I found this comment to one of my pages so interesting that I thought it would be a great idea to publish the following about lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes and the amount of energy or heat given off by each. Take this into consideration next time you purchase lump charcoal and briquettes. It just might surprise you.
One other thing to note that you will not find referenced often on the internet is BTU per pound. While lump is usually more expensive, you’re getting more BTU’s in the bag.
Nowadays “charcoal briquettes” contain less and less charcoal in them. They’re a lot of anthracites, sawdust, and other cheaper sources of BTU’s. Worst of all, most briquettes contain limestone–even the ones marked “professional”, “competition”, “all-natural”, etc. Between that, the starch, borax, sawdust, a higher moisture content, and everything that is NOT charcoal, it drives down the BTU/# usually to somewhere around 7000-9000 BTU/#.
Lump charcoal that is kilned to 80%+ carbonization, is anywhere from 10000-12000 BTU/#. For a good indication of what you paid for, look for the white smoke and the ash. When the ash weighs 40-50% of what you started with vs. lump which is less than 5-10%, you can see how much of what you bought truly burned. Carbon burns clear and leaves no ash. A 20# bag of good charcoal usually cooks down to less than 1# of ash or less than 1-qt by volume.
So don’t flinch at the higher price of lump, you’re using less of it in long run and cooking over 100% wood vs. a bunch of anthracite coal!!
U.S. made lump is the way to go!!
Conclusion. Lump Charcoal gives you more heat and a better, cleaner burn than you will get from most briquettes.
This brings us to my recommendation when purchasing charcoal for your next grilling event. After considering the facts on the differences between Lump Charcoal and Charcoal Briquettes, I don’t think there is much to decide. Below are my recommendations.