6 Best Lump Charcoal for Grilling and Smoking in 2022

Top Choice

Jealous Devil

Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Best Value

Rockwood

All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Premium Pick

Kamado Joe

Big Block XL Lump Charcoal

You might be the kind of person that thinks charcoal is charcoal and you’re perfectly content with buying a bag from the dollar store up the street any time you want to grill, but we have news for you…

All charcoal is not created equal! The type of charcoal and the kind of wood it’s made from is what helps dictate the quality of your food. The charcoal used impacts not only the flavor of your food, but also the cooking time as well.

In this article, we’re going to let you know the seven best types of lump charcoal for grilling and smoking in 2022 and what to look for when in good quality lump charcoal. Before we get into that, let’s briefly go over what lump charcoal is, though.

When pure wood gets burned in an oxygen deficient environment for long enough, they’ll become little more than chunks of carbon. This is how lump charcoal is created. 

If you’re simply looking for a quick product recommendation, the seven below are great. However, you can read on to learn about each product and their individual pros and cons.

The Best Lump Charcoal for Grilling and Smoking:

Key Features ANd Specifications

  • 33.6 lb Bag
  • Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 18 inches
  • No chemicals, no fillers

We’ve named Jealous Devil Hardwood Lump Charcoal as our best overall for a couple of reasons. First, they’ve redesigned their bag which now means you’ll get larger chunks with less dust and residue. This will make a big difference when flame hits the charcoal.

The second reason is because this charcoal is made from South American hardwood. This hardwood is quite similar to oak but doesn’t have the unpleasant bitter tastes that sometimes comes along with oak. Ultimately, this charcoal has a mild flavor that’s smooth and doesn’t overpower your food, even with a low and slow cooking process.

Finally, this charcoal is made the traditional way, which is the best way. The kiln masters handpick, hand cut and carbonize pure hardwood onsite in custom-built kilns. The emphasis on hand crafted methods allows them to ensure superior quality charcoal in every bag.

The only potential downside with this charcoal is the fact that it’s pricey. However, the quality justifies the price so we really hesitate to point this out as a true downside. 

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Pros

  • Mild and smooth flavor
  • Excellent packaging that maintains product quality
  • Lights quickly
  • Heats consistently and is slow burning

Cons

  • Could be considered pricey, but the quality makes it justifiable

Key Features ANd Specifications

  • 17.6 lb Bag
  • Kiln Fired
  • 100% All Natural

The next bag of charcoal on our list is smaller, but also less expensive, so we’ve named it as our “Best Budget Pick.” We’re talking about BetterWood Products 100% All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal. 

This charcoal offers a bold, open-fire flavor that can enhance the natural flavor of beef, chicken, fish or pork. It’s easy to light and starts in half the time of briquettes. Plus, it burns slowly and hot to seal in moisture and sear in flavors. It reaches the optimal cooking temperature in around 15 minutes.

These are small to medium pieces that are kiln fired and packaged in its natural lump shape with no additives or chemicals. On the other hand, we did come across two downsides with this particular product. 

The first isn’t that big of a deal, just something to note. This charcoal tends to spark a bit when it’s first lit, but by the time it reaches the optimal temperature this settles down. 

The second downside is that because these chunks are already small to medium, there ends up being a fair bit of unusable extra small pieces and dust at the bottom of the bag. Meaning, this 17 lb bag is more like a 16 lb bag because of that.

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Pros

  • Bold flavor
  • Lights quickly
  • Heats consistently and is slow burning
  • Decently priced

Cons

  • Charcoal sparks when first lit
  • Good amount of dust in the bottom of the bag

Key Features ANd Specifications

  • 20 lb Bag
  • Dimensions: 7 x 15 x 28 inches
  • 100% All Natural
  • Blend of Oak, Hickory, Maple and Pecan 
  • Made in USA

For the lump charcoal that offers the best value, we highly recommend this Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal that’s a blend of Missouri oak, hickory, maple and pecan. It’s free from chemicals, fillers, binders and other impurities. 

Other than the fact that this lump charcoal is all natural, we love it because the flavor blend can work for meat, fish and poultry. Plus, the slow burning, ash minimizing coal lights easily, heats quickly and burns boldly for juicier, more flavorful food. It’s great for any type of grill or smoker.

Moreover, this charcoal is made from renewable, natural resources. Not a single tree is harvested, it’s made exclusively from hardwood left over from timber milling. Furthermore, the paper bag, which uses soy-based ink, is recyclable, landfill-safe and will not produce any harmful fumes if burned.

One con we’ve noticed with this product is that it sparks and pops a bit at first, until the coals have fully heated.

