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Best Lump Charcoal: Better Burn, Better Flavor

Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Jealous Devil
FOGO Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Kamado Joe Big Block XL Lump Charcoal
KJ Big Block
Cowboy Lump Charcoal
Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal
B&B Oak Charcoal
Original Natural Charcoal
Original Natural

Charcoal isn’t just a fuel. But, I bet you already know that!

With all the effort you put into finding the best barbecue, quality meat, and, the right rubs, simply using whatever charcoal happens to be on sale might be selling yourself short in the results department.

There’s countless brands on the market, all offering ‘premium’ lump charcoal and a lot of them aren’t cheap! So, instead of relying on trial and error, we’ve done the research for you.

In this round up of the best lump charcoal, we dive into what’s in a bag, how it burns, and, what kind of flavor it’s going to give to help you decide what to buy.

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How We Tested the Best Lump Charcoal

In order to truly find the best lump charcoals out there, we used and tested a large selection of the most popular and widely available brands on the market.

After opening them, we assessed each brand for consistency in piece size and the amount of dust in the bag. Then, they were tested to see how easy they are to light, how steadily they burn, and how much ash they produce.

All of these lump charcoals were trialled in both low and slow and high-heat grilling situations to assess their suitability for both of these tasks.

Notes were made on the quality of the smoke produced and the flavor that they imparted in the food.

Please note that most of the lump charcoals recommended here, we haven’t just used once or twice. These are brands that we have worked with for months or years while reviewing smokers. This has allowed us to see and check the quality of these products over time as well.

Table of Contents

The Best Lump Charcoal for Smoking & Grilling: Our Top Choices

Make sure you’re spending your hard earned cash on the good stuff by choosing one of these tested and approved lump charcoals.

Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal


When it comes to quality, pure lump charcoal, Jealous Devil is the real deal and our absolute favorite out there!

Sourced from Quebracho Blanco trees in Paraguay, this hardwood is hand-cut and hand-fired using a natural carbonization process that leaves you with 100% pure charcoal.

The wood is denser than oak and hickory, giving 30% more burn time with a mild flavor that adds a smooth undertone without overpowering your meat.

And, because of it’s high density, Jealous Devil is also one of the hottest burning fuels on the market. Reaching temperatures of up to 1172°F (633°C), it’s our favorite for grilling. But, it’s low ash profile makes it great for smoking over a long time period too.

In terms of what’s in the bag, we have consistently found the Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal pieces are fairly large with even sizing and minimal dust in the bag.

The bags themselves are high-quality, UV-resistant, waterproof, and dust-proof so they’re well protected through shipping. But, they’re also resealable so it’s perfectly fine to store them in nothing more than what it comes in at home too.


FOGO Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal


They state it’s super premium and I’d have to agree with that.

Fogo’s Lump Charcoal is some of the best out there in terms of the quality of smoke it produces.

There’s no thick plumes of smoke. Once you get it going, you’ll see hardly anything at all but end up with great color and flavor on your meat, showing just how clean burning this stuff really is.

Specifically designed for low and slow smoking in ceramic kamados like the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe and Primo, in our experience, this is one of the longest lasting brands out there as well.

The mild flavor complements literally everything we’ve cooked with it. And, you can get FOGO nice and hot for grilling as well.

The only complaint we do have about this lump charcoal is that we have found quite a bit of dust and smaller pieces at the bottom of the bag. Use it to your advantage to help you light the bigger ones and you’ll be one happy cooker.


Rockwood All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal


There’s two things we really love about the Rockwood Lump Charcoal.

Firstly, it gives your meat the best flavor! In each bag is a mix of oak, hickory, maple, and pecan. So, they’re all great smoking woods and it’s enough to give your food some woody flavor without having to add wood chunks as well.

Secondly, not one single tree is cut down to make this 100% natural fuel.

Instead, Rockwood have simply used leftover wood from timber milling to create a slow-burning, low-ash, boldly flavored charcoal.

To top off Rockwood’s sustainability, their packaging is fully recyclable paper with soy based inks making it as good for the environment as it is for your food.

