Apart from your smoker itself, the fire is the base of your barbecue. So, it’s important that you’re able to create a fire that’s got even heat, a stable temperature, and, delicious flavor.
But, with a huge number of different types and brands of charcoals out there, choosing a fuel for smoking can get confusing really fast!
Forget trial and error. This list of the best charcoal for smoking is designed to make your life easy. You can literally choose any of these options and be confident that they will perform just as they should, every time you light up.
What we’ve looked for:
- All natural – They’re also either all-natural or completely additive free so you won’t be left with chemical-tasting barbecue and can rest assured you’re not eating unwanted by-products either.
- Choice of lump or briquettes – We’ve included a range of both lump charcoals and charcoal briquettes which both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you want to read more on the lump charcoal vs briquettes debate, click here. Or, for a full list of the best lump charcoals or best charcoal briquettes, follow those links to their exclusive reviews.
- Suitable for smoking – While the charcoal on this list has been chosen specifically because it’s good for the low and slow temperatures you need for smoking, it’s also suitable for grilling in case you want something that does both.
The Best Charcoal for Smoking
Jealous Devil Maxxx XL Pillow Briquettes - Larger Size
Fogo Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal - Pure Oak
Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood - Eco-Friendly, US Made
Cowboy All Natural Hardwood Briquets - Long, Steady Burn
Royal Oak Chef's Select Hardwood Briquettes - Consistent Performance
Kamado Joe Big Block XL - Reusable
Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
When it comes to high quality, we simply love Jealous Devil! And, this is their best-selling, top-rated All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal.
Made from Paraguayan Quebracho Blanco trees, this wood is denser than oak or hickory, giving it a burn time that’s about 30% longer, ideal for smoking. There’s absolutely no additives for an all-natural burn. But, it’s also capable of reaching higher temperatures than most other charcoals, if/when you want to use it for grilling too.
In terms of flavor, Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal is quite mild. There’s still enough smokiness to leave a smooth, subtle taste. But, it’s not so strong that it’s going to overpower your meat and what you want to do with spices.
Topping off it’s premium quality, Jealous Devil Lump comes in a waterproof and UV resistant, resealable bag so it’s 100% okay to store as is at home.
- Low ash
- Longer burn
- Mild flavor that compliments most meats
Jealous Devil Maxxx XL All Natural Hardwood Charcoal Pillow Briquets
While lump charcoal is probably the more favored charcoal type at the moment, for anyone who appreciates the regularity of charcoal briquettes, Jealous Devil also make an excellent Maxxx XL Charcoal Pillow Briquette.
Made from the same Quebracho Blanco wood as their Lump Charcoal, they burn hot and long. But, are perfectly capable of being turned down for slow and steady smoking.
As you might know, because briquettes are made from processed wood, they need an additive to help bind them. But, Jealous Devil have kept it natural by adding a small amount of vegetable starch which doesn’t impact the flavor, keeps ash to a minimum, and, won’t pop or spark.
Also packaged in a waterproof, resealable, UV-resistant bag, Jealous Devil Maxxx Pillow Briquettes are easy to store and will perform just as well after a few months as they would fresh.
- Larger briquette size = longer burn time
- All natural briquette
- Resealable, waterproof bag
Fogo Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
If you’re like us and enjoy keeping it simple, Fogo’s Super Premium Oak Lump Charcoal lets you do just that.
It’s specifically designed for low and slow smoking. And, from our experience, it’s one of the longest lasting options out there.
Each piece in a bag of FOGO is hand-selected for size and composition as being restaurant quality. It’s easy to light and the mild flavor can literally be paired with absolutely anything you’re smoking.
- Pure oak charcoal gives mild flavor that compliments any meat or vegetable
- One of the longest burning charcoal’s on the market
- Doesn’t spark
Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Looking for an eco-conscious charcoal fuel?
Not a single tree is cut down to make a bag of Rockwood All-Natural Lump Charcoal. Instead, a mix of oak, hickory, maple and pecan is collected from timber milling leftovers to create this slow-burning, low-ash lump charcoal.
The flavor is a bit stronger than you get from the brands mentioned above. It burns well and the pieces are, in our experience, fairly consistent throughout the bag.
Unlike Jealous Devil, the bags aren’t waterproof which, if you’re environmentally conscientious you’ll appreciate. Instead, you’re looking at fully recyclable paper with soy based inks. They’re even okay to burn.
And, as a bonus, Rockwood is US-made from Missouri trees.
- Sustainably produced
- Popular wood blend for smoking
- Burns slowly with steady heat
Cowboy All Natural Hardwood Briquets
Another option for those who like a real wood flavor but want the steadiness of a briquette, the Cowboy All-Natural Hardwood Briquettes perform superbly.
Made from a mix of oak, hickory and mesquite hardwoods with a starch-based vegetable binder to hold them together, they’re big on flavor without any harmful additives.
Cowboy uses a unique pillow shape that actually does light well and burn for a long time without producing much ash. We’ve found them especially good at low and slow temperatures although they’re definitely all-good for grilling too.
- Flavorful mix of hickory and mesquite with oak added for stability
- Unique shape lights easily and burns steadily
- Long burn time
Royal Oak Chef's Select 100% Hardwood Charcoal Briquets
Royal Oak have been around for a LONG time. They’re a household name and their Chef’s Select 100% Hardwood Charcoal Briquets bring natural to the table in a fuel that doesn’t sacrifice performance along with it’s lack of additives.
US-made from American Oak and Hickory with vegetable starch as a binder, the flavor is strong yet not overpowering, and, you don’t get those annoying flareups you definitely don’t want while smoking.
The burn temperature is consistent at both low and high heats, making repeatable results easy to achieve. And, we’re more than happy with the small amount of ash produced.
- Sustainably produced
- All natural, US-produced hardwood with vegetable binder
- Consistent performance for reliable results
Kamado Joe Big Block XL Lump Charcoal
The Kamado Joe XL Lump Charcoal may be at the bottom of our list. But, that does not in any way mean it’s the worst choice on here. No ma’am!
In fact, the KJ Big Block is one of the most raved about lump charcoals out there. And, rightly so.
In a single bag you get a tried and tested blend of South American hardwoods that have been carefully selected to produced a mild flavor with strong heat, minimal smoke and a long burn.
That’s why it’s perfect for using in kamados. But, there’s also absolutely no reason why you can’t use the Kamado Joe Lump Charcoal in any charcoal smoker at all.
But, what’s possibly the best thing about this choice (and helps save you some money), is that you can reuse the lumps for up to 3 burns. Efficient and effective, just how we like it!
- Specifically designed for a long, steady burn with minimal ash production
- Suitable for both low and slow smoking and high heat grilling
- Can be reused up to 3 times