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Pros

  • Great flavor
  • Lights quickly
  • Heats consistently and is slow burning
  • Decently priced
  • All natural – contains no chemicals, fillers, binders or other impurities.
  • Made from renewable resources

Cons

  • Sparks and pops a bit when first lit

Key Features ANd Specifications

  • 20.4 lb Bag
  • Dimensions: 14.25 x 5.75 x 30 inches
  • 100% Natural
  • No additives

If you’re a beginner, this 20 lb bag of Cowboy Lump Charcoal is a good place to start. It’s a blend of oak, hickory and maple hardwoods and is all natural. There’s no off tastes or flavors from additives that are used in briquettes. Plus, it’s made from renewable resources so it’s environmentally sustainable.

This charcoal lights without using lighter fluid and it burns hot and fast to sear in the flavor and retain the food’s moisture, while imparting that classic charcoal flavor. It will burn cleaner, light easier and cook better than briquettes so you can use less charcoal and cook quicker. Moreover, the price of this product is quite average, so you don’t have to break the bank to get a decent bag of charcoal.

The one downside is that there’s sometimes quite a bit of extra small chunks that burn up quickly or fall through the grates which isn’t ideal. However, all in all, this is the epitome of what we’d consider traditional lump charcoal, so it’s a good starting point to see if you’re a lump charcoal kind of person.

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Pros

  • Great flavor
  • Lights quickly
  • Average priced
  • All natural 
  • Made from renewable resources

Cons

  • Bag sometimes contains quite of bit of extra small chunks

Key Features ANd Specifications

  • 20 lb Bag
  • Dimensions: 14 x 4 x 30 inches
  • 100% Natural

The Kamado Joe Big Block XL Lump Charcoal is the best bag you can get with multiple sized chunks. Plus, the great part about this charcoal is the price point for the 20 lb bag. 

Kamado Joe is 100% natural lump charcoal made from real trees so it burns clean and gives you a robust wood-fire flavor. The blend of hardwood is Guayacan, Guayaibi, Mistal and White Quebracho. Some lesser brands are made from scrap furniture or processed wood, this means less wood-fire flavor. Moreover, this charcoal burns hotter for juicier meats.

Kamado Joe lump charcoal burns longer thanks to the hardwood used to make it. Also, you’ll get the right mix of fast-starting small pieces and long-burning larger pieces that will allow you to cook low and slow for extended periods of time.

Furthermore, this charcoal costs less per use because the hardwood charcoal burns hotter and the larger pieces burn longer. If you close the vents on your grill when you’re done, you’ll be able to re-use partially burned charcoal pieces.

One con we found was that, occasionally, if the bag takes a beating during shipping, you’ll end up with a fair bit of dust and extra small pieces. However, this seems to be a transport problem because we’ve seen bags that almost have branch sized pieces in them!

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Pros

  • Great flavor
  • Multiple sizes of charcoal for low and slow cooking
  • Fast starting
  • Decently priced
  • Larger pieces will be reusable 
  • All natural

Cons

  • Transportation issues can cause more extra small pieces than is intended

Key Features ANd Specifications

  • 17.26 lb Bag
  • Dimensions: 20 x 9 x 14 inches
  • 100% All Natural

The next product makes our list for best flavor because they believe charcoal isn’t just a fuel, but an ingredient. Fogo Premium All Natural Hardwood Charcoal is restaurant quality and is made from dense Central American Hardwoods. Only hand selected pieces make it into every bag to ensure that you get the very best charcoal you can find.

Fogo charcoal lights quickly and is ready to grill within 15 minutes. It burns very hot, searing the meat and locking in flavors and it lasts longer than other charcoal that’s available.

Fogo is an all natural, high quality product that imparts your food with the very best flavor and taste. Fogo is also used by a number of exclusive restaurants around the country to prepare their food. It’s produced sustainably in cooperation with government organizations using mainly tree trimmings and trees that have been marked for removal as well as ensuring continued reforestation.

For reference, about 70% of the pieces are considered medium sized (around 2-3 inches) and the other 30% are small pieces (around 1 ⅓-2 inches).

The one downside to this lump charcoal is that it’s quite expensive. However, if you’re really looking to treat yourself and dinner guests, the price is absolutely worth the quality of the product.

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Pros

  • Great mild smoky flavor
  • Restaurant quality
  • Lights quickly and burns hot
  • All natural – hardwoods are the only ingredient
  • Produced sustainably

Cons

  • Quite expensive (though the quality is well worth the price)

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING LUMP CHARCOAL

Like with wood pellets and wood chips, lump charcoal isn’t just a fuel source. It’s an ingredient in your meal, so quality is of the utmost importance when shopping for lump charcoal. Because of that, we’ve put together this buying guide so you know what to look for when shopping for lump charcoal if you choose products outside of this list.

