by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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Charcoal is a light, black residue, consisting of carbon and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen (see char and biochar). It is usually an impure form of carbon as it contains ash; however, sugar charcoal is among the purest forms of carbon readily available, particularly if it is not made by heating but by a dehydration reaction with sulfuric acid to minimise the introduction of new impurities, as impurities can be removed from the sugar in advance. The resulting soft, brittle, lightweight, black, porous material resembles coal.

Types of Charcoal Fuel You Should Know

Charcoal smokers rarely differ, except perhaps when it comes to their fuel source. Believe it or not, there are different types of charcoal out there that offer different benefits. The following is a list of different types of charcoal that you can use to power your smoker.

Lump Charcoal

This type of charcoal is commonly referred to as “natural charcoal” because many believe that it’s the first type of charcoal to be discovered by man. It’s made by heating logs in a kiln, which is best described as an enclosed cave. This is arguably the cleanest type of charcoal there is because it’s binder-free. This makes it a favorite among environmentally conscious consumers. It’s worth noting here that lump charcoal has an uneven burn that starts out hot but gets cold again. As a result, it tends to burn out quicker than other types of charcoal, and it requires a lot more attention.


As you may have guessed from the name, this type of charcoal originates from Japan. Its appearance is like that of tree branches and this is due to the fact that it’s made from a type of oak called Ubamegashi. It’s a clean source of energy that burns pure without overpowering the meat with a woody flavor. It’s on the pricey side because it’s expensive to produce and it takes a while to heat up. For best results be sure to use an electric lighter or a blow torch and maybe the coal will light up in 35 minutes. After that, you can leave it to do its thing. This type of charcoal offers a slow and steady heat for a long period of time.

Coconut Shell

Coconut shell charcoal is very popular in Southeast Asia and Polynesia where there’s always been an abundance of coconut trees. It offers a quick and efficient burn but without the exorbitant price tag. Nowadays, it’s mostly used in hibachi restaurants and you need a bunch of coconut shells just to get the fire started.


Briquettes are a type of charcoal that has been treated so that it burns evenly and strongly over a long period of time. To light them up quickly though, you need to ignite them with lighter fluid. These come highly recommended for use on smokers and grills because they’re affordable and easy to access than the other options. However, we’d be remiss to not mention that this type of charcoal has a very powerful aroma that can impart an unusual taste in meat. Some say that it contains harmful chemicals too, which may cause health defects in the body over time. It’s best to do your research here and find out the facts for yourself as we can’t really go into detail on it here.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.