Tips for Using Lump Charcoal in Grills and Smokers

Charcoal More and more people are becoming concerned with the effects that chemicals have on their food. As such, a number of people are now switching to lump charcoal in their grills and smokers. Lump charcoal is a natural...

Charcoal
Charcoal

More and more people are becoming concerned with the effects that chemicals have on their food. As such, a number of people are now switching to lump charcoal in their grills and smokers. Lump charcoal is a natural product made from real wood that does not contain any chemicals or additives. It does burn differently than traditional charcoal, so you should keep these things in mind when using it.

Burns Hotter and Faster

Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than other types of charcoal, which means smoking may take less time. That doesn’t mean you are destined to burn food, as the temperature of lump charcoal is also much easier to control. It may however require you to add more charcoal while you are cooking to help maintain an even temperature.

Since lump charcoal tends to burn faster than traditional charcoal, it’s a good idea to have a batch of coals on reserve when grilling for large crowds. That way, you can transfer them in as needed to keep your grill at a near constant temperature.

Cooking Techniques when Smoking

Smoking with lump charcoal is best done by placing a pile of briquettes in the center of the smoker. A charcoal chimney is sometimes used as well. Light only the top layer of charcoal, allowing it to burn downward to provide you with a low, steady amount of heat that is ideal for smoking meats with.

Most people find that using lump charcoal for smoking requires very little effort, since it is often possible to simply leave the smoker alone once the fire has started. Even so, you should check your smoker on a regular basis and add more lump charcoal if it appears the fire isn't quite as hot as you would like it.

Cooking Techniques when Grilling

To avoid burning food on a grill, many cooks first allow the coals to become hot, and then push them to one side of the grill. They will then place their meat on that side of the grill to begin cooking. When it is almost finished, they will transfer it to the other side and close the lid.

Adjusting the vents on the bottom of your grill might also be necessary to keep it at a nearly constant temperature. To reduce the temperature, close them nearly all the way. To raise it, open them halfway or more. You’ll likely find it much easier to control the heat when cooking with lump charcoal, since it is very responsible to changes in airflow.

Pork Grilling Over Charcoal
Pork Grilling Over Charcoal

Separating Charcoal

A unique feature of lump charcoal is the fact that it contains briquettes in varying sizes. Some will be small (around the size of traditional briquettes), while others will be much larger (fist sized or bigger). The problem with this is that since larger pieces become hotter, you may wind up with food that is cooked unevenly if you use big and small pieces together.

When receiving your lump charcoal, you may want to separate the pieces according to size. Use the bigger chunks whenever you are cooking larger pieces of meat such as steaks or roasts. The smaller ones might be better if you are grilling wings, burgers or hot dogs.

Choosing a Wood

The type of wood your lump charcoal is made from will also affect the taste of it. Two common woods used for smoking are mesquite and hickory. Both will provide your meat with a fresh aroma and delicious flavor, and are often used to make lump charcoal with. Oak is another favorite that requires slightly longer cooking time when smoking. You may prefer maple when smoking ham because it provides meat with a slightly sweet taste.

Aside from learning to use lump charcoal, the only other thing you’ll need to do is purchase the right smoker. For help in finding the right one, please contact us.