Lump Charcoal vs. Charcoal Briquettes

Throughout this post, we’ve made brief comparisons between lump charcoal and briquettes, so we thought we’d clarify the difference once and for all.

Lump charcoal is created when pure wood gets burned in an oxygen deficient environment for so long that they become little more than chunks of carbon.

Briquettes are made of sawdust and waste wood clumped together into little squares. However, to facilitate the clumping together, they contain additives that can sometimes be tasted when cooking lighter foods like fish and chicken.

This means, you should opt for lump charcoal over briquettes the majority of the time because they’re a more natural product. 

Quality and Materials

As with wood pellets and wood chips, the wood that lump charcoal is made from must be hardwood. This is non-negotiable. A lot of soft woods contain sap and will burn too fast, not to mention, some are even toxic. 

Furthermore, because quality is highly important, you’ll want lump charcoal that contains no other ingredients than wood. If the charcoal you’re looking into contains binders, additives, or fillers, it’s best to avoid it. 

Finally, it’s a huge bonus if the lump charcoal is sustainably sourced. Technically, this doesn’t necessarily change the quality of the wood. However, we’re all sharing the same planet, so it’s best if we can avoid unnecessary abuse.

Flavor and Type of Wood

Quality will help dictate the flavor. No additives or fillers will mean a “real” smoky flavor and not a chemical-y taste. However, the type of wood will dictate the flavor as well. 

Most of the bags of lump charcoal on this list are mixtures of hardwood. It’s quite difficult to find a single wood species of lump charcoal, that’s usually reserved for briquettes. However, hardwood species have distinct flavor profiles, so you’ll be able to use that information to decide what kind of lump charcoal you’re looking for.

Before we proceed, please remember, these are not hard and fast rules that you have to follow, they’re mere suggestions. Taste is very individual. 

Anyway, lighter woods tend to lend a sweeter flavor to the meat you’re cooking. An example would be maple wood. People tend to prefer using lighter woods to cook white meats. 

On the other hand, darker woods tend to impart a deeper stronger flavor on foods. Oak and hickory would be examples of darker woods. These woods would be ideal for cooking red meat.

Size and Temperature

For size, you’ll either want mostly large, uniform pieces. This is ideal for longer, hotter cooking. However, if you’re someone who has an interest in low and slow, a bag with a variety of sized pieces would suit you. The smaller ones will light fast, while the larger pieces will burn for a long time. One thing to look out for is excessive dust at the bottom of the bag. This is totally useless for grilling.

Also, take into account that different woods burn at different temperatures. Meaning, you’ll be using your charcoal and venting your fire differently if you’re constantly switching out bags of charcoal that have different makeups. This is an important thing to consider. For example, something like applewood burns at 1190 degrees, but maple burns at 1200 degrees. 

Final Thoughts

It’s challenging to try to tell someone what specifically the “best” lump charcoal is because it’s as much an ingredient as it is a fuel source and everyone’s taste is different. However, if you follow some simple guidelines, you’ll be able to find the best lump charcoal for you!

It comes down to a few simple things:

  • Hardwood should be the only thing in your bag of charcoal. If it contains fillers and additives, it’s not great quality and you could end up with food that tastes like chemicals.
  • The size of the pieces depends on how you want to cook. For low and slow, a variety of sizes helps. Small pieces will be your starter fuel and the larger pieces will give you a long burn time. 
  • Taste is subjective. However, darker wood like hickory is great for red meat, but lighter wood like maple would be great for white meat.
  • It’s always best to shop for sustainably sourced products!

If you keep these things in mind, you’ll have no problem finding an excellent bag of lump charcoal that you can break out for your first barbeque of 2022!!!

WHY TRUST GRILL COOK BAKE?

Grill Cook Bake was created by amateur chefs and food lovers to help people cook better. Whether you’re new to cooking or a seasoned chef, having the right tools, equipment, and gear can be the difference between a good meal or a bad meal.

Our goal at Grill Cook Bake is to provide you with comprehensive and unbiased reviews and information so that you can make informed buying decisions. Our team has decades of combined experience in the cooking field. This knowledge includes a deep understanding of both brands and individual products.  

This article was updated by Jacki Chaplain, a freelance writer and product reviewer for Grill Cook Bake. Jacki Chaplain is a seasoned food writer and blogger. She received masterful culinary training under an esteemed Johnson and Wales graduate. Today, she’s combined her divine love of all things food and artful way with words into a full-time career as a freelance writer for various foodie websites.