What’s the Best Lump Charcoal for Smoking and Grilling?

by | Sep 5, 2017 | Accessories

Every summer, barbeques and grills up and down the country begin to make a return to their number one place in yards and on decks. Yet before you start grilling, have a think about the furl you’re using to get that perfect barbeque taste.

Not all fuels are the same, and some will impart a much nicer flavour into the meat you cook.

Benefits of Lump Wood Charcoal

Typically speaking, lump wood charcoal burns much hotter, and can be adjusted up or down to produce the amount of heat you need. Lump wood charcoal also produces far let ash in comparison with briquettes, and as the same suggests, they’re made of wood, that’s right, natural and unadulterated wood.

Unfortunately, briquettes can contain all sorts of chemical nasties to keep those embers burning bright. It’s for this reason they’re seen as a cheap option, and tend to burn longer than charcoal. However, when you smell those chemical notes in your briquettes, just imagine what it’s doing to your body over time.

Which is the best lump wood charcoal?

There are two on the market right now that really are killing it. Fogo all-natural charcoal, and Original Natural Charcoal. As the names suggest, both products are 100% natural, and both cost about $35 per 17-pound bag.

In this review, we’re gonna put Fogo and Original Natural Charcoal against each other in a barbeque cookout.

1. Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Our Rating:  4.4 Stars (4.4/5)
Capacity 17.6 – 35 lbs
Lights Quickly  
Hardwood Smoked Flavor  

Fogo charcoal are based in Miami, and are a brand well known for their all-natural approach to grilling. They have many devoted followers in the grill competition world, and Fogo charcoal has powered many a competition winning grill.

We decided to set our Fogo grill up to run a simple test. Grilling sausages, kebabs and general cuts of chicken. We didn’t want to cook anything with too much of its own flavor, because let’s face it, we needed to discover how awesome that smoky flavor could be.

One of the cool things about Fogo, straight out of the bag, is the fact all the pieces are a solid size. You’ll discover no small nuggets here, just pure chunks of solid charcoal, making it perfect for your charcoal smoker. For those of us who’ve bought cheap supermarket charcoal, you’ll know just how much of a treat this is!

Lighting the charcoal is easy too. Unlike some charcoal products, there’s hardly any sparking that occurs in the early stages of the burn. I’ve often cooked out with South American charcoal which is cheap, yet often gives off crazy sparks in the first 5 to 10 minutes.

The only negative thing we must say about Fogo lump wood, is the fact you’ll need to break up some of the larger pieces of wood. If you do run with the Fogo brand, keep a small hammer near your grill to use as a lump wood breaker!

The Flavor

One of the good things about Fogo lump wood, is the fact it gives off a real smooth flavor. It’s not too strong, and much more of a woody flavor than a smoky one. This type of flavor is exactly my kinda thing, so I was impressed.

Some of the guys in our group weren’t quite so impressed. They really wanted that typical barbeque smoky taste, something the Fogo might be too subtle to produce.

Pros: Well priced, subtle woody/smoky flavor and easy to light.

Cons: Some might not like the subtle flavors, and prefer something a little stronger.

2. Original Natural Charcoal Lump Bag

Our Rating: 4.7 Stars (4.7/5)
Capacity 17.6 lbs
Restaurant Quality  
No chemicals, fillers or scrap wood

Next up in our review, was Original Natural Charcoal. This brand is based in Kansas City in Missouri, and bases its products around similar beliefs to Fogo. They’re all-natural, and have an ecological bend to their product, as the wood they use all comes from sustainable sources.

We tested the Original Natural Charcoal in much the same way as the Fogo. We didn’t want to skew out test, and as some of our review team aren’t seasoned grill owners themselves, we figured it wasn’t fair to make them do too much thinking about the flavor!

Like the Fogo charcoal, Original Brand lump wood was large, although slightly smaller than the Fogo. We feel you might even get away without a large hammer for this brand, making it a great choice if you need a little ease of use to come with your grilling fuel!

Lighting the Original lump wood was easy, and although we saw a couple of sparks fly in the first 5 minutes, everything soon died down to a solid, sustainable heat. One thing we can say for sure, is that both brands outperform cheap supermarket charcoal by a factor of 10.

As we said before, one of the huge benefits the Original Natural Charcoal has over the Fogo, is the way it’s already split into smaller pieces. It’s worth saying that these lumps were the perfect size, not too small, and not too big either.

The Flavor

The first thing our review team noticed, was that the Original lump wood produced a much deeper flavor to our meat. The charcoal produced a smoky vibe, much stronger than the Fogo brand.

Of course, this had the funny effect of impressing the guys in our review team who found the Fogo flavor too woody, and not smoky enough! For the rest of us though, it felt the other way around!

Final thoughts

By now, you’re probably gonna guess what we thought. If it was up to me, I would choose the Fogo every day of the week! It’s subtle woody flavor really impressed me, and I would purchase Fogo straight away for my grill setup.

In-fact, I use Fogo for my Green Mountain grill setup!

As for some of the other guys who tested the Fogo, they felt it was too subtle, and too woody a flavor.

Basically, we found no real different in the burn time, lighting or quality of both products. They both worked extremely well to be honest, and if you’re making the switch from cheap charcoal to something a bit sweeter, then you’ll probably fall in love with both.

However, your main choice should be between wanting a deep, smoky flavor, and whether you’ll prefer something more subtle. Personally, I’d give both a try and stick with the flavor you love.

Billy StewartBilly Stewart

Founder of BarbequeSmoked.com

My dad is a true mans man, and has owned a number of grills. Ranging from gas to charcoal. Growing up with him allowed me to see what different types of rubs, spices, brines, etc went into making the best BBQ. Although my dad was a truck driver, and I had a degree in Information Technology I knew that I wanted to do something about grilling and our recipes.  That’s where Barbeque Smoked comes in.

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