BBQ grilling dates back to the 17th century where the Arawak Tribe in South America first called it “barbacòa.” Spanish conquerors took the idea and loved it. Fast forward to today, and there are tons of different options to go along with BBQing. Grill type, grill size, grill accessories, and even what type of grilling charcoal fuel to use. There are a lot of fuel options, so here is a quick guide that goes over a few different types.
Lump charcoal (sometimes known as “charwood”) is pure wood & completely natural. No fillers or chemicals are used in lump charcoal. It is easy to light, burns hot, and burns quickly. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to reach its highest temp that generally ranges from 450°- 600°F.Cleanup is also easy since it doesn’t leave a lot of ash behind. Lump charcoal is more responsive to oxygen, which makes it easy to control the fire temperature with adjustable air vents.
However, once lump charcoal reaches its hottest point, it starts to gradually cool down, making it burn unevenly. To keep your grilling heat high, adding more fuel every 30-40 minutes is necessary. Lump charcoal also tends to be more expensive compared to other charcoal options.
The charcoal briquette was patented in Pennsylvania by Ellsworth Zwoyer in 1897. However, it was popularized in 1921 by Henry Ford as he produced them from sawdust and wood scraps from Model T assembly lines in his Detroit auto plants. The company was sold, and is known today as Kingsford where they convert more than one million tons of wood scraps into briquettes a year.
Charcoal briquettes are manufactured wood by-products compressed with additives such as wood scraps, sawdust, and coal dust, hence giving off a pungent smell/taste. However, charcoal briquettes light and burn evenly & consistently for long amounts of time. This is why those who smoke meat with briquettes will often use flavored charcoal briquettes. They are less expensive and more common.
Coconut Shell Charcoal
Coconut shells use to be considered agricultural waste, but today, they are considered a resource. They can be found in their natural form, or compressed into a briquette. Coconut Shell Charcoal burns almost completely smoke-free. It is used by a lot of chef’s due to the pleasant scent that is released. Coconut Charcoal is also environmentally friendly because it burns very clean, and leaves almost no black residue to the touch. Coconut Shell Charcoal is also used in a variety of health & beauty products.
This is also known as “white charcoal”. It is a traditional charcoal of Japan, and the raw material is derived from is oak. Binchōtan is actually a type of lump charcoal. However, it burns at a lower temperature than regular charcoal, and burns for a longer period of time. It is an appealing to use because it does not release any scent. Binchōtan has a lot of uses other than fuel. It has small pores, and can absorb odors. Because of this, people place them in shoe-cabinets to absorb bad odors. Other Binchōtan-based products are socks, t-shirts, cosmetic products, and even wind chimes.