In comparison with the other best lump charcoal on the market, we did find that the Rockwood arrived with more broken pieces and dust at the bottom of the bag than most others.

We used the smaller pieces to make it easy to start the fire. But, we always have a bit of wastage when using Rockwoods. The flavors so good though that we will continue to use it.


Kamado Joe Big Block XL Lump Charcoal


This raved about Kamado Joe XL lump charcoal is another top natural hardwood fuel choice that we really rate.

Similar to the Jealous Devil, the Kamado Joe Big Block is sourced from South American Quebracho trees mixed in with Guayacan, Guayaibi and Mistal, which together, create a mild flavor with high heat, minimal smoke and long-lasting burn.

While you can totally use the Kamado Joe XL Lump Charcoal on any grill, it’s large piece size is specifically designed for  long, low and slow cooks on kamado-style grills like the Big Green Egg or, of course, the Kamado Joe itself.

It chokes down well to produce a steady low and slow temperature. But, can burn equally as well for high heat grilling too.

Inside the bag, the majority of the pieces really are XL like they say. But, we have found that there is a little inconsistency with sizing and you’ll also find small chunks at the bottom of the bag. We usually use those to make lighting it that much easier though.

But, what we really like about the XL size of the Kamado Joe Big Block is that the large piece sizes are ideal for reusing. If you can fully close the vents of the smoker you’re using, you can preserve what’s left of the charcoal to burn it next time saving you a good chunk of money in the long run.


Cowboy Lump Charcoal


Cowboy Lump Charcoal is one of the best value for money lump charcoals on the market.

It’s not the cheapest, and, it’s not the most premium, restaurant-quality. But, there’s no arguing that this simple blend of the tried and true oak, hickory and maple hardwoods does a great job of high heat searing while still having the longevity it needs to smoke low and slow.

Great for anyone who wants an additive-free, 100% natural charcoal for regular use, it’s easy enough to light and won’t overpower your rubs.

We appreciate it’s low ash production but will warn you, expect a decent amount of dust at the bottom of a bag.


Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal


If you want something even cheaper than Cowboy and don’t mind the fact that they don’t tell you exactly what the wood is, Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal is actually a very good product for it’s price.

Made from some sort of 100% hardwood blend that performs well for both low and slow smoking and high heat grilling, the flavor is one of the more robust options out there.

We found that the Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal wasn’t the best or easiest to light. It sparks a considerable amount and takes a while to really get going. But, once you have got it going, it burns steadily for a longer than average time.

We did find it one of the heavier ash producers out there. Overall though, if you’re after a good product for a lower price, this one’s pretty hard to beat.


B&B Oak Lump Charcoal


If FOGO’s out of stock, B&B is a great alternative that’s still a 100% pure oak hardwood lump charcoal.

The price is on par, the flavor is again, great with everything, and it’s a Texas-family owned business which is always nice to support.

We’ve always had good batches of B&B’s Oak Lump Charcoal. There’s been plenty of large chunks with minimal dust, it’s been easy to light and has produced great heat. And, while there’s plenty of reviewers who agree with us, there’s also been a few who’ve complained about the inconsistent quality.

We still rate it and appreciate it’s nice, clean burn.


Original Natural Charcoal


Fruit woods are great for smoking. And, one of the few brands of lump charcoal that use them is this, the Original Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

Sustainably sourced from pruned or downed trees, this all-natural fuel contains apple, cherry and oak, giving your food a warm and sweet flavor without overpowering it.

It’s easy to light, chef grade, and low ash, producing clean smoke with little sparks.

We were happy with the mix of chunk sizes. But, if you’re not, it does come with a 100% ‘sizzling’ guarantee for a full refund.


What Is Lump Charcoal?

Lump charcoal is a type of charcoal used for grilling and smoking.

It’s made by burning wood in without oxygen, charring the timber to form a blackened, hardened substance that can later be burned to produce heat and smoke.

So, why use charcoal instead of just burning wood?

