What are Different Types of Charcoal?

Shannon Kietzman

Charcoal is used as a type of fuel, most commonly to fuel grills for cooking. There are several different types that a grill chef can choose from, with the most common types being briquette, lump, and extruded.

Hot charcoal briquettes.
Hot charcoal briquettes.

Among the briquette variety, there are several different types of charcoal. Generally, the briquette is made from a combination of charcoal, mineral carbon, brown coal, borax, sodium nitrate, sawdust, limestone, and starch. Each of these ingredients has its own special properties to contribute to the charcoal briquette. The charcoal, along with the mineral carbon and the brown coal, serves as a heat source. The borax is a press release agent, while the starch is a binder. The sodium nitrate and the sawdust both assist with ignition, and the starch is a binder.

Some charcoals contain ingredients, such as mesquite, meant to add flavor to grilled food.
Some charcoals contain ingredients, such as mesquite, meant to add flavor to grilled food.

Other different types of briquettes may be marketed as “natural.” In this case, they may only contain charcoal and starch. Still others contain additional ingredients, such as lighter fluid or paraffin, in order to make them easier to light. The addition of these ingredients does not create a health hazard because the fuel is burned off before it can contaminate the food.

There are also other different charcoals that contain ingredients meant to help add flavor to the food, such as mesquite. These ingredients are part of the charcoal and, therefore, do not burn off like the lighter fluid. The smoke that results from burning these different types of charcoal contains the flavor, which is added to the food during cooking.

Lump charcoal is one of the other different types. This charcoal is created solely from hardwood and, as a result, burns hotter than other types. Since lump charcoal burns at such a high temperature, it creates less ash than briquette charcoal.

Extruded charcoal is created through a process called extrusion, which is a highly pressurized process that pushes materials through a preset mold. In this case, the material is either carbonized wood or raw ground wood. Through the extrusion process, these different types of charcoal are made into log shapes.

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