How to Choose, Use and Store Charcoal for Your Kamado Grill
Whether you’re lighting up the grill to enjoy some juicy chicken or roasted corn, charcoal is likely your first choice to achieve the perfect flavor. It’s also effective for grilling in general, packing an energy punch, burning hot and steady and producing relatively little smoke. Compared to other styles of grilling, charcoal has many unique benefits.
On a Kamado grill, charcoal shines even brighter. If you’re the proud owner or soon-to-be-owner of a Kamado grill, we’re here to answer your burning questions. Check out everything about charcoal for your grill, including what charcoal actually is, which type is best, how much to use and how to store charcoal to keep it at its peak.
What Is Charcoal?
Let’s start with a definition of charcoal so we’re all on the same page. It resembles coal, but while coal is a rock you can harvest from the ground, charcoal, as we know it today, is an artificial product. The first use of charcoal as a non-heat source dates back to 30,000 B.C., when people used charcoal to draw images in caves. Since then, we’ve used charcoal for everything from smelting metal to healing wounds to cooking meats.
To make charcoal, you need hot wood. Slowly, you remove the oxygen from the wood, which can take days. In the end, you have a product that contains mainly carbon, called char, where all the water and other volatile compounds are gone. A lump of charcoal is small, dark and ashy.
What Are the Different Types of Charcoal?
Aside from specialty products like Japanese Binchotan and coconut shell charcoal, you can choose between two basic types of charcoal at your local hardware or grocery store:
- Lump charcoal: This form of charcoal — in all its lumpy, irregular glory — is the original charcoal, and it’s also the more premium option compared to briquettes. It’s sometimes called “charwood” or “natural hardwood charcoal” since it’s made from pure hardwood and doesn’t contain additives.
- Charcoal briquettes: This option is the more common option you’ll see at the store, but it’s not pure charcoal. Instead, it’s more uniform in shape, looking like little black pillows. To make briquettes, manufacturers typically use binders and other additives combined with sawdust. This combination costs less to make so they’re also more affordable for consumers.
What Is the Best Charcoal to Grill With?
What’s the best charcoal for grilling? The answer depends on your priorities since each has pros and cons — but lump charcoal is the superior product for the most part. Aside from the price difference, you’ll want to note a few other distinctions as you make your pick:
- Starting: You’ll notice a difference between these options from the start of your grilling session, as lump charcoal is easier to light without help from any accelerants.
- Heat: When you need to turn up the heat, lump charcoal is your best bet, as it burns about 40 to 50 degrees hotter than briquettes.
- Evenness: Since briquettes are a uniform shape, they tend to produce a more consistent heat. If you have a grill full of meat or veggies and want everything to get some even heat, charcoal briquettes will deliver.
- Burning time: Because lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes, it also burns faster. That’s fine in most cases, but if you’re trying to grill something low and slow, briquettes will last longer without the need to add charcoal.
- Additives: Purists will want to reach for a bag of lump charcoal. Unlike lump charcoal, briquettes have additives to hold them together, which can cause them to produce more ash. All that ash can mess up the airflow in your grill or smoker.
Here’s the bottom line. Lump charcoal starts easier and burns hotter without additives. Briquettes do contain additives and don’t get as hot, but they burn longer and more consistently.
Which Type Is Better for a Kamado Grill?
All the same factors above apply when you use a Kamado grill. However, if you’re someone who wants to use lump charcoal but doesn’t like the sound of uneven heat, we have some good news. You don’t have to compromise anything when you use a Kamado grill.
A Kamado grill burns lump charcoal incredibly evenly. While briquettes burn even smoother, you can still enjoy all the perks of lump charcoal when using Kamado grills. Either way, you’ll enjoy some impressive heat no matter which option you pick, thanks to your choice in grills.
See whether your grill manufacturer recommends a specific charcoal for your grill. For our Kong Ceramic Kamado Grill, we recommend natural lump charcoal. You’ll notice that most other Kamado grill manufacturers recommend lump charcoal, too, as it’s a higher quality product. You can also add wood chips to your Kong to create the perfect flavor.
How Much Charcoal Do You Put in a Kamado Grill?
To load your kamado grill with charcoal, you’ll start with larger pieces and form a base to fill the bottom of the firebox. Then, begin adding other pieces of charcoal — smaller ones are fine — to make a pile. Shoot for a pyramid shape that peaks in the middle. This peak should make it up to the top of the firebox, just below the holes in your Kamado’s fire ring.
When you’re done grilling, you may be able to save some leftover charcoal. However, if you want your next grill to be nice and hot or low and slow, you’ll need to start with a fresh batch of charcoal. That new product will burn longer with more control.
What Is the Best Way to Store Charcoal?
If you’ve had a bag of charcoal languishing in the garage while it waits for you to finally buy your dream grill, you may be wondering whether charcoal can go bad. The short answer for lump charcoal is no — the stuff can last forever. On the other hand, briquettes have a more limited shelf life since they depend on chemical additives that can evaporate over time.
When using briquettes, don’t count on an open bag to keep them fresh. Instead, the best way to store charcoal is in an airtight container. These containers are also good for lump charcoal. Even though lump charcoal will last indefinitely, all charcoal is vulnerable to moisture due to its porous nature. If it gets damp, it won’t light when you try to use it.
For briquettes or lump charcoal storage, you can get a simple plastic bin or metal trashcan or opt for a storage container made just for charcoal.
Get Grilling With the Kong From Grilla Grills
A quality Kamado grill paired with some quality charcoal is a match made in heaven. If you’re ready to get grilling, smoking, roasting and baking in a Kamado grill, get the Kong Ceramic Kamado Grill from Grilla Grills. This beauty can help you turn your back patio into a place where culinary magic happens. Grab yourself a bag of quality lump charcoal and order your Kong today!