Charcoal burns hotter and steadier than uncharred wood while producing a cleaner smoke with less dangerous vapors. Read more about the science of using charcoal to grill and smoke in Meathead Goldwyn’s in-depth discussion.

The video below also explains this nicely.

Lump charcoal is a premium smoking fuel because it’s usually quick to light, produces good heat, great flavor, and it’s got absolutely no additives. Essentially, it’s wood made better.

Lump Charcoal vs Briquettes

Lump charcoal and briquettes are similar in that they’re both types of charcoal that can be used for high heat grilling as well as low and slow smoking. But, there’s a few distinct characteristics.

Lump charcoal is pure wood that’s been charred, giving it a natural and smoky flavor. It ignites quickly, burns hot, and has absolutely no additives. Lump charcoal is generally preferred by those who want to keep barbecue as clean as possible and want a more authentic, wood alternative.

Briquettes, on the other hand, are compressed charcoal dust with added binders. They often burn more consistently and last longer than lump charcoal which is why they were originally invented. Briquettes are also a cheaper charcoal form.

While some pitmasters will only ever use one or the other, both lump charocal and briquettes have their own benefits and drawbacks. Learn more in our in-depth lump charcoal vs briquettes analysis.

Common Problems With Lump Charcoal

Although lump charcoal is usually the premium choice of charcoal fuel, it’s of course not without it’s own issues.

These are the most common complaints about lump charcoal:

Small pieces of charcoal will naturally burn through faster than large pieces. So, having lump charcoal pieces that are all different sizes can cause an inconsistent burn time and temperature.

Breakage of lump charcoal pieces during shipping naturally causes fine dust that not only doesn’t burn, it can also restrict the airflow in a grill resulting in difficulty reaching and maintaining the desired temperature. It’s also messy and a waste of good money.

While lump charcoal is usually easier than charcoal briquettes to light, for its quick ignition, some brands and varieties of wood may be more difficult to light, taking time and causing uneven heat distribution.

Lump charcoal tends to burn faster than briquettes do. This can be a disadvantage if you’re smoking at low and slow temperatures and don’t want to top the fuel up mid-cook.

This complaint is more significant in smokers such as a kamado or drum where it’s hard to add more charcoal part way through the cook.

Lump charcoal is usually more expensive than briquettes, which can be a drawback for budget-conscious buyers.

FAQs About the Best Lump Charcoal

There’s a number of great lump charcoals out there. But, our personal favorite that we use for both grilling and smoking is the Jealous Devil All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

We like it’s mild flavor, appreciate it’s longer burn time, and find it’s easier to get hot when grilling and searing.

Lump charcoal is better than regular charcoal (or briquettes) in that it’s a 100% natural product.

But, because it is natural, lump charcoal doesn’t burn as consistently or for as long as charcoal briquettes.

Still, it’s up to you to use which one you prefer. Learn more about the differences between lump and briquettes.

When stored properly to keep it dry, lump charcoal can pretty much last forever. There’s no shelf life or expiration date on lump charcoal.

This is one of it’s advantages over charcoal briquettes which will degrade over time as the binders and fine sawdust will absorb moisture more easily than lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is generally more expensive than charcoal briquettes because the whole pieces of timber are a more expensive raw material than the sawdust that’s used in briquettes.

This is a really great question!

One piece of lump charcoal might look the same as another. But, different lump charcoals can be made from different raw woods.

That wood retains a lot of it’s original properties in terms of burn temperature, smoke output, and flavor. This means that one bag of lump charcoal can be very different from another based on what wood or mix of hardwoods it’s made from alone.

Manufacturing differences can also play a part in causing one brand of lump charcoal to be different to another, for example, they may have different moisture contents and sizes.

Jared Brown BBQ Expert Burning Brisket

Jared Brown, an avid lover of all things meat has a fearless enthusiasm for experimenting with anything that's grilling, smoking or outdoor cooking. With a wealth of experience across a range different barbecue types, Jared's got a real knack for helping others make a decision they're happy with, ensuring they find the perfect fit regardless of conventional notions of the 'right' choice. This unique approach has made Jared a trusted guide in the world of barbecue.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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