When looking for the right charcoal, there are numerous variants that have different burning and grilling properties. The mere question of whether to use briquettes or classic charcoal causes headaches for many. Each form of processing has different characteristics and for this reason it is important to know which one is more suitable for your favorite way of grilling.


Before we get to the direct comparison, you should know what the differences between charcoal and charcoal briquettes are. In addition to classic firewood, charcoal made of wood is one of the most common fuels for grilling and is available in numerous quality levels. Due to the way it is made, charcoal can be compared to firewood, as it is just as easy to light and glows after about 30 minutes. As a result, higher temperatures are reached in direct comparison than when using briquettes. For example, if the food can only be grilled with intense heat , charcoal is recommended. The biggest disadvantages of charcoal arise precisely from this advantage:

  • quick burnout
  • leaves a lot of ash

Because the charcoal burns out quickly, you’ll need to add more regularly to maintain the desired heat. For this reason, the temperature is difficult to regulate, which makes the charcoal only good for direct grilling. Compared to charcoal briquettes, the charcoal can be easily refilled to keep the embers going. All you have to do is put more pieces of coal directly into the embers and, depending on the intensity, light them up if the embers themselves are not able to do so. One of the biggest benefits of charcoal is the aroma. As with firewood, part of the smoked aroma is retained and penetrates the food to be grilled. This is particularly intense if you use hickory charcoal, as this is where the smoky aroma comes into its own.

  • hot dog
  • fish
  • thin steaks
  • Ground beef (e.g. meatballs or burgers)
  • Vegetables with a lot of moisture (e.g. tomatoes)

Kettle and classic charcoal grills are used in addition to campfires with the charcoal. However, due to the structure, you should not ignore the embers and especially the fresh fire, as this is not as safe as briquettes. The risk of an accidental fire is simply greater. If you want to counteract the rapid annealing of the charcoal, you should rely on high-quality products. Discounter or supermarket charcoal is used up very quickly and causes poor heat development. The better the wood used, the longer the embers last and you only have to add new ones after two hours, which significantly reduces the amount of charcoal required. Charcoal is ideal for fast and heat-intensive grilling.

Tip: Good quality or better quality charcoal (not the case with briquettes) can be identified by the ‘clink’ as it is poured from the bag onto the grill. The ‘clinking’ is a sound with a metallic character, which indicates good production and is also much more common with coarser pieces of coal.

Charcoal briquettes

Charcoal briquettes are a desired alternative to actual coal for many people, as they take much longer to burn through. Here you have to calculate at least 45 minutes, although some very high-quality briquettes even need 70 minutes. Due to the longer time it takes for the charcoal briquettes to burn through, you can use them for a significantly longer period of time than charcoal. The temperature of the embers always remains at the same level, which makes it ideal for grilled food that can only be grilled with even heat. This includes:

  • thicker meat
  • Vegetables like zucchini
  • Spare Ribs

Even whole stews or dishes in a Dutch oven can be prepared using charcoal briquettes, since indirect grilling is implemented perfectly. The heat can only be increased with wood or charcoal. Even adding more charcoal briquettes proves to be difficult, as these completely disintegrate after glowing through and the embers are not retained. This sometimes delays the grilling a bit. If it is of high quality, the grilling process is possible for several hours without having to refill. Other advantages are:

  • safer thanks to less heat
  • less smoke
  • easy to stack

If you don’t want a smoked aroma for a certain dish yourself, we recommend the briquettes, as they are aroma-neutral. To enable an aroma with these, you will need incense chips, wood, or charcoal. If you want to grill over a long period of time, you should rely on the charcoal briquettes.

