Written by Terry Smith

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UK’s best charcoal: Top Lumpwood and Restaurant Charcoal TESTED on a bbq

This article was last updated on April 24th, 2022 at 4:27 pm

It doesn’t matter if you’re into a bbq charcoal or more specialist cooking on the bbq smoker, it’s great not to have to worry about the small things going wrong… Like making sure your barbecuing goes well, but rest assured no two charcoals are the same when compared as I have done in extensive testing on a bbq. There’s the charcoal you get up the garage loaded full of paraffin which stinks and then there’s the good stuff. The restaurant grade charcoal that we are going to set you up with in this article (lumpwood ideally). You may have been put off by big lumpy charcoal in the past because it’s difficult to set alight – well fear not, a quality bbq starter will have your lumpwood charcoal going in minutes. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Watch my video to see just how easily it’s done in conjunction with eco firelighters:

Pretty amazing isn’t it? We can all be professionals using high quality lumpwood charcoal, without the drawbacks. Let’s have a look at the overview then – we’ve tested the top lump wood and restaurant charcoal to keep your grilling or fire pit smooth and successful, tried and tested so you don’t have to. For an important note on buying your charcoal, go ahead to the buyer’s guide to top lumpwood and restaurant charcoal at the bottom.

Best bbq charcoal: our top picks

  1. 24KG of Premium Grade Large Lumpwood Restaurant Cooking Charcoal- Comes with The Log Hut Woven Sack – best charcoal for UK bbq’s. [TESTED personally and proven]
  2. Drumbecue Big K 15Kg Restaurant Grade Lumbwood Charcoal – best price restaurant grade charcoal in the UK. If you’re willing to pay up this is a proper option.
  3. Alderline Natural Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal for Barbecues, BBQ Coal, 30L best and biggest lumpwood charcoal for professional use
  4. Lumpwood Charcoal 10kg by Big K Products
  5. Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal, 4x1kg Bags Instant BBQ Charcoal best lumpwood charcoal for speed but not my favourite as it’s bitty – remember this is filled with paraffin
  6. Kamado Joe All-Natural Big Block XL Lump Charcoal

So what are the reasons I prefer this lovely large lumpy 100% wood charcoal over the quick light stuff? Well, there’s quite a lot to know believe it or not, from chemicals, to burn time.

Large lumpwood charcoal burns much longer and with no chemical smell

What are the different bbq charcoals? Restaurant and lumpwood explained

The interesting thing about charcoal is that lumpwood high quality bbq charcoal is so easily set apart from it’s rivals, you can breathe in the smoke and notice the difference…literally. Restaurant grade charcoal will give you a lovely natural smoke just the same as you get from bbq smoker wood chips. By comparison, the nasty charcoal filled with easy fire lighter fluid and paraffin smells horrible when it’s first set alight. Have no fear with our article though. We select the very best and cleanest charcoal to ensure the best possible bbq experience – and if it’s got potentially got paraffin in it, you’ll be the first to know. It normally starts with ‘instant light’ Here’s an example of that – I had a bag kicking about for a test:

Instant light charcoal can contain paraffin and petroleum

By contrast quality large lumpwood charcoal is just FSC Solid Wood which his both sustainable and not damaging to the environment, (Pine that grows quickly). I have set you up with really decent sized chunks – here’s me getting my hands dirty 😀

My quality Lumpwood Restaurant Cooking Charcoal– can’t beat it

Buyer’s Guide To Best Charcoal

So overall, we’ve had a great selection in these charcoals. Even with the cheaper options, the quality is still great. Perhaps where the price is reflected is in the size control… You may not have known but some contain parrafin and petrols whilst others don’t. Not to worry, in this quick buyers guide I’ll show you what to look out for and what to avoid.

Restaurant grade charcoal compared to standard charcoal

Don’t get mixed up between nasty briquettes and decent lumpwood restaurant grade charcoal. You also have some in the middle which is quick start fire lighting lumpwood like the Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal, 4x1kg Bags Instant BBQ Charcoal. This isn’t my favourite though. The best charcoal is the natural no chemical stuff like the Premium Grade Large Lumpwood Restaurant Cooking Charcoal and this is the type of charcoal you’ll get your steaks cooked perfectly on if you go to a restaurant event.

Storage for optimal use

Something I’ve had to pop along here and add is storage. It is a prerequisite to a decent bbq experience. The reason being is that I have made the mistake of placing my bag of charcoal under my bbq in my cupboards that are purpose built for storage. There are two problems with this. Firstly I thought it had somehow leaked and so my charcoal became wet. I now realise that it has simply got damp! So please drag your bag into your shed where it is much drier. Learn from my personal experience and mistake! Don’t leave your charcoal outside overnight! You will be able to use it but it will smoke far more than usual when ignited.

