Not all charcoal is the same, that’s how it’s always been so all you can do is look for information on a particular manufacturer and avoid the offers of the poorest quality.
I know that plenty of people don’t really care about the contents of a bag, they just pick whatever is conveniently priced, but it’s not a good approach.
Remember one thing, you get what you pay for, so to put it simply cheap charcoal briquette is not something you’d really like to use, you’ll see why once you learn its composition and quality.
High quality charcoal briquette makes it possible to cook for much longer, leaves much less ash and is guaranteed not to have any chemical additives or unwanted elements.
In this guide you will learn the difference in charcoal briquette as well as the shopping guidelines. To make it easier for you, I have also prepared a list of several best charcoal briquettes available on the market right now.
At a glance:
- Best Overall: Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- Runner Up: Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- 100% Natural: Stubb’s all Natural Bar-B-Q Briquets (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
- Also Good: Weber Charcoal Briquettes (Check on Amazon | Read our review)
The best charcoal for grilling and smoking
Depending on what you want to do, grilling or smoking, you have to choose the right charcoal. For fast cooking and at higher temperatures, lump charcoal will be much better, whereas for smoking with regular grills a better choice is charcoal briquette.
Not all briquettes have the same properties, some are better for hot and fast cooking, while others for smoking – that also needs to be taken into account.
1. Best Overall Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes
A relatively cheap, very easily available and effective charcoal briquette from Kingsford.
I believe that most people are perfectly familiar with that brand, which has earned customers’ trust a long time ago.
It is great Charcoal Briquette for grilling, it earned a decent score in my test. It burns slightly faster and holds high temperature for a shorter time but in terms of price per bag compared to better manufacturers it holds a better place.
It starts burning pretty fast, it needs about 15 minutes to reach high enough temperature.
Sadly, it leaves quite a lot of ash so I would advise against smoking with it on a grill that needs to avoid ash ( for example a ceramic grill ).
The amount of fillers is adequate to the price this briquette is available at, you can’t get the best quality for this kind of price.
It’s a classic that combines the key advantages of charcoal, price, availability and effectiveness. It can be bought easily pretty much everywhere, thanks to its low price and easy availability it has earned the first place in my ranking.
If you’re thinking about simple and fast grilling and want to save some money then don’t hesitate for a moment.
2. Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes
It is advertised by the manufacturer as premium charcoal briquette that burns hotter and longer while only taking 15 minutes before you can start cooking.
I can 100% confirm those claims as that’s what this briquette really is like, so the manufacturer has the right to advertise it like that , but remember that quality isn’t cheap.
Compared to Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes, it costs as much as three times more per 1 pound. So is it worth paying that much more for charcoal ?
During the first stage, it can reach very high temperatures for about the first 30-40 minutes of burning. Then the temperature starts gradually dropping but it is still high enough until the end of burning.
It is perfect for every opportunity, for grilling and for smoking, although personally I recommend it more for smoking.
The advantage in form of burning time makes it a good choice for long smoking. Especially that this briquette has composition of good quality, which means that the food won’t have a weird smell/taste.
It is actually medium tier charcoal briquette that makes great alternative to the Kingsford that I suggested earlier if you want better in form of higher temperature and longer burning time.
3. Stubb’s all Natural Bar-B-Q Briquets
A great option, top-pier when it comes to quality but there is one problem – the availability is very limited which makes it hard to buy locally, the solution is to purchase online.
It is characterized by hot and long burning while its high quality composition allows it to produce much less ash, statistically below the average for all the competitive products.
What really sets it apart from all the competitive brands and justifies such high price is the composition.
Stubb’s all Natural Bar-B-Q Briquets is a 100-Percent all natural charcoal without any additives, fillers and chemicals present with most competitive manufacturers.
The high quality charcoal works much better during cooking, especially smoking. It gives food an intense and characteristic wood-grilled flavor – that’s possibly the greatest advantage of natural charcoal briquettes.
If it’s top quality then it also has to be very expensive, that’s just a fact and we have to admit that it costs several times as much per bag as the common and easily available Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes.
Is it worth paying that much?
It depends – if it is not a financial burden to you then obviously yes. If, however, you cook very often and are not exactly a wealthy person, it will be quite a financial burden to you.
