Best Charcoal for Smoking

When it comes to barbeque, some people take their roasting very seriously. However, despite buying a top-of-the-range grill, you might still not be getting that wonderful and unique smokey flavor that you might be looking for. This is because it’s all in the chips.

Having the right charcoal for your meat is very important and often overlooked by a lot of meat smokers. The shape and material of your wood will be very important when it comes to getting the right amount of heat and energy out of your charcoal pieces.

You’ll probably be wondering how to get different results for smoking different types of meat. Pork, beef and chicken are all going to need various types of infusion.

Certain wood types compliment pork in a vastly different way than it does with beef. You’ll need the right chips to give you the right kind of taste.

You’ll need to make sure that the composition of your charcoal is just right so that they burn for long periods. Remember that smoking charcoal is all about the long game, so you’ll have to make sure that they smoke well.

If you have charcoal that burns too quickly, then you might be looking forward to a ruined barbeque.

So where exactly can you find the best charcoal? What properties and materials does it need to have to give your style of meat that distinctive flavor? How much should you be looking to pay for a decent bag of charcoal?

Well, if you do want that sumptuous and distinctive flavor for your next barbeque, then you won’t have to worry as we’ve got a list of some of the best charcoals currently available on the market.

We also have a list of the pros and cons for each bag of charcoal as well as a buyer’s guide, so you can make the most informed decision when it comes to getting the right level of smoking for your meat.

Best Charcoal for Smoking

1. Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes

This first bag of charcoal is one of the easiest to use, which is why we’ve listed it as number one on our list. It comes with a single bag that you can light with a match, with a North American wood composition.

It will give you that traditional smokey wood flavor that is often associated with conventional smokers – introducing the Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes.

This bag comes in a very carryable travel bag, which is great if you like taking your smoker out in the RV for a boondocking vacation. This is a very mess- and stress-free bag to use. You don’t even have to take the coals out, just light it and start burning.

If you are looking for that traditional smokey flavor, then we would certainly recommend that you pick up one of these bags.

It comes with a rich and smokey texture that you can use for various types of meat including beef, turkey and chicken. If you are roasting meat without any exotic flavors, then we would certainly recommend this one.

Pros:

  • This bag will burn for a long time, so you won’t have to worry about turning away from your guests to tend this barbeque. This is great for those barbeque lovers who want to spend more time enjoying the ambiance.
  • This charcoal gives you that very rich and smokey feel, which is great for anyone who wants that no-nonsense and no-frills approach to their meat.
  • This is very simple to work with, all you have to do is place the bag in the smoker, light it with a match or a lighter and wait for combustion to work its magic.
  • The weight – often a lot of people will want to take their smoker out on holidays. This is a great unit that you can be sure will give you plenty in terms of longevity and durability.

Cons:

  • The price – considering the small amount that you get, this doesn’t give you great value for money. If you are looking for a lot more per kilogram, we would recommend that you buy yourself another brand.

2. Duraflame Cowboy 26014 Cowboy Brand

This next bag is perfect if you are looking for all-natural ingredients, with 95% hardwood and 5% vegetable fibers, with no added coal or fillers, which will give you a nice, clean and healthy smoke that won’t pollute your meat too much.

This wood burns very efficiently, which means that you won’t have too many issues when it comes to taste – introducing the Duraflame Cowboy 26014 Cowboy Brand.

This brand of charcoal will give you everything that you need for outdoor cooking appliances such as kettle-style barrel grills, with hardwood lumps that come in a very unique style packaging.

Coming in combustible packaging, this is great for anyone who wants to save on waste at the end of their barbequing session.

This will ignite very quickly if you combine these charcoal chips with a bit of lighter fluid. It comes with a great charcoaly flavor, which will perfectly complement your beef or pork.

This comes with a large bag, so you can be sure that you’ll get plenty of uses out of it. If you are a regular barbecuer, this will be music to your ears.

Pros:

  • You can light up this charcoal with or without fuel. If you do decide to use fuel, then you can be certain that you’ll have everything that you need for a very reliable smoking session
  • These charcoal chunks retain their combustible properties for a long time. So if you are planning on using your charcoal once or twice during the summer and want to keep them in the garage for the rest of the year, then you can.
  • This is a great set of charcoal burners that you can use for the environment – this will reduce the amount of waste that you’ll produce, which means that there’ll be far less cleaning up for you when you’re done.
  • This will infuse your meat with a wonderful smoky flavor, which is great if you want that traditional barbeque flavor.

Cons:

  • This brand of charcoal is very difficult to find in your local store. This means that you will have to prepare ahead and might result in your having to postpone your barbeque after a few days.

3. Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes

This next barbeque set is another that is made out of 100% organic ingredients. Fans of the traditional all-American barbeque will definitely gravitate towards this kind of charcoal.

You can get various sizes of charcoal bags, which is amazing for different types of smoker sizes – introducing the Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes.

You can not only use this charcoal in your smoker, but you can also use it to remove any horrible odors from your home. This will give you an even distribution of heating, which is wonderful if you want to make sure that no part of your pig is left uncooked.

These pieces of charcoal have grooves in them, so the oxygen can circulate a lot easier, resulting in a lot quicker burning time. This comes in a very neat package that will actually reduce a lot of waste after you have burned through it.

One of the biggest complaints that comes from a lot of smokers is the fact that there is so much rubbish to clean up afterward.