Small or large

As we’ve discussed above, there is a difference between cooking with large pieces and smaller pieces, the Alderline Natural Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal for example is as large as 20cm. Both have different advantages and it’s completely up to cooking preference and, mainly, what foods you’re cooking that determine which option to go for. Large pieces tend to create a long lasting burn, suitable for slow meats etc. Smaller pieces tend to inspire a shorter and hotter burn which I absolutely love for pizzas, especially when using a pizza stone.

Big lumpwood bbq charcoal ideal for long cooking

Just keep a look out for what sizes generally come in the charcoal bags so you can get what you’re looking for. Out of our selection we’ve got bags that contain small, medium, and large, and some which have a mixture so there’s something for everyone!

Chemicals and no chemicals compared for getting charcoal alight fast

As I mentioned the briqeuttes from the garages are normally loaded up with paraffin and sure they go up in flames great but they give off a terrible smell. You just dont need that, you can use an eco fire lighter and get your charcoal started easily if you know how and follow the instructions in the guides linked. You can also use a bbq chimney starter. There’s absolutely no reason quality lumpwood charcoal has to be a problem.

Time to get grilling so let’s look at our list of the best lumpwood charcoal for bbq’s in the UK:

1. 24KG of Premium Grade Large Lumpwood Restaurant Cooking Charcoal- Comes with The Log Hut Woven Sack

Specification: Weight: 12, 24, 36, 48 kg , Easy to light: yes , Uniformly shaped pieces: yes (Large lumps)

The best thing ever is the bag. It really is practically impossible to make a mess in terms of it splitting. It just won’t:

Lumpwood charcoal bag is super strong

Right off the bat I’ll tell you from testing it smokes a little to start, and definitely smokes if you let it get damp (woops my fault – it leaked under my cupboard somehow) but once it gets going it’s pretty much smokeless and goes for an hour plus easily at high temperature. This is absolutely cast in stone fact I’ve tested it dozens of times and what I’ve found on each occasion. How my testing job is so vigorous and difficult 😀

With the 24KG of Premium Grade Large Lumpwood Restaurant Cooking Charcoal, you get 4 buying options which are 4 different sizes, meaning you save money the larger amount you go for. At £23.99 for 12kg, this product is reasonably priced being one of the cheaper out of this selection. This is serious charcoal for serious bbq’s.

Best lumpwood charcoal – seriously decent sized lumps of charcoal and burns for ages.

The charcoal comes in large chunks which is great if you’re after a long and stable burn. And makes them suitable for large, reusable BBQ’s which is ideal if you’ve got a lot of people to feed. The coals stay hot for ages which gives you lots of time to cook, especially slow cooking foods. Here’s a look at about 45 minutes after I have started cooking a brisket:

Charcoal gives a nice even heat for a couple of hours with the lid down on my charcoal bbq.

The bag also has some medium sized coals which isn’t bad for filling in the gaps on the bbq starter or if you’re just laying them in the bbq. The Kamado above, I use the bbq starter, but the Uniflame, in the picture above that, I just lay the coals on the grate and use a few eco firelighters. Having odd shapes and sizes really helps to pile them together and get the heat rising up through and in no time a decent burn on your coal.

It doesn’t spit out very much at all. And because of the natural materials, there’s no grim or chemical smells which is great. There’s some dust or small chunks left at the bottom of the bag but this is totally unavoidable from the knocking around you’ll give it. You get a bit of smoking to start but the coal takes nicely and givens an even heat in no time as you can see from the picture above. Here’s a look at that smoking off the bat:

This charcoal smokes a bit to start

I have to say though, it’s very good and miles better than grab bag sized chunks – it’s never a lot – maybe a kilo or so I’ve found – some like it smaller but I’m about to dispel that…

The only thing I’d say is that these pieces aren’t too easy to break and make smaller without them shattering into tiny pieces. This isn’t an issue because of the advantages of larger chunks, and you do have some medium sized ones. Just be aware if you want to avoid a mess! There’s no point breaking this charcoal up to get it started anyway – just use a bbq starter or take a look at my article on how to start a charcoal bbq.

Specification: Weight: 15 kg , Easy to light: yes , Uniformly shaped pieces: yes (Large lumps)

At sensible money, the Drumbecue Big K 15kg Restaurant Grade Lumbwood Charcoal is a much cheaper option as you get 15kg for the price. So this one’s a good option if you’re to get more for your money in terms of quantity – I find you get decent chunks but when I compared it to my top pick I’ve tested extensively I find this one a bitter pill to swallow in terms of the price – if my top pick out of stock I would have no hesitation going for this instead – no paraffin, just wood.

First off, the actual bag is great quality and won’t rip or anything which is great as you don’t have to worry about where you store it or anything.

There’s loads of charcoal and all of a decent size. As is understandable though, the charcoal does come in different sizes so some are a bit on the small side which means they do burn a bit quicker. This isn’t an issue as most of the charcoal is of a decent size so when combined you still get a nice, long burn. And you don’t need a lot of pieces to create a good BBQ.

