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Best Lump Charcoal of 2023: Hands-on Review

Best Lump Charcoal of 2023: Hands-on Review

Over the course of two decades, I have tested numerous brands of lump charcoal. The main factors that differentiate these brands are price and the sourcing of material for carbonization. Personally, I prefer brands that offer medium to large pieces of lump charcoal that are relatively uniform in size because they are easier to use. B&B has been the most consistent brand I have used, closely followed by Jealous Devil. In terms of pricing, B&B is unmatched, with a cost per pound that is very affordable. I appreciate the fact that B&B uses actual trees and limbs in their lump charcoal instead of scrap or unqualified wood pieces.

Jealous Devil is another highly regarded brand in the world of lump charcoal. While many reviews place it at number one, I find that B&B consistently offers me the pieces of lump charcoal that I prefer and minimizes small pieces that aren’t as useful for grilling or smoking. However, if B&B starts having quality issues due to selling larger chunks under a different bag for more money, I may have to switch to Jealous Devil. Jealous Devil provides consistently sized pieces throughout the entire bag and does not contain any foreign materials.

Royal Oak is a reliable brand that is readily available at many local stores. Their lump charcoal is made from American Oak and Hickory hardwood without any additional additives. The size distribution is usually consistent, with minimal amounts of dust or small pieces. FOGO is another brand worth mentioning, although it may not be as readily available in all locations. FOGO’s black bag is designed for even heating, while their brown bag is ideal for low and slow smoking.

Kamado Joe offers their own line of lump charcoal called “Big Block XL.” This brand includes medium to large lumps and minimizes small chunks and dust. Kamado Joe, as a manufacturer of ceramic grills, produces lump charcoal because it produces less ash than briquettes. It is important to note that owning a Kamado Joe grill does not mean you are obligated to use their brand of lump charcoal.

The Best Lump Charcoal

Over the course of two decades, I have tested numerous brands of lump charcoal, and the main factors that differentiate them are price and sourcing of materials. Personally, I prefer brands that offer medium/large pieces of lump charcoal that are relatively uniform, as they are easier to use. One brand that consistently meets these criteria is B&B. They offer good-sized pieces of lump charcoal at an affordable price. However, in 2022, there has been a decrease in the number of larger pieces in their bags.

Jealous Devil is another highly regarded brand in the world of lump charcoal. While many websites rank it as the top brand, I find that B&B offers me more consistent sizes and fewer small pieces. Jealous Devil provides consistently sized “chunx” throughout the bag and uses a South American wood called Quebracho Blanc for carbonization.

Royal Oak is a reliable brand that can be found easily at local stores. Their lump charcoal is made from American Oak and Hickory hardwoods, with no other additives. The size distribution is consistent with minimal dust present.

FOGO is a brand known for its quality but may not be readily available in all areas. The black bag is designed for even heating, while the brown bag is ideal for low and slow smoking. FOGO’s lump charcoal takes longer to light compared to other brands but produces an impressive fire once ignited.

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Kamado Joe offers larger lumps in their “Big Block XL” version, which is suitable for those who prefer bigger pieces. Kamado Joe manufactures ceramic grills and produces lump charcoal to complement their grills’ performance.

1. B&B Lump Charcoal (Oak)

B&B lump charcoal, made from oak wood, is one of the most consistent brands I have used over the years. The medium/large pieces of lump charcoal offered by B&B are relatively uniform, making them easier to use for smoking and grilling. The price point of B&B is unmatched, with a 20 lb bag costing $16.99 at my local store. I appreciate the fact that B&B uses actual trees and limbs in their charcoal, rather than scraps or unidentified wood pieces. While there has been a decrease in the number of “huge” pieces in recent years, B&B still remains my preferred brand for its consistency and affordability.

Jealous Devil is often hyped as one of the best brands of lump charcoal in the market. While it offers consistently sized “chunx” throughout the bag, I personally prefer B&B for its medium/large pieces. However, if B&B starts having quality issues due to selling larger chunks under a different bag for a higher price, I might consider switching to Jealous Devil. Jealous Devil is made from a South American wood called Quebracho Blanc and produces minimal amounts of small pieces and dust. It provides long-lasting heat and minimal ash production.

Royal Oak is a reliable brand that can be found at most local stores where lump charcoal is sold. Made from American Oak and Hickory hardwoods, Royal Oak offers consistent sizing with minimal amounts of charcoal dust. It has average lighting speed but provides long-lasting heat and produces less ash compared to other brands.

