How it works – Charcoal is made of wood. Beach, Mesquite, Oak, Hickory and probably some other types of wood. Its carbonize. Wood is put in a Kiln and heated with out oxygen. The heat will vaporize the liquids that are in the wood. There is a twist of flavor that will always stay in the charcoal but as the contents of the wood vaporize all that is left is carbon. That means that what is left is a form of coal. Pure carbon that will burn at 1200 F degrees. The Temperature in your cooker are based on the amount of Charcoal you put into the cooker. The distance the food is way from the charcoal determines the temperature of the environment the meat is cooking in. It also depends on the path of the smoke and the seal or tightness of the cooker.
Lump Charcoal – no chemicals. Lump Charcoal is the pure carbonized wood without binders or compression. Lump charcoal burns like briquettes. It has less ash. In a gravity flow Lump will not bind up at the burn box on the bottom because of the clean burn. Briquettes will bind up at the burn box because there is a grate it hast to go through in some models.
Briquettes were all we had to start with. Royal Oak had a briquette that was natural and I seen it in New York it smelled like natural wood. Briquettes have had chemical binders in past times. I’ve been at contest where the team got a card saying “Food tasted like lighter fluid” and the team had no lighter fluid there. There is suppose to be a new briquette on the market that is a competition briquette.
Charcoal burn only last 45 minutes flat out. The only reason a burn last longer is a control of air. Fuel plus air plus Fire = Duration of Burn. A Gravity Flow Smoker is an ideal situation. The bottom of the shoot flows into the burn box and lasts about and hour a pound. The top charcoal is not involved in the burn until the charcoal below is totally consumed.
In a Offset, Weber, and other charcoal cookers where the whole pile of charcoal is put together in the burn at one time. The air flow is really critical because it will burn up all at once in 45 minutes. Charcoal burns last 45 minutes air flow un controlled. Its a bell shaped curve.
Gravity flows are the best situation for charcoal burn. You have the bottom pound actually involved in the fire. The rest going to the top of the shoot is not involved in the burn. As the bottom burns out every hour the charcoal moves down and the next pound will start burning allowing the charcoal to be involved in progression. Not all at once.
Fines and dust – Charcoal with an excessive amount of dust will spark. Small pieces can make a glob that that air can’t get through and will not burn. If a bag has an excessive amount of fines and dust it takes away from the value of the charcoal. Some bags may have many as 35% fines. That means you paid money for use of 65% of the bag. Forrest Lump Charcoal is great about no fines. Forrest Lumps contained as little as 5% fines. You got 100% of the values that little amount of fines will burn in the process.
Ash is a test of the purity of a charcoal. Pure carbonized wood will burn almost completely burn leaving nothing. If you have a charcoal with a lot of ash it is a sign that some of the residue of other matter from the kilning process is still there. Sap, substances in the wood, bark, and other contents of the wood were not totally removed in the process.
Briquettes will always leave more ash than lump charcoal.
Royal Oak Lump Charcoal in 22 pound bags is what you aught to buy to get and example of what the best charcoal should burn like. Royal Oak has won more contest in the Southeast than any other charcoal. Royal Oak is the Charcoal of Champions. The Burn, Heat Produced, Ash, Quality of Smoke, Length of Burn is second to none. Forrest Lump Charcoal was made out of Beach Wood. It was a superior charcoal in may way. If you round that out with Carbon De Sur a superior Mesquite Charcoal you have the best trifecta in BBQ. Hickory charcoal is not as common as Oak. Oak is the #1 charcoal produced in the world. Mesquite is produced in South America, Beach is produced in Serbia, Oak is produced in the United States.
Charcoal burns from the outside in for each piece or briquette. The pile burns from the inside out. The center of the pile will catch fire and burn to the outside of the pile. There may be some on the bottom that did not catch due to the pile being large.
Lighter fluid soaked charcoal for easy light is a big no no. Briquettes can be a bad news bitter taste in your BBQ because of the binders. Lump Charcoal is a good bet because of no binders.
The type of wood is a big issue. What type of wood determines a ring of flavor toward the middle of a bite. When you bite off a piece of BBQ and the flavor profile is running by you toward the middle of the taste the type of wood and briquettes vs lump will come by your pallet. That is where the difference for your choice can be found. Choose well.
Oak Charcoal is a great choice. Hickory Charcoal start off with then switch to beach wood when your wrap. Beach is a great choice. Mesquite is a great choice to compete with in Texas. Mesquite is a great vending charcoal. Mesquite is a great backyard charcoal.