the knife that’s right for your purpose, whether that be added convenience for camping or fishing, durability for extensive food prep at home, or the highest professional-grade knife for your work as a chef. Now, we’ll help you find a cordless electric knife that’s perfect for you based on price, function, and specifications. By the end of this article, you’ll find 2018’s best cordless electric knife that is, of course, suited for you! How to Choose a Cordless Electric Knife – Buying Guide If you’re looking at this article, you already know the general benefits of electric knives–namely that the power in these knives does all the work for you. But what you may not know is how to choose from the available options, and that’s why we’re here to help. Choose Your Blade Based on What You Want to
With the crisp air, balding trees, and mall Santas slowly sneaking up onto us, it’s obvious that winter is right around the corner. And nothing screams winter quite like a hot cup of freshly brewed tea. While tea bags are convenient and easy, sometimes those slow, dark mornings beg for something with a little more flavor, a little more pizzazz. Something like loose-leaf. If you’re not accustomed to using loose-leaf though and don’t have the proper equipment, you might find yourself with mouthfuls of soggy tea leaves. If so, it might be time to consider investing in a tea infuser. We’ll help guide you to the perfect tea infuser, and if you’re still stuck, we’ve also got a list of our ten favorites that you can find online. How to Choose a Tea Infuser – Buying Guide When it comes to choosing a tea infuser, you shouldn’t just buy the first one you see. There are a few things that you should take into consideration so that you can brew the perfect cup of tea. Basket vs. Submersion Infuse
There’s nothing more comforting on a cold winter night than sitting around a table with your friends and family eating food that you all cooked together. And there’s no better way to do that than hot pot! From broths filled with mouth-numbing Sczechuan peppers to mild Japanese shabu shabu, hot pot is fun and easy to do at home–if you have the right materials. As the popularity of this traditionally Asian cooking style continues to rise in the West, so does the availability of tabletop heat sources and appropriately shaped pots. The only problem now is choosing! That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to picking out the right hot pot cooker. If you still find yourself stuck after that, we’ve also included a list of our ten favorite hot pots to start your search. How to Choose a Hot Pot Cooker – Buying Guide Having the right materials to make your hot pot can make or break your dinner experience. Here’s how to make sure you’ve chosen the best one for your needs. Electric or Not:
If you work at a desk, a dependable eraser is essential in your arsenal of stationery implements. There are various brands and types of erasers such as plastic, rubber, and kneaded erasers, some of which are better suited to erase pencil or pen. In this article, we’re going to help you decide which eraser you need and recommend you the 10 best erasers on the online marketplace. There’s a lot to choose from, so be prepared to erase your preconceptions about what an eraser can do! How To Choose an Eraser – Buying Guide If you’re in the market for a new eraser, what qualities should you be looking out for? There are several important factors, such as eraser material, design, grip, and, of course, price. The following is a thorough explanation of each of these factors. The Material Depends on Application What are you using this eraser for? Are you erasing pen, pencil, or something else? There are roughly four categories of erasers, and the answer to the aforementioned questions will guide
Raise your hand if you can’t stop eating at your desk. (Over half of us here are guilty of that crime.) Over time, dust accumulates. Oils accumulate. Cheetos powder and Doritos flakes and Oreo crumbs accumulate. Before you know it, there’s enough gunk and goo under your keyboard keys to give birth to another Flubber. And you haven’t got the most delicate of movements, so you don’t trust yourself to pop off the keys for a good cleaning–that is, without breaking anything. (We feel you.) So we came up with a list of easier, less risky keyboard cleaning alternatives and a guide to help you figure out which cleaner is right for you. How to Choose a Keyboard Cleaner – Buying Guide Your keyboard isn’t getting any cleaner as you’re reading this. In fact, it’s probably getting dirtier. So let’s get to it and talk about what cleaner will work best for you. The Type of Cleaner Depends on How Dirty Your Keys Are Depending on how bad the mess under your keys is, you’ll have to use one of four ma
It’s winter, it’s cold, and worst of all, it’s dry. Excessively dry air can lead to a whole host of problems ranging from cracked skin to compromised immune systems. Luckily, humidifiers help to alleviate many of these issues. Unfortunately, traditional humidifiers can be clunky and bulky and not ideal for use in smaller spaces or while traveling. Luckily, portable-sized humidifiers are gaining traction, which means you’ve now got quite a few options when it comes to moistening your air. Picking out the right humidifier you boils down to figuring out what exactly you need from it. In this guide, we’ll cover the things you should look out for. At the end, if you’re still stuck, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorite portable humidifiers. How to Choose a Portable Humidifier – Buying Guide There’s no point in buying a humidifier that you’re not going to use. This guide will help you pick out one that’s exactly right for your situation. Cool Mist vs. Warm Mist: Think About Safety and Wat