5 On Your Side

Which is better: Briquette or lump charcoal?

Posted July 4, 2019 10:36 a.m. EDT

— Charcoal grilled food boasts a unique flavor, but does the type of charcoal you use – lump or briquette – make a difference?

“Briquettes are made primarily of sawdust, and each piece has a consistent shape, so that means they burn more uniformly,” Dan Wroclawski of Consumer Reports said.

“Lump charcoal is charred wood pieces of different sizes and shapes,” Wroclawski continued. “The labels often claim that they burn hotter and longer than briquettes.”

Consumer Reports set out to settle the rivalry with some serious science.

They used two very different grills: a Weber Kettle and a Big Green Egg.

They brought out thermocouples to read temperatures and even created a heat distribution map.

Overall, the lump charcoal burned as much as 50 degrees hotter than the briquettes and maintained heat much longer.

The briquettes got excellent scores for evenness and burned evenly throughout.

So, which should you use?

Consumer Reports says lump charcoal is best for serious searing, and that smoky flavor that comes from real wood. Also, it’s good for cooking "low and slow."

But, Wroclawski said, “Briquettes are easier to stack, light and control. And they are a whole lot cheaper.”

What matters most, of course, is what eventually comes off the grill and on to your plate.

It all starts with a great grill. Consumer Reports recommends Webber's 22-inch kettle grills as well as a Dyna-Glo barrel grill.

Their top-rated ceramic grill is the Kamado Joe Classic II.