Pros:

  • This charcoal can actually be used to remove any foul odors from your home. All you have to do is light them and the clean smoke will cause any other horrible smells to evaporate.
  • This will evenly cook all the meat that you have in your smoker, which is great for anyone looking to get that meat cooked right the way through.
  • This will burn a lot longer than a lot of other brands of charcoal that you might find from your local convenience store.
  • The grooves in the coal increase the circulation, which makes for longer burning times and therefore more time to cook a lot of meat at any one time. This will be perfect for anyone who cooks for large amounts of people regularly.

Cons:

  • This charcoal contains some powder, which might end up giving your meat that rather sour aftertaste.

4. Jealous Devil Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

This next bag of charcoal comes with much larger chunks, which means much longer burning times and much more thorough cooking.

These coals can get over three times hotter than your average charcoal, which is great if you are looking to sear right through thick chunks of meat – introducing the Jealous Devil Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

‘Lump’ really is the defining word in this brand of charcoal. These denser coals can reach a much larger Fahrenheit, over one thousand! This is great if you are looking to cook harder chunks of meat such as brisket and ham, which are often much more troublesome to cook right the way through to the center.

This charcoal is made from 100% hardwood, which means that you will get everything that you need for that strong and consistent burn.

You won’t get any popping or air bubbles that might lead to burning and scares, which you definitely won’t want around small children. For safety, we would definitely recommend these charcoal chips.

Pros:

  • If you are looking for that traditional smokey flavor, then we would certainly recommend that you pick up these charcoal chips. They will infuse most meats with that delicious flavor.
  • This won’t overpower the delicious taste of your meat, just giving it that smokey texture that all the best barbecuers crave.
  • You can get this in a range of sizes, which is perfect if you are cooking for a family or large group of people.
  • Because it is a lot larger than your average charcoal chunk, then it will burn at a higher intensity for longer. This is great for cooking larger hunks of meat.

Cons:

  • This can be quite messy, with a bit of powder and larger chunks that tend to break off. This should only be used by die-hard barbeque enthusiasts who crave that delicious smoky flavor.

5. Kamado Joe KJ-Char Big Block XL Lump Charcoal

This final box of coal brags that it is the largest block of premium charcoal, giving you everything that you need for a decent burn and thorough cooking of your meat. This is made from Argentinian hardwood that will burn for longer at a higher intensity – introducing the Kamado Joe KJ-Char Big block XL Lump Charcoal.

This charcoal set comes in much bigger lumps that can be used more than once, so if you are an avid barbecuer, then you can save yourself on cleaning and the price of having to buy some more charcoal. This charcoal set lights very quickly and will not cause you too much hassle trying to get it started.

This charcoal burns at a lot higher intensity than a lot of other charcoals, reaching, at most, a temperature of around 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one of the world’s best hardwood firelighters, you can use it very quickly and easily, making it ideal for those first-time barbecuers.

Pros:

  • This is one of the fastest lighting charcoals for smokers, so if you are expecting a light shower and want to get your smoker fired up quickly, then this will be the best one to go for.
  • This will cause too much sparking or popping, which can often be an issue for people young and old who might be worried about burning themselves.
  • This can be great for minimizing the number of accidents that often occur at the smoker. This is probably the safest charcoal on this list, it won’t cause any air bubbles.
  • This burns at a very high intensity, so if you have a large brisket that you want to cook, then we would recommend getting a few of these and throwing them down evenly on the bed of your smoker.

Cons:

  • This is very expensive, so if you are looking to only fire up your smoker once or twice over the summer, you might want to pick up something cheaper.

Buyer’s Guide

There will be a few basic things that you’ll want to be looking for with your smoker, including density and size, both of which will be determining factors in how long and how fast your coals are going to burn.

How Dense Are The Coals?

The more concentrated your charcoal is, the more biomass they have and the longer it’ll be able to burn. Having larger coals will also give you everything that you need for longer burning and, hopefully, better-cooked meat.

What Type Of Wood Are They Made From?

A lot of charcoal enthusiasts have claimed that Mangrove and Mallee are some of the best woods that you can use for your charcoal. Remember that the wood you burn will affect the final flavor of your meat, so make sure that you choose a wood that compliments the meat that you’re burning.

How Much Moisture Content Does The Charcoal Have?

As contrary as it might seem, you should always make sure that your charcoal has plenty of moisture in it, as this will give you the basic starting blocks for starting your fire in the first place. You’ll need around 10-18% moisture in your charcoal to make sure that the fire starts quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should Your Charcoal Be Resistant To Water?

It is important that despite your charcoal having zero water properties, it should not have any water-soluble properties, as this will make it very difficult to light. You’ll need around 50% of your charcoal to be water-resistant if you want to give it any chance of lighting.

Should Your Charcoal Contain Any Other Elements?

We would recommend that your charcoal contain a little bit of sawdust, as this will help you to ignite the fumes in the first place. However, some charcoals won’t require any additional materials, making them much easier to light, even without any fuel.

Our Final Say

We hope that our list has helped you to identify which charcoals will be the most beneficial for your smoking abilities. You’ll need something that can burn at a much higher rate, which means that you will be able to cook lots of meat for longer. 

If you are looking to cook a large number of different kinds of meat, we would certainly recommend that you get thicker coal that can burn for longer.

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