FOGO lump charcoal is not readily available in my area, but I had the opportunity to try it at a friend’s house. The black bag contains smaller pieces and dust, while the brown bag is designed for low and slow smoking with impressive medium-sized lumps. It takes a bit longer to light compared to other brands, but once lit, it provides even heating and long-lasting heat. The black bag has a residue/dust on its outer surface, resulting in excess dust at the bottom of the bag.

Kamado Joe is known for its ceramic grills or “Kamados,” and their lump charcoal is designed to produce less ash than briquettes. The Big Block XL version offers medium/large lumps with minimal small chunks and dust. While Kamado Joe promotes using their own brand of lump charcoal for their grills, it is not mandatory, and other brands can be used as well.

2. Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal – Chunx

Jealous Devil is a highly regarded brand in the world of lump charcoal. Many reviews rank it as the top brand, but personally, I find B&B to be more consistent and preferable. However, Jealous Devil does offer some unique qualities that make it worth considering.

One standout feature of Jealous Devil lump charcoal is its consistent sizing. The “chunx” version ensures that all the pieces are essentially the same size, providing even heat distribution throughout your cooking process. This consistency is maintained throughout the entire bag, with minimal small pieces or dust that can be found in lower quality brands.

While Jealous Devil doesn’t specify the type of wood used on their bag, a visit to Doug’s site (nakedwhiz.com) reveals that they use Quebracho Blanc, a South American wood. This wood produces a hardwood lump charcoal that burns for a long time and generates high heat levels.

When it comes to lighting, Jealous Devil performs well with minimal pings and pops in your chimney starter. The lump charcoal also lasts for an extended period, ensuring you have enough fuel for your grilling or smoking needs.

Overall, if you prioritize consistent sizing and long-lasting heat, Jealous Devil’s Chunx version of lump charcoal could be an excellent choice for you.

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3. Royal Oak Lump Charcoal

Royal Oak is a brand that offers consistent quality and availability. It can be found at local stores like Home Depot, Runnings, or Walmart Supercenter. The pricing is quite affordable, with a 15.44 lb bag costing around $15-17 dollars. The size distribution of the lump charcoal is usually consistent, with no overtly large or super small pieces. There is also minimal charcoal dust in the bag.

Royal Oak uses American Oak and Hickory hardwood to make their lump charcoal, without any additional additives. They have stringent filtering processes to remove foreign contaminants, such as using magnets to grab metal and human checks for uncarbonized wood and other impurities.

When it comes to lighting, Royal Oak has minimal pings and pops and lights up averagely compared to other brands. The lump charcoal lasts for a long time and produces less ash compared to other brands.

4. FOGO Lump Charcoal: Black Bag and Brown Bag

4. FOGO Lump Charcoal: Black Bag and Brown Bag

FOGO is a brand that is highly regarded in the world of lump charcoal, although it may not be readily available in all locations. The black bag version of FOGO lump charcoal is designed for more even heating, reducing the risk of hot spots due to inconsistent sized pieces. However, it does contain smaller pieces and more dust compared to other brands like B&B or Jealous Devil.

On the other hand, FOGO’s brown bag, known as their “Super Premium” lump charcoal, is specifically made for low and slow smoking. It features impressively sized lumps that are ideal for smoking purposes. Lighting the FOGO lump charcoal may take a bit longer compared to other brands, but once lit, it provides a long-lasting fire.

One thing to note about the black bag version is that it has a residue or dust-like coating on its outer surface. This residue is not present on the brown bag version. While the quality and performance of FOGO lump charcoal are commendable, the price point may be a deciding factor for some. The online prices for FOGO can be higher compared to other brands, with a 17.6 lb bag of the Super Premium costing around $35 and the 35 lb black bag being priced at around $45 (on sale from nearly $60 at the time of writing).

Overall, if FOGO were more easily accessible locally, it would likely be a preferred choice for many grill enthusiasts, especially for those who enjoy smoking with larger chunks of charcoal. However, considering the online prices, it may not be the most cost-effective option for everyone.

5. Kamado Joe Big Block XL Charcoal

Kamado Joe is a manufacturer of Ceramic grills or “Kamados,” and they also produce their own brand of lump charcoal. The Kamado Joe Big Block XL Charcoal is perfect for those who prefer larger lumps of charcoal. It contains a healthy amount of medium/large lumps and minimizes small chunks and dust.

One of the main reasons Kamado Joe produces lump charcoal instead of briquettes is because lump charcoal produces far less ash than briquettes. This makes cleanup easier and allows for better airflow during grilling or smoking.

