Luxury Charcoal Is Fuel To Take BBQ Cookouts To Another Level

Don’t get burned: Here are five ways to beef up your grill’s heat. Luxury Charcoal Is Fuel To Take BBQ Cookouts To Another Level

1. The Easy Upgrade

Grilling with lump charcoal instead of briquettes is a bit like driving a stick shift rather than an automatic: Both will get you where you’re going, but lump is seen as the more pure experience. Unlike many briquettes, lumps of carbonized wood contain no accelerants or substances such as borax, which can affect taste.

Heat Check: Although some briquettes can top out at about 1,000F, lump charcoal can burn as hot as 1,400F. This is mostly because lump’s irregular shape allows for more airflow.

Where To Get It: Rockwood, based in St. Louis, was started when founder Jonathan Heslop spotted a charcoal plant while working as a medevac pilot. The company makes lump charcoal from Missouri maple, oak, and hickory. The combination lends food a distinct but not overpowering taste. $23 for 10 lbs

2. The Extreme Upgrade

Pound for pound, good binchotan likely costs more than whatever you’re cooking over it. Known for providing smokeless, infernal heat, the Japanese charcoal is perfectly suited to cooking yakitori, and other similar-style skewers, to a burnished brown without drying them out.

Heat Check: It can reach more than 2,000F and stay there for hours, though it can take upward of 45 minutes to achieve maximum heat.
Where to get it: This “pro grade” binchotan is made in the oak forests of southern Japan. $105 for 5 lbs

3. The Oversize Fire Starter

For classic backyard fare—hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken—briquettes are the grilling fuel most people turn to. But not all are created equal: Some big briquettes can be twice the size of typical hardware-store versions, with a longer burn time.

Heat Check: Briquettes provide more consistent heat than lump, so while they may not get quite as hot, they’ll keep you cooking all afternoon.

Where to get it: Jealous Devil’s Max XL briquettes are made with quebracho hardwood and a little vegetable starch as a binder—no chemicals or accelerants. $32 for 20 lbs

4. For Pellet Grill Owners

Once you start using a pellet grill, it’s easy to get so taken with the time and temperature controls that you lose sight of the fundamentals: You’re still cooking with wood, and the type of wood matters. For Central Texas-style barbecue (hello, brisket!), there’s only one real choice: post oak.

Heat check: Although many pellet grills can reach a serviceable 450F to 600F, low and slow cooking—from 150F to 225F—is where these pellets truly shine.

Where to get it: Texas company B&B, which has been keeping grills lit for 60 years, offers its own post oak version of the Hill Country classic. For those who want a dram with their smoked ham, B&B also sells pellets made from used Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels, along with other exotic choices made from hickory, pecan, and mesquite. $6 for 180 cubic inches (2.95 liters)

5. The Uberefficient Option

Think of charcoal rods as the love child of binchotan and briquettes—ultradense and hot-burning but considered more eco-friendly because they’re made from lumber or agricultural industry byproducts.

Heat Check: Temperatures top out at around 1,400F, perfect for searing steaks and skewers.

Where to get it: Prime 6 packs a lot of cooking power into a small package. The company says 1 lb will burn as long as 3 lbs of lump charcoal and can be extinguished and relit up to seven times. Made from hardwood waste sawdust that’s compressed into hollow hexagonal logs, they’re then carbonized into charcoal. $50 for 22 lbs.

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