There are several lump charcoal brands on the market, and meat smoking enthusiasts all have their favorite brands. There’s been much debate over which is the best lump charcoal, but thanks to You Tube, there have been several burn-offs between all the most common lump charcoal brands. So what were the results?
An experiment was conducted to determine the best burning lump charcoal brand. B&B charcoal emerged as the winner, burning hotter and longer than other brands. Cowboy finished in second place and Royal Oak came in third. The charcoal challenge included Big Green Egg, Royal Oak, B&B, Black Diamond, Cowboy, and Rockwood. The challenge was designed to be as equal as possible, with all brands being weighed and placed in a charcoal chimney. The temperature of each lump charcoal was measured using an infrared thermometer. B&B charcoal is all natural and made from oak wood, with consistent pieces in the bag. Royal Oak charcoal is made in Roswell, Georgia and contains no additives, with consistent pieces in the bag. Big Green Egg charcoal is made in Atlanta, Georgia and contains hickory and oak, but is the most expensive. Cowboy charcoal is an inexpensive brand found in grocery stores, but had inconsistencies in the bag. Rockwood charcoal is readily available at Ace Hardware and uses Missouri hardwoods, but had a lot of gravel at the bottom of the bag. Black Diamond charcoal is an inexpensive Russian charcoal that is organic, with consistent pieces in the box.
- An experiment was conducted to find the best burning lump charcoal brand
- B&B charcoal was found to burn hotter and longer than other brands
- Cowboy finished in second place and Royal Oak came in third
- Green Egg started strong but cooled down towards the end
- The charcoal challenge included Big Green Egg, Royal Oak, B&B, Black Diamond, Cowboy, and Rockwood
- The challenge was made as equal as possible, with all brands being weighed and placed in a charcoal chimney
- Temperature of each lump charcoal was measured using an infrared thermometer
- B&B charcoal is all natural and made from oak wood, with consistent pieces in the bag
- Royal Oak charcoal is made in Roswell, Georgia and contains no additives, with consistent pieces in the bag
- Big Green Egg charcoal is made in Atlanta, Georgia and contains hickory and oak, but is the most expensive
- Cowboy charcoal is an inexpensive brand found in grocery stores, but had inconsistencies in the bag
- Rockwood charcoal is readily available at Ace Hardware and uses Missouri hardwoods, but had a lot of gravel at the bottom of the bag
- Black Diamond charcoal is an inexpensive Russian charcoal that is organic, with consistent pieces in the box
- Overall results of the burn-off challenge after 30 minutes.
The lump hardwood charcoal used in the challenge were the most common brands found in North America. The charcoal challenge included the following lineup:
- Big Green Egg
- Royal Oak
- Black Diamond
Rules of the Burn-Off
They made the challenge equal as possible. All the different brand lump charcoals were weighed, and they placed exactly one pound of charcoal in a charcoal chimney. All the chimneys were lit using identical fire starters. The temperature of each lump charcoal was measured using an infrared thermometer.
The winner of the burn-off was B&B, a very popular brand of lump charcoal. The company resides in Texas, but the lump charcoal is produced in Mexico. B&B is all natural and is made from oak wood.
The bags of B&B have consistent pieces of lump charcoal. The bag contained very few small chunks and hardly any gravel. Also, there weren’t any extra large chunks that required an axe. All the pieces were the perfect size and ready to cook.
Royal Oak Charcoal
Royal Oak is a popular choice and loved by many pitmasters. Royal Oak is always in the conversation when a debate about the best lump is being had. Royal Oak is made in Roswell, Georgia and contains no additives, just pure lump charcoal. According to the name, this brand of lump uses Oak wood.
The bag of Royal Oak in the competition was very consistent and contained lots of good-sized chunks of coal with very little gravel. Royal Oak is one of the more expensive brands, but judging by the quality of coal, it seems to be worth the extra dollars. The consistent sized charcoal makes the cooking process.
Big Green Egg Charcoal
Made in Atlanta, Georgia, BGE is the most expensive lump charcoal. The BGE lump contains hickory and oak. The bags have consistently sized pieces, not much bark and a distinct smell that wasn’t noticeable compared to other brands.
Cowboy is an inexpensive, common charcoal that is found in grocery stores. Cowboy charcoal is produced in Mexico. The Cowboy website has two kinds of lump charcoal listed; Hardwood Lump Charcoal and Oak & Hickory Hardwood Lump Charcoal and both are available in Available in 8.8lb and 20lb bags. The Cowboy charcoal used in the burn-off challenge was the Hardwood lump charcoal.
Even though Cowboy tested well and finished second in the challenge, there were many inconsistencies found in the bag, which is why Cowboy is cheap. The Cowboy brand lump that was tested had a lot of inconsistent pieces. There were some large and medium-sized chunks, but there was a lot of gravel at the bottom of the bag. Gravel can result from mishandling during transport and could change from batch to batch. However, Cowboy is inexpensive and burns hot and long, so you can’t really complain.