If you own a Kamado Joe grill, it doesn’t mean you have to exclusively use Kamado Joe lump charcoal. You have the freedom to choose any brand of lump charcoal that suits your preferences. It’s important to note that conditional warranty coverage, which requires the use of a specific brand, is against the law.

What to Look for in Lump Charcoal

What to Look for in Lump Charcoal

When choosing lump charcoal, there are a few key factors to consider:

1. Size and uniformity: Look for brands that offer medium to large pieces of lump charcoal that are relatively uniform in size. This will make it easier to use and provide consistent heat during grilling or smoking.

2. Sourcing of material: Consider the source of the wood used to make the lump charcoal. Different species of wood can impart different flavors to your food, so choose one that aligns with your taste preferences.

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3. Method of carbonization: The method used to carbonize the wood can affect the quality of the lump charcoal. Look for brands that use a reliable and efficient carbonization process.

4. Price: Cost per pound is an important factor for many people. Compare prices of different brands available in your area and choose one that offers good value for money.

By considering these factors, you can find a brand of lump charcoal that meets your needs and enhances your grilling or smoking experience.

Types of Lump Charcoal

When it comes to lump charcoal, the main factors that differentiate brands are price and sourcing of the material used for carbonization. However, there are a few other factors to consider, such as the method of carbonization and the species of wood used. Overall, lump charcoal is simply carbonized wood.

In terms of pricing and availability, some popular brands include B&B, Jealous Devil, Royal Oak, FOGO, and Kamado Joe. B&B is known for its consistency in lump size and affordability. Jealous Devil is highly regarded by many barbecue enthusiasts for its consistent sizing and long-lasting heat. Royal Oak offers a reliable option that is widely available at various stores. FOGO is praised for its larger-sized pieces in their brown bag version, which is great for low and slow smoking. And Kamado Joe’s “Big Block XL” provides medium/large chunks for those who prefer larger lumps.

It’s important to note that personal preferences may vary when it comes to lump charcoal brands. Some individuals prioritize cost per pound or prefer specific wood types like oak or hickory. Ultimately, it’s worth trying out different brands to find the one that best suits your needs.

Finding Oddities Inside Bags of Lump Charcoal

Finding Oddities Inside Bags of Lump Charcoal

When it comes to buying bags of lump charcoal, it’s not uncommon to find some oddities inside. This can include foreign materials or non-wood pieces that don’t belong. However, in my experience with the brands I’ve used, I have rarely come across any such issues.

For example, B&B lump charcoal has consistently provided me with actual trees and limbs in the bag, rather than scraps or unidentifiable wood pieces. The same goes for Jealous Devil, which has minimal amounts of small pieces and no foreign materials. Royal Oak also takes measures to filter their lump charcoal for contaminants, ensuring a clean product.

While FOGO does have some smaller pieces and dust in their black bag, it’s worth noting that this is intentional for more even heating. And Kamado Joe’s Big Block XL contains mostly medium/large chunks with minimal small pieces and dust.

Sizes of Lump Charcoal and Burn Time

Sizes of Lump Charcoal and Burn Time

When it comes to lump charcoal, the size of the pieces can vary between brands. Personally, I prefer brands that offer medium to large pieces of lump charcoal that are relatively uniform in size. These larger pieces are easier to use and provide a more consistent heat source for grilling or smoking. Brands like B&B and Jealous Devil have consistently offered me the sizes I prefer.

The burn time of lump charcoal can also vary depending on the brand and the type of wood used. Hardwoods like oak, hickory, and quebracho tend to provide a longer burn time compared to softer woods. Royal Oak is a brand that uses American oak and hickory hardwood in their lump charcoal, which results in a longer-lasting fire. FOGO offers two different types of lump charcoal – their black bag is designed for even heating while their brown bag is made specifically for low and slow smoking. The brown bag contains larger lumps that provide a longer burn time.

Overall, the size of the lump charcoal pieces and the burn time are important factors to consider when choosing a brand. It’s worth experimenting with different brands to find the sizes that work best for your grilling or smoking needs, as well as considering how long you want your fire to last.

In conclusion, selecting the best lump charcoal for smoking is crucial to achieving optimal flavor and tenderness in your grilled dishes. Factors such as hardwood variety, size consistency, and absence of additives should be considered. By investing in quality lump charcoal, you can enhance your smoking experience and create mouthwatering meals that will impress any barbecue enthusiast.

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