With the BBQ season around the corner, there’s a growing number of debates related to which type of grill is the best. Let’s assume that you have chosen a grill where the source of fuel is charcoal (lump charcoal or briquettes ).
The thing about grills and their fuel is that there are so many manufacturers and you have to know how to tell apart a good product from a bad one.
If you have chosen lump charcoal then chances are you have another problem, which is about finding a manufacturer who has a good quality hardwood lump charcoal at a decent price in their offer.
Without a doubt, lump charcoal should be 100% natural ( No fillers or chemicals ) and made of clean, hard wood. Does every manufacturer follow these rules? Of course not.
That’s why I have prepared this guide in order to help you choose the best lump charcoal that will be 100% natural and made of high quality hard wood.
Best Lump Charcoal 2019 - Comparison Table
Jealous Devil All Natural
Fogo Super Premium
Kamado Joe KJ-Char
Best Lump Charcoal Reviews - Top Picks
1. Best Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Jealous Devil All Natural
Made of wood called Quebracho Blanco ( South American wood ), the manufacturing process takes place in Paraguay. It is the number one on my list, in my opinion the best lump charcoal available on the market.
It is characterized by high quality of wood, large percentage of medium-sized chunks in the bag, lack of any kind of fillers or chemicals and lack of weird elements or junk.
It burns pretty fast and easily, it produces very little ash and can reach one of the highest temperatures. It is definitely very hot charcoal and of surprisingly good burning time ( especially in kamado type grills ).
I especially recommend it for long cooking, for example in ceramic grills like Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe.
What stands out right away after pouring out an entire bag is the minimal amount of wood chips and dust combined with a large amount of medium-sized chunks ( majority ) and a small amount of big chunks.
According to the manufacturer, you won’t find any unidentified objects in the bag, like wood without charcoal, junk or anything unwanted. I can definitely confirm it, lump charcoal from Jealous Devil only contains high quality chunks of wood without garbage or additives.
Jealous Devil holds the deserved and unquestioned top place in my ranking. It has characteristics that the best lump charcoal should have - Natural quality of the hard wood, burning purity, small amount of ash, the ability to reach very high temperatures, small amount of dust and wood chips whereas about 2/3 of the bag contains medium-sized chunks of charcoal.
The only thing you may not like is the smoke itself and its intensity, but that’s a matter of personal taste, which is something everyone has to check for themselves.
2. Best Lump Charcoal for Grilling
Fogo Super Premium
Made of wood that comes from Salvador (a Central American evergreen Oak species ) it is also this country where the manufacturing process takes place. It takes the second place in my ranking despite being as great as Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal.
First and foremost, it is a lump charcoal that is free from chemicals and other additives, and you won’t find any junk or unidentified elements in the bag.
Upon opening the bag and pouring out all the charcoal, you can clearly see that the chunks of charcoal are big. About 80% are medium-sized and big chunks, with medium-sized taking about 50% of the bag.
It’s a truly remarkable result, the biggest chunks may have to be manually broken into pieces as they won’t fit in certain grills/smokers.
When it comes to dust and wood chips, there is very little of that, only about 5%.
A small downside and likely the main reason why this lump charcoal takes the second place on my list is the burning time. It requires quite a lot of paper in the chimney and it takes a lot of time to catch fire. It is not something very important that would impact the results of cooking, I would suggest to mostly take it as a piece of trivia.
Fogo Super Premmium Hardwood lump charcoal doesn’t get good results either when it comes to the maximum temperature. Compared to other manufacturers it looks average, next to Jealous Devil it looked pretty poor. But does it really matter that much if it is still hot enough to allow you to do pretty much anything you need.
When it comes to the charcoal burning time and ash creation, the results are very satisfying here. Having so much medium-sized and big chunks of charcoal makes it burn long.
Fogo Super Premium is mostly great due to the quality, burning time, large chunks of charcoal ( small amount of dust ), price and most of all being natural ( 100% Hard Wood without any additives ).
3. Kamado Joe KJ-Char
Made of as many as 3 different types of Argentinian hard wood (Guayaibi , Guayacan, Mistal and White Quebracho hardwoods ), the manufacturing process also takes place in Argentina.
KJ-Char Hardwood Lump Charcoal is first and foremost 100% natural without any additives in form of fillers or chemicals. Upon opening the bag, you won’t find any unidentified objects or junk.
When it comes to the flavor, it feels very good to me, although I realize that to a large extent it’s a matter of personal preference which is why it would be the best for you to see it for yourself.
It burns for pretty long and doesn’t produce much ash, but my main gripe is about the size of pieces. The manufacturers advertise their product by saying that the chunks of charcoal are very big. The reality however is completely different, the size of the biggest pieces doesn’t actually differ much from regular supermarket-brand lump charcoal.
Another downside is a pretty big amount of dust and wood chips as well as their large ratio to the entire bag. Thinking I got a wrong bag, I checked reviews from others and they sound similar.
Overall, it is very good natural hardwood lump charcoal that burns fast, doesn’t produce much ash, reaches high temperatures and has a pretty long burning time. When it comes to the size of chunks of charcoal, however, I am kind of disappointed.
The right quality lump charcoal that is also 100% natural and only made of hard wood is something incredibly important. Good quality charcoal not only burns longer, better and leaves less ash, but also has a much better impact on the food’s flavor.
There’s a lot of different manufacturers, which is why if you grill a lot it’s a good idea to verify which of them offers only high quality lump charcoal. Avoid regular yet popular due to their low price manufacturers that can be often found at a regular grocery store.
How did I pick the best ones?
Using my own knowledge and exchanging experience with other BBQ enthusiasts, I have created an overall list of the most popular manufacturers of lump charcoal. Then I carefully checked out each of them and eliminated the ones who offer lump charcoal with different types of additives ( fillers and other chemicals ) from the list.
Burning charcoal has a significant impact on the food’s flavor so if it contains different unwanted additives then you will certainly feel it later in your food ( not to mention the health aspect ).
I encourage you to take good care of what we all use and what we eat which is why I only promote 100% natural hardwood lump charcoal free from any chemicals.
Having a finished list of such manufacturers, I moved on to buying their products so that in the next stage I can compare them all in practical tests.
How did I test ?
The tests were pretty time-consuming, as they took few weeks. I wanted them all to take place in the same conditions, which is why it took so long. Sadly, I don’t own several ceramic grills so that I would be able to see the results all at the same time.
I cooked nearly everyday and everyday I would use lump charcoal from a different manufacturer. Cooking went the same when it comes to the type of meat and the temperature on the inside. My task was to monitor and describe everything related to the charcoal.
First and foremost, I started by rating the chunks of charcoal and the composition as well as the percentage of different size of pieces to the entire bag. Then I measured the charcoal burning time, the time to reach the right temperature and the maximum temperature.
At the next stage, I moved on to regular meat smoking where I once again used new charcoal in order to start new tests. At this stage I observed the effectiveness, as in the charcoal burning time, its caloric content and how much ash it produced.
I conducted the tests of this type individually for each manufacturer of lump charcoal on my list. Then I compared the results and made short reviews for the best manufacturers of hardwood lump charcoal.
Why choose Lump Charcoal ?
When it comes to charcoal, you can choose between lump charcoal or briquettes. Each of them has their upsides and downsides and, depending on your cooking style and the type of smoker or grill, you will have to choose what’s better for you.
Personally, I use both types of charcoal, but I pay special attention to whether they don’t have any chemical additives and are 100% natural. Without a doubt, lump charcoal’s properties make it great for ceramic kamado type grills, but you can easily use it with other types of grills and smokers.