If that’s the case, I suggest only using Stubb’s all Natural Bar-B-Q Briquets for special cooking, especially of expensive meat or simply very important smoking to you, while for classic, fast grilling you can use something much cheaper.
4. Weber Charcoal Briquettes
A great brand that every grilling enthusiast is familiar with, it has earned the customers’ trust thanks to their great approach and especially their high quality grills and smokers available at fair prices.
Can the same be said about their charcoal briquette?
I have to admit that charcoal briquette from Weber is good and I can recommend it but it is certainly not brilliant and lacks a lot compared to the best on the market, although it will certainly be one hundred times better than regular supermarket-brand charcoal from an unknown brand.
A huge advantage is composition – the manufacturer claims it to be 100% natural without any chemical additives.
Another huge advantage is definitely the availability of this Weber briquette, you can get it easily in many places. Yet another advantage is its relatively low price, it is not the cheapest but it’s certainly competitive especially considering the quality.
In practice, briquette from Weber is characterized by very long burning time as well as fairly high and constant temperature, although it leaves quite a lot of ash which is however characteristic to most briquette manufacturers.
In terms of price it stands pretty well but remember that what matters the most is quality. Avoid briquette that contains chemicals, it is better to pay a little more and be sure rather than eat food with distinctive “funny” taste, which on top of that is also unhealthy.
Having so many manufacturers to choose from can make you pretty confused when the time comes to choose just one product. I have prepared several tips on what to pay attention to when shopping as well as on characteristics of high quality charcoal briquette, and I invite you to read it.
How I test ?
This is probably one of the easiest and most effective tests for me, which I found to be entertaining and interesting. It consisted of burning a specific amount of charcoal using different most popular forms of arrangement ( regular grilling, snake method, 50/50 etc ).
Every time from the moment of lighting it up, I monitored the temperature and burning time, using an adequate smoker thermometer with a probe as well as a regular timer for that purpose. That way I could evaluate what temperatures each type of charcoal can reach as well as how long it burns.
In the next stage, all I had left to do was evaluate the amount of ash and in certain cases also unidentified elements left behind by the burned briquette ( present in poor quality briquette ).
In the last stage, I obviously checked out the technical factors, which is whether the manufacturer declares any chemical additives or fillers that you should definitely avoid if you care about what you eat.
I used all the notes to compare the ratio of quality, burning time and the temperature reached to the price.
Lump Charcoal or Briquettes
You will learn more about upsides and downsides of both in my next article where I compared lump charcoal versus charcoal briquette. I invite you to check out that guide if you have any doubt about any type of charcoal.
There are two types of charcoal which is why first we need to tell them apart in order to tell which type will be better for you depending on the situation you are in.
This guide is only about charcoal briquette but you need to remember that lump charcoal exists, which has its separate guide where I have also described everything in detail that matters in this regard ( Check out best lump charcoal guide ).
I am not going to write any more about that topic here, just check out each of the guides where I touched upon all issues in detail if you’re interested in that.
Why choose charcoal briquettes?
You already know very well that besides charcoal briquettes you can also choose lump charcoal, which differs a lot. Below I will present the key upsides and downsides of briquette, which have a deciding impact on the type of charcoal you choose.
What to look for in charcoal Briquettes
The right shape – Uniform chunks of charcoal are easier to arrange which is convenient when you use different cooking methods.
As little fillers as possible – Look for the “Hardwood” label which confirms that briquette is made of better quality wood. Check the amount of fillers as well, which cause briquette to burn faster and leave behind much more ash. Overall, briquette is characterized by bigger amount of ash but it can be largely limited by using high quality charcoal.
Small amount of dust and particles on the bottom of the bag – Sadly, you can only check it after you open the bag, if it happens to you then it means poorer quality. Good briquette doesn’t crumble, is solid and maintains its shape.
Avoid lighter fluid – You can often see the information that after several dozen minutes from starting the fire you can start cooking on that without worries because all substances have evaporated. In practice it takes much longer, but if you decide to cook without paying attention to those warnings then get prepared for the meat to gain a weird “chemical” taste and smell. All lighter fluids and similar things are nothing but chemicals that are advertised as a way to get the charcoal burning fast and easily. In reality, there’s a number of equally easy, cheap and fast methods that don’t utilize any chemical agents ( charcoal chimney starter + paper + paraffin cubes etc ).
BBQ and grilling are my biggest passions.