Because of the nature of lump wood coal, this coal burns really hot so you can still cook things like pizzas and steaks. Usually the downside to this is that you don’t get long burns but because there are also very big chunks of this coal, you can also get along, and cooler burn for slow meats. Especially as you can sort of pick and choose which sized coal you need depending on how long and hot you want your burn to be.

What’s great about lump coal as well is that it creates very little ash. This makes cooking a lot nicer as you don’t breathe in lots of ash. It also makes cleaning up really easy because there’s very little mess created.

Cooking with this charcoal was nice and easy and there was no spitting or excess smoke which makes cooking really pleasant.

3. Alderline Natural Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal for Barbecues, BBQ Coal, 30L

Specification: Weight: 30 Litres or 4 kg (equivalent other charcoal brand 5 kg) , Easy to light: yes (no smoke) , Uniformly shaped pieces: yes (Large lumps)

We’re back up the price scale with Alderline Natural Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal for Barbecues at £17.95 for 30L/3.79kg. You get 4 different buying options with this one so you can pick different quantities of the 30L bags. It’s worth saying that the more bags you buy, the more you save in terms of price per bag if you’re after a good bargain!

This charcoal is completely natural and organic made from white alder trees. This is always a great feature as it’s great for the environment, and doesn’t contain any chemicals so doesn’t produce any smoke or weird smells. Having tested it, I can say this is all definitely true.

All the pieces are nice and large, but still light, which means they give a long lasting and good burn. It didn’t take too long to heat up, around 20 minutes, and the heat was very well spread which was great so you can cook multiple foods without worrying about uneven cooks.

The pieces can be broken as well so you do have the option of having smaller pieces for a quicker, hotter burn. The food all tasted really good with that nice smokey flavour.

I’m impressed with the quality and there were no small bits or residue. Although there is some ash that blows when you’re cooking but it really wasn’t too bad and the ash is very fine!

Specification: Weight: 10 kg , Easy to light: yes , Uniformly shaped pieces: no (Large and small)

With the Lumpwood Charcoal, you get the best value for money in terms of price per quantity. For £18.38 you get 10kg of natural charcoal. So this is the one to consider if you’re looking for a cheaper option.

The packaging is great quality and very strong so it won’t rip or get damaged easily. Just a good point for when you need to store your coals.

Again, we have a mixture of large and small pieces in the bag. I think this can be a good thing though as it gives you some choice with how you want to build your BBQ as you can use the small chunks for hot and quick burns and the large for longer burns. And there’s no dust or tiny bits which is great because you can use everything from the bag.

They’re really easy to light and burn very well and evenly. And they give the food a nice smokey flavour, too.

Considering the price, I’m really impressed! The quality is definitely not compromised upon.

5. Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal, 4x1kg Bags Instant BBQ Charcoal

Specification: Weight: 4 kg , Easy to light: yes , Uniformly shaped pieces: yes

We’re coming in at slightly cheaper with the Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal, priced at about a tenner for 4kg (so approximately £22 compared to the last product). A best seller, this product is another very popular one with a lot of customers but it’s not my favourite. It’s just great for a fast bbq.

This one comes in 4 separate bags which is handy for measuring out your charcoal – I’d say one bag would do you fine for a small BBQ and one or two bags does you plenty for a large BBQ. And this means you can store the unopened bags easily.

These bags are very easy to light, just light the four corners of the bag and leave it to do its thing. No hassle required, which is great. And they get the fire going quickly so you don’t have to wait ages to start cooking your food – something which is a bit of a lifesaver because we all know that feeling when you realise you should’ve got the BBQ going hours ago…

Once lit, they stayed hot for a very long time and the temperature was even throughout so you can put on a lot of different foods to cook and it holds up. Suitable for longer cooking times. The food cooked really well and kept that authentic BBQ smoky flavour that we love.

Definitely worth the money.

Here we’ve got a very popular choice from lots of our customers – the Kamado Joe All-Natural Big Block XL Lump Charcoal. At sensible money you would be hard pushed to turn this away, what I found when I compared though the hardwood version, the Kamado Joe KJCHAR Hardwood Extra Large Lump Charcoal is the most expensive from our range but a quality bit of lumpwood charcoal. As you probably know, I am a huge fan of the Kamado bbq smoker, and this charcoal compliments it lovely.

On first glance after opening the packet, the pieces are really large (and there’s plenty of them)! This is great as big chunks give you a really long, even burn. And let’s be clear this really is top quality. Bigger lumps means longer steady burn. Just what you need for controlled bbq cooking.

After testing them, I’m so impressed. They were really easy to light and get started and they really do burn for hours without burning out too quickly. The actual burn is a good slow and clean burn which was very even so you don’t have to worry about any small bits still being black. The length is great as it means you can cook slow meats like brisket without having to worry about the coals temperature going down. But they still produce enough heat for foods like pizza or for searing meats.

The actual cook was so good – the charcoal gave the meats that great authentic smoky BBQ flavour without being overpowering.

Overall, although this is the most expensive, the price is really reflected in the quality, and a lot better than other cheaper brands of charcoal out there.

 


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

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