Not all charcoal is created equal when it comes to use in your grill. To get the best result when barbecuing or grilling, you need to know which kind to use and when. Charcoal is basically wood that has been processed to remove the water and other impurities via a long, slow charring process. The result is more reliable and less smoky than wood, and has been used for cooking for thousands of years.
However, different kinds of barbecue grill charcoal have different properties. Of course, these properties vary from brand to brand and from one batch to the next, so generalizations are not always correct. Here is a brief guide to the general properties of most kinds of barbecue grill charcoal, though.
The three major kinds of commercial charcoal are lump, extruded and briquette types. Lump charcoal is directly made from hardwood and produces more smoke. It burns hot and fast, and is popular in some types of grilling for its greater flavor. It also produces much less ash than a fire from briquettes. However, its smokiness and heat may make it undesirable for some kinds of cooking.
Extruded charcoal is made by pressing carbonized or raw ground wood into logs, without using a binder. It is the extrusion that holds the charcoal together, not any other material. If this kind of charcoal is made from raw wood, it is carbonized afterward. This type is uncommon for use in grilling because of its size, which is incompatible with the majority of grills. In performance, it is similar to briquettes.
Charcoal also comes in briquettes, which are probably the most commonly used when it comes to grilling. They are made by compressing charcoal made from wood by products like sawdust, using a binder, usually a starch.
Some charcoal briquettes will include other additives, such as brown coal, carbon from mineral sources, sodium nitrate, borax, raw sawdust and limestone, or petroleum products like paraffin. Briquette charcoal tends to provide less flavor than lump, but burns more steadily and reliably, without flare-ups or hot spots, and produces less smoke.
If you are going to get serious about grilling, you need to think about the kind of charcoal you are using in your grill. Choosing the right one will give you more control over the results and a better flavor. Check out your options and experiment a little. You may be surprised by the difference simply changing your charcoal can make. Learning about the different kinds that are available could make your grilled meats and vegetables taste a whole lot better.
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