If you don’t have much time and just want to find out what the best lump charcoal is, then I recommend the Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal as the best one.
Think all charcoal is the same? Think again.
The kind of charcoal you choose for your cook is crucial. It will have a massive impact on everything from the cooking time and temperature to the taste of your food and even on the environment.
So, take the time to find out what type of charcoal you should be using for your barbecue.
Lump vs Briquettes
Lump charcoal is natural. This means absolutely zero chemical additives. Briquettes are made to be the perfect shape and size. This makes them easier to work with. They are also easier to light, although that’s because they come with added chemicals.
My advice? Go with lump charcoal every time. Once you’ve got used to imperfectly sized charcoal, you’ll much prefer to use charcoal that hasn’t been chemically treated.
What to Look for When Choosing Lump Charcoal
Let’s take a look at what you should be thinking about when buying lump charcoal.
What’s in the Bag?
Are you just getting charcoal? Or are you getting uncarbonated bark, stones, or even concrete?
Big charcoal is great. But lumps can be too big. Also, the more consistent the better – this helps with temperature control. What you don’t want is lots of massive lumps peppered with tiny lumps and ash, which you’re paying for but can’t use as they’ll fall through the grate.
How’s It Made?
The best lump charcoal is made in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, with packaging that’s landfill-safe.
While investing in a charcoal storage bin is a great idea, some brands of lump charcoal come in resealable, waterproof bags, for simple, no-fuss storage.
Good quality charcoal should be well carbonated. This means that the wood has been burned well enough to remove all impurities and all moisture. If not, you’ll get lots of sparks when you light it.
You should be able to tell if it’s well carbonated by how easy it is to break down. If you can’t break large chunks by hand, the charcoal hasn’t been properly carbonized.
Sparking charcoal is generally caused by leftover moisture in the charcoal. When it gets hot, the fire heats the moisture quicker than it can evaporate, causing sparks. These sparks can hit either you, your clothes, or your decking. So, do yourself a favor and look for a low sparking lump charcoal.
Quick to Light
No one wants to spend all afternoon waiting for their barbecue to get going. Good lump charcoal should be quick to light, for minimal fuss.
For quality barbecued burgers, steaks, pork chops, and chicken wings, getting that searing heat is essential. Look for lump charcoal that burns over 1,832°F/1,000ºC.
Lump charcoal can be made from a variety of wood, from oak and hickory to maple and pecan, all of which bring a subtle flavor to your food.
Lump charcoal that burns for a long time – I’m talking over 2 hours in open grills and around 10 hours in smokers – is perfect for low and slow cooking.
Best Lump Charcoal Reviews
Here’s our rundown of the top lump charcoal choices that every pitmaster should know about.
Kamado Joe charcoal is made from a mix of dense Argentinian hardwoods that the locals call “axe-breakers.” This density helps them last the distance – around 1.5 to 2 hours in an open grill and up to 12 hours in a smoker. You get good charcoal that burns clean and very hot – no rubble or dust with this one. And, much like Jealous Devils (our next pick), Kamado Joes bring a nice mild flavor that’s not too overpowering.
Sparking is minimal, so you won’t be ducking and diving as it lights. One issue is with block size – although there’s a nice mix, for some people the blocks will be too big. So, you’ll have to break down the larger blocks, especially if using a chimney starter. No biggie – just a slight inconvenience.
I’m a big fan of the Big Block! All in all, a reasonably priced, solid lump charcoal.
- Dense charcoal that burns long
- Burns clean and hot
- Nice mild flavor
- Minimal sparking
- Blocks can be too big
The first thing you notice about Jealous Devil lump charcoal is the bag. First of all, it’s waterproof – so no worries about moisture seeping in. It’s also UV-resistant (so no sun damage) and dustproof. Best of all, it comes with a zip-lock opening, for resealing after use.
Open the bag and you’ll notice the consistent sizing of the lumps, with very few chips and hardly any ash. As soon as you heat these bad boys you’ll see how easy they are to get going. And with hardly any sparks!
They last a long time – 2 hours in an open grill and 12 hours in a smoker. They also burn hot, with a maximum temperature of around 1,100ºF/593°C. Jealous Devil is made from quality South American hardwoods – similar to oak, but with a milder flavor. Strong enough to bring a smokiness to brisket, but not so strong as to overpower chicken or fish.
It’s one of the best-selling lump charcoals on the market, despite its relatively hefty price tag. Still, considering its all-around quality, that’s no surprise.
- Quick to light
- Burns for a long time
- Great waterproof, resealable bag
- Smooth mild flavor
- Quite pricey
A blend of oak, hickory, and maple hardwoods, Cowboy lump charcoal tastes great. It also keeps a good temperature, especially for a budget charcoal – you’ll be able to grill for around an hour and smoke for up to 10 hours.
There’s a bit more sparking than some of the other top lump charcoal brands on the market. Still, I’m not talking 4th of July fireworks here. There are also quite a few big ol’ lumps in your average Cowboy bag. Those with small chimney starters or compact grills will need to break up the larger lumps. Also, there’s too much ash and dust in the bag.
Minor problems aside, as budget-priced lump charcoal goes, Cowboy is one of the best.
- A nice flavor that works well with chicken, pork, and beef
- Minimal ash production
- Good price
- Lumps can spark quite a bit when lit
- Some lumps are too big and there’s too much ash and dust
- Doesn’t burn as long as premium charcoals
This Mexican-made charcoal is billed as “restaurant quality” and, in terms of taste, it’s certainly at the premium end. Sustainably sourced from the forests of El Salvador, this charcoal is made from quality dense hardwood. The result is a delicious oaky flavor, ideal for everything from burgers and chicken to pork and beef.
The burn quality is decent, although not a patch on other lump charcoal at this price point. And while there are plenty of big chunks of charcoal, Fogo comes with one too many small chips in the bag and too much ash for my money. It also sparks quite a bit when lit.
So, not the best lump charcoal, especially in the mid to premium range. But it brings a great smoky flavor which, to many, will make it worth the price.
- A nice oaky flavor that works with different types of meat
- A good amount of large chunks
- Sustainable production process
- Not great value for money
- Too many chips and too much ash in the bag
- Quite a bit of sparking when lit
Made in Missouri, this Rockwood lump charcoal has a great subtle taste. It comes from a blend of hardwood – oak, hickory, maple, and pecan. Just smoky enough to bring nice flavor, but not overpowering. None of the wood is harvested. Instead, it’s all made exclusively from hardwood leftover from timber milling operations.
Not only is the production environmentally friendly, but so is the bag. It’s fully recyclable and landfill-safe, plus the ink on the bag is soy-based. A very eco-conscious charcoal.
Open the bag and you’ll find good quality chunks. No stones, bricks, chips, or ash. It all looks well carbonated, although when burned it does produce a few sparks. Not as much as the Fogo charcoal, but still enough to be a minus point.
Price-wise, it comes in at more expensive than the average. A little too expensive, for what you get. Especially considering the competition at this price point – namely Kamado Joe and Jealous Devil.
- Made with a blend of hardwoods for an interesting taste
- Sustainable production
- Sustainable packaging
- Quality charcoal in consistent sized lumps
- Produces a few sparks when lit
- Quite expensive
The Best Lump Charcoal
There’s definitely some quality charcoal on this list! Kamado Joe is a great choice and would satisfy even the most demanding pitmaster. But Jealous Devil is next-level lump charcoal and the clear winner!
It’s got everything you could want in lump charcoal. Consistent size, hardly any ash in the bag, it lights easily and doesn’t spark, it burns hot and keeps its heat. And the zip-lock, waterproof bag is the cherry on top!