Rockwood is a brand of lump that can be found at Ace Hardware, so it’s readily available. Rockwood uses Missouri hardwoods which is mostly oak, hickory and maple. The bag contained a variety of different shapes and sizes and there was a great deal of gravel at the bottom of the bag.
Black Diamond Charcoal
Black Diamond is an inexpensive Russian lump charcoal that is organic and is packaged in a box. The box had consistent sized lump and contained lots of small chunks with hardly any large pieces.
Burn-Off Results – 30 Minutes
There were several interesting observations made during the burn challenge. They measured one pound of each brand of lump charcoal out into identical Weber chimneys. All the chimneys were lit with a wax cube at the exact same time. At the 30-minute mark of the burn-off, all the charcoal brands were easy to light and seemed to be burning hot. They made the following observations:
- Cowboy showed the most flames early.
- Royal Oak was burning very consistent and noticeably hot.
- B&B was very hot early and was showing a lot of charcoal content.
- Rockwood looked good early on and was burning very hot.
- The BGE was still very full and burning well.
- The Black Diamond lump was burning hot and looking good.
Burn-Off Results – 1.5 Hours
At the one and a half hour mark, they made the judgement. An infrared thermometer was used to measure each of the different charcoal brands. This was the outcome:
- In first place, B&B charcoal was still burning at 1000°F.
- Cowboy finished in second place and was also burning at 1000°F.
- Royal Oak came in 3rd place and was measuring 800°F.
- Big Green Egg lump charcoal finished in fourth place. During the competition, the BGE looked like winning but dropped off towards the end. There was still some consistency, but it had cooled after the hour and a half mark.
- Black Diamond and Rockwood cooled down significantly in the last stages of the burn-off.
- B&B was a clear winner but Big Green Egg, Royal Oak and Cowboy were all very close to second place.
Lump Charcoal Challenge 2
There are several other charcoal brands on the market that weren’t included in this challenge. A follow-up challenge included some more American brands and some international charcoal. Stay tuned because there is also going to be world championship challenge where B&B will go up against the best lump charcoals from around the world.
The list includes:
- Blues Hog (USA)
- Fogo (El Salvador)
- Humphery (USA)
- Jealous Devil (Paraguay)
- Wicked Good Charcoal (USA)
- Natures Own (Canada)
- Kamado Joe (Argentina)
- Lumberjack (Europe)
The first part of the second challenge saw four lump charcoal’s go up against one another. The first four were:
- Blues Hog
- Jealous Devil
Challenge 2 Observations
Here are the observations from the second challenge:
At the 1.5 hour mark, Blues Hog was the hottest and had the most content.
Fogo was in second place, followed by Jealous Devil and Humphrey’s.
After 2:15, things changed significantly. Blues Hog dropped off and was only measuring 225°F. Humphery’s was nearly gone at 100°F. Jealous Devil was still burning strong with a reading of 686°F and Fogo was putting out 700°F.
Final Results of Challenge 2
By the end of the challenge, over three hours had passed. They observed:
- Humphries was putting out no heat and was completely out.
- Blues Hog was also out completely with no heat.
- Jealous Devil still had content and was burning at 500°F.
- Fogo was still hot, had some content, but was fizzling out.
So the winner of the second challenge was Jealous Devil from Paraguay. Stay tuned to the channel below and I will post the results of the world challenge where B&B will go up against Jealous Devil and the winner of the other qualifier.
What is Hardwood Lump Charcoal?
- Lump charcoal is wood that has been charred.
- Lump charcoal has all the moisture and volatiles drawn out.
- Lump is light and burns fast.
- Lump is a natural product which makes it very inconsistent.
- Every lump charcoal bag contains pieces of all different shapes and sizes. Charcoal briquettes on the other hand are identical.
Lump charcoal is a type of charcoal that is made from hardwood trees. Unlike traditional charcoal briquettes, which are made from sawdust and other materials, lump charcoal is made from chunks of wood that have been burned at high temperatures.
This process removes all of the water and impurities from the wood, leaving behind only pure carbon. Lump charcoal burns hotter and more evenly than briquettes, and it also produces less ash. It’s a popular choice for grilling and smoking because it imparts a unique wood flavor to the food.
Lump or Briquettes For Smoking?
There are pros and cons for lump and briquettes, it just depends what you are doing with it.
- Briquettes work well on kettle grills where you can cook low-and-slow using the Minion or the snake method.
- Briquettes will give you a more consistent cook, because every piece is identical. Lump is inconsistent, therefore it will burn unpredictably.
- Lump burns cleaner than Briquettes, which put out a lot of bad, white smoke. However, once briquettes are lit, they don’t produce any bad smoke. The thick, white smoke is only seen during the ignition period.
- Briquettes also produce more ash than lump charcoal. This can become a problem because ash will choke out the flame. Lump doesn’t ash very much and can also be reused.
- Lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes. The above You Tube challenge measured the lump charcoal with an infrared thermometer and found some brands were burning between 800°F to 1000°F.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.