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Lump charcoal brand

My FIL has a kamado he brought home from Japan in the early 60's. The wife wants us to go pick it up so she can put it to use.

Kamados are somewhat of a mystery to me but more so is the best fuel to use with it. A buddy has a BGE and used a brand of lump charcoal he got at a local hardware store which ended up having a fairly large amount tar in it. He claims it ruined his briskets and caused some other problems.

Is there a brand of lump charcoal available that is relatively uncontaminated? Or is there a better fuel to use?

Thanks much!

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  1. We only ever use the Big Green Egg brand charcoal but I am not sure if it is considered "lump" charcoal. Don't use anything you find in the grocery store, that stuff should be considered toxic!

    8 Replies
    1. re: ladooShoppe

      There's nothing wrong with Kingsford (as long as it's not Matchlight), which is what you generally find at every grocery store. There's nothing toxic about their regular charcoal briquets.

      1. re: tommy

        Hi, tommy:

        Not saying you're wrong here, but how does Kingsford form the charcoal dust into the briquets? Is there no binder or filler used? I know *sawdust* can be formed without them, but what holds the charcoal dust together?


        1. re: kaleokahu

          You can do some research on it and determine for yourself that there's nothing toxic about it.

          Part of the answer is "the same way other producers do."

          1. re: tommy

            Hi, tommy:

            OK, OK, nothing in particular against Kingsford, just thought you might know...

            But since *I* asked and you don't know (or won't tell), well, there is this: http://science.discovery.com/videos/h...

            Looks like, in addition to powdered charcoal, Kingsford adds anthracite coal (so it burns longer), lime (so it turns grey and you can judge it's ignition), and cornstarch (for binder).

            As one who burns anthracite in my wood cookstove (and therefore knows that grilling over coal makes food taste like motor oil), I should have understood why unadulterated lump is recommended. I'm not crazy over having fly ash in my food, either.

            Thanks, tommy, I wouldn't have looked this up without your helpful encouragement!


            1. re: kaleokahu

              You've found your answer. Kingsford makes food ashy and taste like motor oil.

              Although this hasn't been my experience, or that of many others.

              Not toxic though.

              1. re: tommy

                I don't know where you get your Kingsford from but, why would you want to put all that stuff in your Ceramic smoker? The Kingsford I get locally has a lot of residue that doesn't bother me in a "disposable" grill but a nice ceramic grill? No way!!!

                Companies sell true "LUMP" charcoal for a reason.

                1. re: Sid Post

                  Ive found that a Grillmark hardwood briquets that I get at ACE hardware are much superior to Kingsford. Ive used lump charcoal and while it burns hotter, it doesnt last as long, so I tend to have to replenish the charcoal, even for a short grilling session.

                2. re: tommy

                  Hi again, tommy: "[T]his hasn't been my experience..."

                  Mine either, really. But now that I think of it, I have noted a little different taste cooking over briquettes. Until now, I've always just associated that taste with charcoal grilling in general ("Ah, the smell of napalm in the morning" ???). Maybe a little lump-brick taste comparison is in order... Steaks anyone?

                  Re: fly ash and toxicity, I haven't researched this, except I know that here in Seattle, which for a time long ago had a coal gasification plant, the byproducts of that process are indeed considered toxic. See, also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_ash

                  Anyway, FWIW...


      2. BGE lump is just premium Royal oak in a BGE bag. It is a good product. Sadly Wally World has decreased the size of the Royal Oak bags they sell from 10# to 8.8# plus the bags I have opened so far of the 8.8# size have been all small pieces compared to the ten pound bags.
        Only use lump or extruded in a Kamado. There is a great charcoal data base at nakedwhiz.com

        2 Replies
        1. re: TraderJoe

          Thank YOU! I was trying to remember the name of what my DH buys - it's the Royal Oak lump. we get it at a grill/fireplace store about 30 minuets from our house.

        2. Thanks for the advice and site recommendation! I will go read up.

          1. If you have a Cash & Carry nearby, they usually have 50-lb. bags of lump that is pretty good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kaleokahu

              Gracias! I think there is one within 10 miles so I'll go eyeball the shelves.

            2. I took a smoking class back in March and the instructor (chef) insisted that one should only use lump charcoal in a smoker. His reasoning was the chemicals in briquets. He did not mention a brand. Lump should be all hardwood and should not contain tars. There are advantages to briquets, but you should get better taste without the extra chemicals.

              4 Replies
              1. re: mikie

                He did not mention brand. Did he bother mentioning the chemicals and tars? Or, did he have no idea what he was talking about. LOL!

                1. re: tommy

                  He didn't claim briquetts to be toxic, just that they impart a taste to the food that is undesireable. He was a former American Royal grand champion, I think he knows what makes for good tasting BBQ.

                  As for chemicals, the list may include the following: binder is usually starch, brown coal (heat source), mineral carbon (heat source), borax, sodium nitrate (ignition aid), limestone (ash-whitening agent), raw sawdust (ignition aid), and other additives like paraffin or petroleum solvents to aid in ignition.

                  1. re: tommy

                    did he have no idea what he was talking about.
                    In my best Philip Seymour Hoffman...Tommy Tommmy Tommy

                    I don't care what brand of briquettes you buy they should never ever never be used in a ceramic cooker.
                    Even Kingsford competition which is their most "natural" product contains starch binders and borax.

                    1. re: TraderJoe

                      I don't have a ceramic cooker (although I'm unsure of what the material of the cooker has to do with the fuel choice), and I generally use lump.

                  1. re: pabboy

                    I wish I had a local source for Wicked especially now that Wally World is changing the line of Royal Oak they carry.

                    1. re: pabboy

                      Hey pabboy:

                      Thanks for the link. Great example of the good parts of CH.


                    2. As far as regular availability goes, Royal Oak is the gold standard amongst many smoking and BBQ fanatics. Unlike other lump charcoals, it is all natural hardwood and not lumber scraps which you would occasionally find in other brands. Here is a very very thorough database of various lump charcoals reviews, rankings, side by side tests, and surveys from extruded coconut charcoal to Mayan lump charcoal:


                      To quote a person I would like to credit but can't recall: "Briquettes are the hotdogs of the fuel industry."

                        1. You might look into the Humphrey brand--pretty well known for its high quality charcoal:

                          1. There is some question as to the durability of older Japanese kamados. They weren't built to withstand the higher temperatures ceramic cookers can generate. Most were designed to use binchotan charcoal, which is expensive to import, but burns clean with no residue. I used to use Kamado Extruded Coconut charcoal:


                            It burns incredibly clean leaving very little residue to choke the smoker. The coconut imparts no flavor of its own, certainly nothing like tar, so any smoke flavor needs to come from wood chunks or pellets. It also burns long and slow and gives rock solid temperatures. When torqued up, it can easily send your cooker up to 800+ degrees. Perfect for searing steaks and doing pizzas. Unfortunately, the stuff is really expensive and is only affordable when you buy in bulk and split with other kamado owners. I have since switched to Royal Oak lump in bulk from Walmart, as well as Wicked Good when I can spare the cash. BGE lump is also good, but more expensive and comparable to Royal Oak lump.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              I used to use Kamado Extruded Coconut charcoal:


                              They changed that product and IIR it now produces over 30% ash...YIKES!

                              Check the Whiz's Charcoal data base. ;)

                              BGE lump is packaged by Royal Oak so it's the same product just the larger premium pieces.

                              Wally World RO is now just bits and pieces in the 8.8# bags. :(