Tip: If you are using charcoal and are not sure what raw material it is, you should always pay attention to the color of the ash that is left behind. If wood was used for the production, the ash has a white to grayish hue, while lignite, which is often offered as pure barbecue charcoal, has brown ash in the grill.

types of wood

Theoretically, charcoal can be made from all types of wood that do not contain too many oils, as is the case with teak, for example. Likewise, due to the way they are manufactured, they should not contain too much resin, which only leaves hardwood as the basis for charcoal. This can be compared to the types of wood that are typically used for grilling:

  • beech
  • birch
  • Esche
  • Oak
  • walnut
  • Hickory

Because of its properties, beech is primarily used as the basis for charcoal. Beech wood offers a long burning time and a pleasant aroma that brings the taste of the food to the fore. Walnut wood is mainly used for briquettes. Hickory is also available as charcoal and is popular for its smoky aroma. These woods are used very little in the production of coal, since manufacturers usually have to pay significantly higher costs for the purchase of the material. For this reason, many types of wood are delivered from the tropics. Especially discounters and often even hardware stores charcoal are made from overexploited timber from the tropics. If you are looking for chemically untreated charcoal that does not come from the tropics, you should pay attention to the following DIN standards and seals:

  • DIN EN 1860-2: untreated wood
  • Forest Stewardship Council seal (FSC): no tropical or overexploited wood
  • Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certificate (PEFC): Wood from sustainable management
  • Naturland seal: Wood from ecological cultivation

Despite these seals, if possible, you should always look for a reference to the wood used. For this reason, internet shops are ideal for purchasing charcoal, since the type of wood used is usually noted in the product description.

Note: An alternative to wood that is popular today is the so-called coconut charcoal, which has a long service life and enables intensive heat development. They are made from the shells of coconuts, which are used in the production of coconut water, oil and other products. That way you can keep using them.

Which charcoal burns best?

You now know the differences between the individual types of charcoal made of wood. As you have already recognized, both types are used for different types of grilling. You have to consider this before purchasing the charcoal in order to choose the right type for your barbecue project. It cannot be said in general whether pieces of charcoal are better than a briquette. It always depends on the intended use. When choosing a charcoal, preferably use certified beech or quebracho wood, as these have the best properties for good embers. Last but not least, you should keep your distance from discounter and cheap coal. This is usually so badly processed that you have to struggle with the following problems:

  • extremely short burning time
  • weak heat development
  • unpleasant odor development
  • high consumption

Instead, rely on the products from one of the following five manufacturers. Some of these are even available in the supermarket and do not suffer from the problems listed. These have proven to be particularly effective and regularly receive good ratings from customers and barbecue magazines:

  1. Flammenco: The Flammenco brand has made an excellent name for itself within a short period of time and the charcoal on offer is warmly recommended for grilling. Especially the beech charcoal made in Germany, whose raw material comes from sustainable forestry, stands out. The beech wood used is reflected in the use of the brand’s charcoal, which can be burned without any major problems. It generates intense heat instantly and glows for a long period of time.
  2. BlackSellig: BlackSkellig offers a high quality quebracho charcoal that is marketed as steakhouse charcoal. It is one of the “perennials” in this area and convinces with restaurant quality. That means it doesn’t spatter and glows for a very long time, making it ideal for high-temperature grilling. The temperature fluctuations in this coal are very small.
  3. Deuba: Deuba is best known for its barbecue briquettes, which customers say have a glow time of 90 minutes to six hours. The size of the briquettes allows them to be easily placed and stacked in the grill, making grilling much more enjoyable. In this way, the heat is distributed easily and evenly over the glowing time.
  4. Black Ranch: Another brand that uses certified quebracho wood. The burning time of up to four hours, the high heat and low smoke development make the manufacturer’s steakhouse charcoal an effective alternative. Especially the low consumption of coal should convince on long barbecue days.
  5. LotusGrill: The charcoal from the LotusGrill brand is delivered in particularly small pieces so that you can use it on the table grill. This allows the charcoal to be used quickly because it doesn’t take that long to light up. Only beech wood is used for this, which produces very little of its own aroma.

In comparison, the briquettes from Heizfuxx and Nestro do well, as these are charcoal made from European hardwoods with a long glowing time.

Note: When buying charcoal, always make sure that it really is charcoal or charcoal briquettes, because if the term ‘wood’ or other vegetable terms is missing, you are usually buying lignite. Lignite, often referred to as mineral charcoal, is significantly more harmful to the environment and also does not have such good properties when grilling in terms of burning time and heat development.

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