Choose your charcoal carefully

Many people are only familiar with the charcoal briquettes found at the local grocery or DIY store.

Briquettes are far from being pure charcoal.  The manufacturers begin with charcoal which is then ground and combined with fillers and binders to make the charcoal “go further”.  It also has non-wood substances such as petroleum coal added to each briquettes.  Just because you have a “light coat of gray ash” covering each briquette does not solve the problem. The truth of the matter is that impurities burn all the way through the briquettes, and you continue to burn these impurities while cooking your meat.

One way to avoid this is to use lump charcoal as it is very pure and clean.  There are no foreign substances and all the impurities found in natural wood have been eliminated during the process of turning it into charcoal.  It burns much hotter and faster than the manufactured charcoal briquettes – one reason that the convenient factory made lumps have become predominant in retail customer preferences.

If you’re doing some grilling you will not find a better heat source than “natural” lumpwood charcoal.  If you’re barbecuing, you will find that you need to add smaller quantities more often in order to control the heat, but you will also have noticed that it lights easier, and is quicker to have an even bed of red coals for cooking above.

If you have a chance to obtain lump charcoal, buy a bag and give it a try.

Buy it on AmazonAnother modern trend in charcoal supply, has been to provide “easy start” bags – these are about the size of a 2 lb (1 Kg) bag of sugar, and usually sold as four or five starter bags in a pack.  Be careful using these as they appear to be petro-chemical impregnated and you want to be sure they are fully burnt off before cooking to avoid food contamination.  Where practicable, only ever use one bag to get your main lump wood charcoal ignited properly (though if you’re using real lump wood, you’ll only need a few sticks of kindling rather than artificial primers).

Remember, convenience has a price, and it usually comes in the form of carcinogenic chemicals and other nasties.  Stay natural, stay safe.


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