Which Is Better, Lump Charcoal Or Briquettes? [HERE IS THE ANSWER]

When it comes to charcoal grilling, the biggest debate is always about lump charcoal vs briquettes, which one of them is the best. The two are the primary determinants of how fast and delicious your smoked food will be. So, how do you know which one to work with?

Most people prefer lump charcoal because of its many attractive qualities compared to briquettes. When it comes to lighting, lump charcoal lights rapidly and do not produce large amounts of ash, unlike its opponent. Also, lump charcoal responds perfectly to oxygen. Briquettes are preferred and better when smoking foods that need low and slow heat.

There is still to learn on this lump charcoal vs. briquettes debate. This article gives you the essential information to guide you in making the right decision. Most likely, before you get to the bottom, you will be thinking how to start a charcoal grill without lighter fluid.

Lump charcoal vs. briquettes for smoking

When smoking, you need charcoal that can burn for long while producing high solid heat. Therefore, you need to be more intelligent when choosing what to use for smoking. However, most people prefer charcoal because it gives the food the desired smoky flavour. Lump charcoal and briquette are produced differently, and thus you need to know which one you can use best for smoking.

Here are the differences between lump charcoal and briquettes that will lead you to the best smoking option:

Lump charcoal

Lump charcoal is the ideal option if you want to go extra; these are pieces of wood that have been procedurally burnt to produce charcoal. Most of these lump charcoal comes from hardwoods, and it is almost no difference when you choose hardwood to smoke. Lump charcoal is the best option for smoking because it produces a more authentic smoky flavour. Moreover, lump charcoal burns for long, and thus you will use less of them to smoke your food. Finding lump charcoal today is easy, and it is sold almost everywhere there are smokers or outdoor cooking equipment dealers.

Although you should know that the amount of heat produced by the lump charcoal and heating time will always vary from brand to brand, thus, you need to test and know how each one works with your smoker. Also, the size of each chunk varies. Usually, lump charcoal burns cleaner than briquettes producing a small amount of ash. Lastly, lump charcoal burns hotter, but you can easily control the temperature through the adjustable air vents on your grill or smoker.


Briquettes can be tricky; however, they can as well make the best choice for your smoker if only you get the cleanest ones possible. Most of these are produced by pressing sawdust into briquettes with an added natural sugar-binding component that enables them to burn clean. The cheaper brands in the market usually add anthracite while others add coal to bring about a better and hotter burning. It would help if you understood that coal is not a good option to cook with; however, it barely affects the flavour. Also, it can be used in very small amounts.

Briquettes burn while maintaining a steady temperature, and they tend to burn for longer than how lump charcoal burns. Nonetheless, they take ages to light.

Hardwood lump charcoal vs. briquettes

A significant percentage of people like using natural hardwood charcoal more than briquettes when they are smoking or grilling their food. Mark you, briquettes are cheaper and easy to find. You are surely curious to know why; here are the main differences between hardwood lump charcoal and briquettes.

Hardwood lump charcoal

  • Produced from natural hardwood such as oak, hickory, and maple, among others
  • Immediately the hardwood has been burnt and reduced to charcoal; it remains in its actual rough state and shape. These are among the few ways to determine whether the charcoal quality is best. If the lump charcoal has the charcoal of the hardwood you have in mind, then it is quality and authentic.
  • Lights faster and quickly.
  • Burns hotter up to 1,000 degrees F; thus, you can use less, enabling you to spread the fire quickly, unlike with briquettes.
  • Produces fewer ashes
  • Transmits the pure woody flavour into foods
  • The wood charcoal that might have not completely burnt after grilling can be put off and used in the next grilling.


  • Produced from sawdust derived from scrap wood, it can contain composite woods and resinous softwoods.
  • Added chemical binders, fillers, and coal dust, then manually compressed them to form their pillow-like shapes
  • Lights slowly and might need lighter fluids for a fast lighting
  • Burns cooler at about 700 to 800 degrees F
  • Burns quickly, meaning that you will need to keep on adding more while grilling so that they don’t go off
  • The smoke it produces can be a little harsh, thus affecting the taste and flavour of your smoked foods
  • It is a pollutant that releases harsh smoke into the air and the environment.

Note: charcoal should be as clean and natural as possible; therefore, whether going cheap or expensive, ensure you buy charcoal with no additives. Stay away from self-starting charcoal brands with lighter fluids and the ones with promises such as authentic mesquite flavours.

How much hotter is lump charcoal vs. briquettes

Lump charcoal is confirmed to burn hotter than the briquettes, where they burn at up to 1400 degrees F. the briquettes, on the other hand, burn at 800 to 1000 degrees. However, the latter usually burns longer; it produces less heat. Starting them is easier because they are added lighter fluids that can affect the flavour of your smoked food. Here are the things to help you determine the hotness of each:

Lump charcoal vs. briquettes: time and speed

The burning time and speed are essential in the choice you make between the two. Briquettes are made so that they can burn for longer hours, thus the best for snake and other related smoking methods. It is fair to say they are best for low and slow cooking.

On the other hand, lump charcoal is designed to burn for a few hours, but it produces too much heat for a short period. This is the best option for searing and direct grilling. However, that does not mean they can’t be used for indirect grilling; you will only need to add more lumps over time to achieve what you want.

The type of grill 

You will realise that briquettes are more famous than lump charcoal because they are readily available, cheap, and convenient. However, they produce a lot of ash; if you use smokers with little space for collecting ash, you should avoid them. Any smoker can use lump charcoal because they produce minimal ashes. Either of these can work in most types of smokers or grills. You should have some knowledge of the grill and charcoal first before you go ahead and buy any of them.

How should you store your lump charcoal or briquettes?

Any type of charcoal you choose to use can be easily contaminated if not stored well. Charcoal is a good absorber and can absorb even the lightest kind of smell in the air. Therefore, you should place them in an empty dry can and keep the lid closed to offer total protection. Also, ensure that it is dry before storing to prevent dampening, affecting how it burns and can grow moulds.

Final thoughts

The type of charcoal you choose for grilling greatly impacts the final smoked food you will get. Aim to end up with the best smoky flavoured food. Lump charcoal is the best option to give you everything you desire in your food. They burn hotter and longer and give your food a natural smoke flavour. Also, it is safe because it does not contain chemical additives, most of which are derived from naturally growing woods.