OK, so you have decided to purchase a charcoal grill over a gas model. So, what is the best charcoal to use? Lump or Briquettes? It’s really a matter of personal choice, but Briquettes are by far and away the most popular. Lump can be purchased by specific wood choice and burns hotter from less additives. Overall, we have had great success with using briquettes and recommend using them.
We are not going to recommend name brands as we want to remain impartial on this blog, but by far and away, the best choice is a premium hardwood charcoal briquette. There are many good options, but a couple national brands will dominate your local store shelf and are usually excellent choices. So, our recommendation is to choose any of these hardwood brands. Stay away from the store’s Private Label offering. Our experience with PL brands is they tend to be lower quality, burn at lower temperatures, and you’ll end up using more than a good hardwood blend.
We suggest NOT using charcoal lighter fluid or purchasing any ready to light type of briquettes. The lighter fluid smell never goes away and will have a negative taste on your food. Use a fire chimney, an electric starting iron or the new electric heat blow starters. In general, keep it natural. When starting the charcoal, make sure it is stacked. All the vents are open to the max position to allow as much air as possible. Lastly, always keep the lid off your grill/smoker. Fire loves air, so while starting yours, let it breath. You can spread the coals after it all catches red hot and briquettes turn to white coal.
How much to use really depends on what and how much you are cooking. You’ll get the feel for it as you get more experience. Use a bit more than you think to ensure you have enough heat throughout the cookout. When your cooking is finished, it’s ok to close all vents cover with lid, and limit the air supply. The charcoal will burn out. Any remaining can be used again on your next cook out.
Here is an old lesson from my Uncle Bob at his cottage in Michigan. He had an old 3 lb. coffee can that he used to stack the lit briquettes in. Then turn it upside down to put out the coals. He would re-use them again another time. (Frugal Uncle Bob taught me a life lesson).
Good luck with your charcoal experience.