Best Charcoal For Smoking Your Food

People often think that Charcoal is only fuel but that is not entirely true, it is an ingredient. If you are like us, seeking that one perfect recipe for smoked food, then you cannot afford to cut charcoal out of the equation. Here, we give our take on what is the best charcoal for smoking so far.

The Fuels That We Are Introducing In This Guide.

What Are The Different Types Of Charcoals?

People often vary their recipes by way of augmenting their condiments or cuts of the meat. Few though will go out of their way to tinker with the fuel source. Hence, if you are not already aware, there are a couple types of charcoals out there in the market and they are not made the same, and of course, they are not all ideal for the same types of food.

Type #1. The Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is made from hardwood material, such as maple or oak. You might also know them by the name, hardwood charcoal. Naturally, you will also be able to find them anywhere, from your neighbor’s house to the aisle at the nearest mart.

If you are thinking of getting lump charcoals, here is one very important and easy tip to allow you to determine if the bag that you got is a quality bag or not.

To determine whether you got a good bag, check the shape of the charcoal. Lump charcoal usually retains its log-like shape. Hence, if you are able to recognize it as a log at first glance, it is probably a good one.

You might have also heard of the saying that good charcoal gives of a lot of smoke. Well, that isn’t true. In fact, the huge amount of smoke is actually due to imperfections in the carbonization process. If the charcoal is perfectly carbonized, there should not be even any smoke at all. The smoke actually comes from the little remnants of wood that remains in the wood during the process.

Also, lump charcoal doesn’t give off much smoke and generally considered to be less polluting compared to say briquettes.

Type #2. The Charcoal Briquettes

Charcoal briquettes are another type of commonly used fuel in households. These little squarish blocks are made from the same slow pyrolysis process that is used to make hardwood charcoal. However, the difference is the base material that is used to make them.

For charcoal briquettes, fine wood dust and other kinds of fillers such as starch, lime, or even coal dust are machine compressed into the pillow shaped blocks that we are all so familiar with. Because of the base materials that are used to make them, charcoal briquettes can be slower to light up as compared with lump charcoal. Also, due to the possibility of added chemicals to the briquettes for easier burning, they may produce chemical pollutants.

Type #3. The White Charcoal aka. Binchotan

This is a fascinating piece of fuel as not many of us have heard of it. The Binchotan, given by its name should have hinted to you that it is a Japanese charcoal. Even within the Japanese charcoal sphere, there are 3 types of Japanese charcoal. But what we are most interested in is the Binchotan, also known as white charcoal. This particular variant of charcoal is considered as the apple in many BBQers’ eyes, it is the epitome of almost perfect charcoal.

To give you some background of the Binchotan. It is usually made from Oak as it has a higher carbon content compared to hardwood. Due to higher carbon density, burning it does not give off any odor. It enables you to enjoy the natural flavor of your food. How do you know that what you are buying is really Binchotan? Well, you can recognize Binchotan by its’ distinctive metallic sound when you tap two sticks of it together.

In addition, Binchotan burns cleanly with a high steady temperature. Moreover, ashes are said to neutralize protein acids and other undesirable acidic products during BBQing. However, Binchotan is harder to ignite than lump or briquettes charcoal.

Type #4. The Wood Pellets

To be more complete in our guide, we are taking this chance to introduce wood pellets, which is also good for smoking. Pellet fuel is made from renewable substances, such as saw dust.

To produce these pellets, manufacturers will source wood waste such as wood dust or excess material from wood manufacturing, and place them into a grinder to create even, small, and fine wood fiber. At this stage, an industry grade magnet will pick out any metallic elements such as nails in the pile of wood mass.

After which, the wood fiber is then processed at the pellet mill, where it gets compressed at high pressure through thick, narrow metal holes to give them shape. Additionally, to make sure that the pellets stay in shape, the compression creates heat which softens a substance called lignin that acts a natural glue to keep them together. This process gives you the familiar shape that you often see in the market.

Are There Differences As To Which Kind Of Charcoal We Use?

Difference #1. Price Difference

While all the fuel may work, in one way or another, they do not cost the same. In the 4 types of wood-based fuel that we have introduced above, the most expensive is Binchotan and arguably, charcoal briquettes or pellets are the cheapest. This is subjective because the more popular brands can and will price their products higher.

Moreover, there are some blended flavored wood pellets for smoking that are much more expensive than the usual ones. If you are particularly interested in wood pellets for smoking, check this out.

Difference #2. Taste Difference

Some wood based fuel are “tastier” than others. But again, taste is a relative concept. If you like that smoky flavor, lump charcoal will work great and if you are in for the taste of wood, then consider wood pellets.

How To Determine What Charcoal Is Good For My Smoker?

Check For #1. No Excessive Sparks

Let’s face it, charcoal gives off sparks. It is not necessarily a bad thing when it does, and it signals that the charcoal is not 100% carbonized. We have already covered this, but this imperfection is what gives the smoke flavor. If it were to be thoroughly carbonized, there wouldn’t be any sparks at all and with it, no flavor. Non. Nada.

On the other hand, if it were to spark excessively, so much you got to hide behind the smoker, then it is not a good sign either. Yes, you guessed it, that excessive sparkling means that the charcoal is not carbonized enough, and it will be inefficient in generating heat and that directly means, you got to spend more money getting another bag.

Check For #2. No Foreign Objects

Imagine this. You opened up a fresh bag of charcoal, and you find a piece of PVC pipe or rope in it. This is not normal, and it often signals a flaw in the process of the manufacturing process. When you do encounter it, take a picture and send it to us, it would be interesting to see what you guys can find in a bag of charcoal.

