Houtskool kiezen met deze 5 tips – #start2bbq

Houtskool kiezen met deze 5 tips – #start2bbq

In an attempt to group the most frequently asked questions on the Belgian BBQ forum with our my experiences and the experiences of other members, we arrived at an urgent question that burns on many lips. You can choose from loads of charcoal brands, but what’s the best? A difficult question to answer as there are so many brands and types on the market. One swears by brand A, the other thinks it’s bad quality and goes for brand B, … There are even those who dare to say that brand C is the best … As so often, there are several good products on the market. In this overview I bundle 5 tips that can help you choose your charcoal. The mentioned products are the most mentioned ones in the Belgian BBQ group with the exception of the ones I tested and personally didn’t find OK. It might be interesting to read this post first. In this #start2bbq post I discuss the pros and cons of different types of fuel including the difference between charcoal and briquettes.

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. All opinions expressed are personal and sincere.

CHOOSE CHARCOAL with these FIVE TIPS

  1. Charcoal vs. restaurant charcoal
  2. Avoid the bottom of the pallet
  3. Hardness of wood
  4. 100% organic
  5. Quality control when opening the bag
Kamado Joe big blocks
Example of restaurant quality lump charcoal (Kamado Joe Big Blocks)

1. CHARCOAL VERSUS Lump CHARCOAL

I’m sure you’ve seen on several bags of charcoal labeled as “restaurant charcoal” or “Lump Charcoal”. This sounds professional, which makes it immediately attractive leading to higher sales. But is this label an added value? What does it mean and is it actually better? Restaurant charcoal is described as such, when the pieces of charcoal are large (+ 6cm) making them ideal for longer sessions (because of their longer burning time and more even temperature control). They have been given this name because in restaurants these blocks are often used to burn the open grill. Unfortunately, however, this is not a protected title or quality feature that you can always rely on (although in most cases it seems to be true). In short, if you have the choice between restaurant/lump charcoal and regular charcoal, then the chance of beautiful large pieces is much higher than with regular charcoal, which are often avoidable.

2. AVOID THE BOTTOM OF THE PALLET

Are you standing in the BBQ department of a store or in your favourite BBQ shop and do you have a view on the pile of charcoal? Then there’s a tip to keep in mind. As mentioned before, the label restaurant charcoal is not always a guarantee. The charcoal is usually transported per pallet, which means that the lower bags have to bear a lot of weight. Less hard charcoal in large pieces can risk breaking after the selection, which increases the chance of a bag with smaller pieces and grit and therefore has a big influence on the course of your session. Oxygen can flow more difficult between the blocks, making the temperature more difficult to control or even blocking the air flow completely.

Charcoal 5 tips
Example of smaller pieces out of an otherwise often praised brand of charcoal bag.

3. WOOD HARDNESS

The hardness of the wood used to make the charcoal is also important for its function. Hard woods such as beech, oak, hickory and acacia provide a harder charcoal than, for example, charcoal from birch. Harder woods have the advantage of being firmer in structure, which not only allows them to burn harder. Larger pieces can be obtained, but they also have a longer burning time and produce less ash. Ideal for what you expect from charcoal. In addition to the previously mentioned types of wood, charcoal from the Argentine Quebracho tree is also often advertised because of the hardness of these trees (one of the hardest in the world). The Quebracho (or holm oak) owes its name to the hardness of the trunk (literally translated: axe breaker).

A disadvantage of the hardness, however, occurs when lighting the BBQ for your next session. Because of the hardness, these pieces of charcoal are difficult to ignite and can produce smoke for a longer time (not the smoke you want to cook on). So when using these charcoal, make sure that you ignite them well before you start using them. Failure to do so can result in unpleasant tastes, which can explain the widely varying experiences with these types of charcoal. Personally, for daily use I prefer a slightly less hard wood type that is easier to ignite and with which you can control the temperature well.

Well known examples of charcoal where Quebracho is used are the Kamado Joe Big blocks, Black Ranch, Jospers charcoal and The Bastard Charcoal. You also have the Black Wattle (Acacia) charcoal from South Africa such as Dammers and The Bastard Black Wattle. Also Flames and Flavor focuses on the hard woods with a black wattle variant, a Cuban Marabu variant and their developed charcoal inspired by (?) the traditional binchotan charcoal with a carbon percentage of 95 percent. Purer charcoal you may not find. But as often, the higher the quality the higher the price. Whether the added value justifies the higher price is something you can decide for yourself.

burning charcoal

4. 100% ORGANIC

It is important for the quality of your charcoal to look at how it is produced. Just like a nice piece of meat, the way it is processed is essential. If the charcoal is made using non-natural fuels (chemical fire accelerators, …) then chances are that you will find this in the end result. The fast process, through which the price can be reduced, does not benefit the quality at all.

5. QUALITY CONTROL WHEN OPENING THE BAG

Well this last tip may be one that won’t be of much use in the store. Just opening a bag in the shop might get you in trouble. However, if you have bought a bag at the last minute and you have doubts whether this can be something, you can already pay attention to the colour. If the coals are nicely dull black you already have a first indication next to the size of the blocks. Even when you light them yourself, you can soon find out if it will be a quality product. If they don’t smell wierd you’re already pretty good. If they do smell, I would advise you to look for another bag. You can also tell by the way they ignite whether you have quality or not. If the coals crackle strongly then this indicates a high amount of dust in the coals which is not very healthy. Are you holding such a bag? No problem, next time you can choose another type of charcoal to try out. Maybe this one suits you better.

Houtskool kiezen

DECISION

Although a lot of people will be ready to give an advice, you are the best reference factor to check if the coal is good for your demands. The tips above can help you in your choice. However, look for the right bag until you are satisfied yourself. Some people are more likely to choose the hard Quebracho charcoal and don’t want to use anything else, others swear by the slightly less hard charcoal. Some don’t mind paying 30 euros for a 10kg bag. Others prefer a slightly more economical solution. It’s up to you what you choose. The very cheap supermarket charcoal I would try to avoid on the one hand to work efficiently (avoiding small pieces) and on the other hand to avoid unpleasant odors in your BBQ (especially with kamados).

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