Lump charcoal versus briquettes: which can better handle the heat?
It’s summertime and with that comes the simple joys of summer – and for those of us who love to entertain outdoors, that means firing up our backyard BBQ.
Everyone has a personal grilling preference, but when it comes to using lump charcoal versus briquettes, which is the better choice?
Consumer Reports set out to settle the debate.
“Briquettes are made primarily of sawdust, and each piece has a consistent shape - so that means they burn more uniformly,” said Dan Wroclawski of Consumer Reports. “Lump charcoal is charred wood pieces of different sizes and shapes. The labels often claim that they burn hotter and longer than briquettes.”
Consumer Reports testers burned three pounds of briquettes and lump coal in two different grills, an 18-inch Weber kettle and the Big Green Egg. Thermocouples were then placed on the grates to exactly collect the temperature measurement for each grill. The information was then collected and uploaded into a computer where it created a heat distribution map.
Overall, the lump charcoal burned 40 to 50 degrees hotter than the briquettes. When tested for evenness, the lump charcoal in the Weber kettle was only rated fair, while the Big Green Egg got a very good rating.
When tested for duration the lump charcoal in the Big Green Egg maintained a low temperature of 250 degrees for 11 hours. The briquettes maintained that same low temperature for only four hours.
Meantime, the briquettes received an excellent score in the evenness category in both grills, and they burned evenly throughout.
The testers learned that lump charcoal is best if you want a sear on your steak and the smoky flavour which comes from burning real wood. It’s also recommended for cooking food “low and slow.”
Wroclaswski added, “But briquettes are easier to stack, light, and control. And they’re a whole lot cheaper!”