Either way, these two flaws that we have mentioned cannot be verified with the naked eye, and you would need to take the plunge and try out a bag before you know it. One tip that we follow is to always buy the minimum that we need first, then buy in bulk once we determine the quality of the charcoal.

This might sound inefficient and not very cost-effective at first, but over the long run, you will gain more as you would have avoided the hefty cost of bulk buying low grade charcoals.

So, What Are The Best Charcoal For Smoking?

Here, we will share with you what we believe is the best charcoal for smoking your next plate of brisket.

#1. Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal


Fogo means fire. These Fogo hardwood lump charcoals are handpicked to provide you with the best and only the best in their batch. The oaky smell that you can get from these charcoal pieces will whip up you and your guests’ taste buds.

Fogo also claims that 80% of their charcoal pieces in their bag will be more than 4 inches wide. Do note that there is a correlation between the thickness of the charcoal and the time that it takes to light it up.

One added bonus in getting these charcoals is that Fogo is produced sustainably in cooperation with government organizations. The charcoals are made using mainly tree trimmings and trees that have been marked for removal as well as ensuring continued reforestation.

Details At A Glance

  • The Flavor or Source Material: Hardwood Oak
  • Does It Sparks: No
  • Sustainably Produced: Yes
  • Come In Bags Of: 17.6 pounds or 35 pounds
  • Recommended For: Fish, Poultry, Beef, Vegetables

#2. Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

 

If you have ever faced the headache of not knowing where to keep your excess charcoal, then the jealous devil might have just the solution for you. Each bag comes waterproof and is re-sealable so that you won’t need to get another storage box.

These lump charcoals also come with no chemical, fillers, or any kind of unwanted materials in it. This ensures that the smoke you get comes purely from the wood and nothing else. You wouldn’t want your smoked salmon to taste funny.

Jealous devil charcoal also burns efficiently, you could get up to 20 hours of smoke time with it. One thing to note though, these charcoals are made to have a mild flavor so as to not overpower your ingredient natural taste. So, for some that lean towards a heavier flavor, you probably might not taste it at all.

Details At A Glance

  • The Flavor or Source Material: South American Hardwood (Quebracho Blanco)
  • Does It Sparks: No
  • Sustainably Produced: Yes
  • Come In Bags Of: 8 pounds or 20 pounds
  • Recommended For: Brisket, Fish, or Poultry. Perhaps some types of veggies like corn, which has natural sweetness.

#3. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes

 

The charcoal briquettes that makes our list comes from Kingsford. These charcoal briquettes are different from those that we are normally acquainted with in that these come with grooves. You might be familiar with the pillow shaped briquettes, but the surface is usually smooth.

These added grooves claim to be able to allow the briquettes to light up faster and ready to use within 15 minutes. The Kingsford charcoal briquettes are made from natural ingredients so there aren’t any chemicals added in it, ensuring that the smoke is of quality and your food won’t taste funny.

Details At A Glance

  • The Flavor or Source Material: North American Wood
  • Does It Sparks: No
  • Sustainably Produced: Not Applicable
  • Come In Bags Of: 7.7 pounds
  • Recommended For: Fish, Poultry

#4. Kirikomaru Binchotan White Charcoal

 

If you are intrigued by the white charcoal that we have mentioned above, then you might be interested in this.

However, we have to mention again that white charcoal is known to be highly carbonized and they do not produce much smoke if any at all. The correct way to use them is to use them in conjunction with flavored wood chips or pellets. These Binchotan are efficient in generating heat and can smoke your food with less.

These Kirikomaru white charcoal is legit and if you knock two pieces together, you will get a metallic ringing sound.

Details At A Glance

  • The Flavor or Source Material: Japanese Binchotan
  • Does It Sparks: No
  • Sustainably Produced: Not Stated
  • Come In Bags Of: 33 pounds
  • Recommended For: Fish, Poultry, Meat BUT with flavored chips or pellets. This is important. Otherwise, use them for grilling.

#5. CookinPellets Perfect Mix

 

The CookinPellets perfect mix is blended with 4 flavors. They are hickory, cherry, hard maple, and apple with hickory as the main component in the mix. The perfect mix uses only heart woods, which is the center of the log, to make the pellet. This ensures that there is minimal bark content in the mix and offers more consistency in temperature when smoking your food.

Details At A Glance

  • The Flavor or Source Material: Hickory, Cherry, Hard Maple, Apple
  • Does It Sparks: No
  • Sustainably Produced: Yes
  • Come In Bags Of: 40 pounds
  • Recommended For: Fish, Poultry, Meat, Veggies.

#6. Traeger PEL319 Hickory Pellets

 

Traeger is a big brand. And one of the perks of using these Traeger brand pellets is that it is optimized to be used along with their own grills. So, you will would probably not to worry on that count. However, a word of caution, if you are not using Traeger pellets with Traeger grills, you might be risking them not honoring the warranty. These Traeger hardwood pellets utilize the sawdust from existing clean, green hardwood without harvesting a single tree.

These pellets are made from 100% hardwood and have no additives added to it. These ensure that the food you get is infused totally with the natural taste of wood that it is supposed to be – not that we should eat wood.

Details At A Glance

  • The Flavor or Source Material: Choice between Hickory, Alder, Apple, Cherry, Maple, Mesquite, Oak, Pecan
  • Does It Sparks: No
  • Sustainably Produced: Yes
  • Come In Bags Of: 20 pounds
  • Recommended For: Fish, Poultry, Meat, Veggies.

It’s A Wrap! Best Charcoal For Smoking Your Food.

Now, you should have what you need to know to choose the best charcoal for smoking your food. We have also thrown in a couple of other wood-based fuel to make your life easier. Less thinking and more smoking!

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