“Grilling means good times, good friends, and hopefully, great food” — Bobby Flay
Grilling is nothing short of an art, but you’re allowed to eat your masterpiece. For grilling to deserve being called an art, it needs to be done perfectly.
It’s not just about throwing a piece of meat on the grid and letting it sizzle. It’s also about the temperature, the cooking time, the grill itself, and the charcoal you use.
Our grill of choice is the Big Green Egg and among the factors we mentioned, we’ve selected charcoal as our spotlight guest for today. To be more specific, what charcoal for Big Green Egg?
The best charcoal for the Big Green Egg grill is the natural Oak and Hickory provided by Big Green Egg itself. It provides the best temperature control to give you the least amount of fumes and byproducts.
If you can’t or don’t want to use Big Green Egg’s product, there are some good replacements like the Jealous Devil and Royal Oak charcoal (more on that very soon.)
For now, we need to understand what the Big Green Egg is and why it needs its charcoal to be as pure as possible.
The Big Green Egg is a restaurant-grade charcoal grill that allows you to use high or low temperatures for extended periods with ease.
What sets the Big Green Egg apart from your conventional charcoal grills is its superior insulation. That insulation is made possible by the unique ceramic composition of the grill.
The resiliency in controlling the temperature allows you to cook all types of steak, brisket, or even oven-baked pizzas.
Much like any grill, this premium grill can work with just any type of charcoal. However, the extreme insulation can be a double-edged weapon.
The Big Green Egg doesn’t only prevent temperature escape, it also prevents the smell from escaping. That being said, if you use low-quality charcoal with various harmful materials in its composition, these volatile harmful materials may alter the taste of your food.
Briquette is an example of a usual grill fuel material that can alter the taste of your food. It includes a lot of relatively harmful chemical additives in its structure.
Examples of these chemical additives are limestone, saw dust, starch, and other byproducts. These chemicals won’t only alter the taste of your food, but they will also release harmful Carbon Monoxide if they’re not completely burned.
Big Green Egg claims that its natural charcoal is free of all the chemical byproducts that we mentioned earlier. It is also easier and faster to ignite and produces less harmful fumes than conventional charcoal.
To get the most out of the ideal charcoal, you have to use it correctly. Here’s how:
The Big Green Egg has a damper top that essentially acts as a cover to the grill when you’re not using it. Before using your grill, you need to replace that top with the dual-function metal tip.
That metal tip allows for that precise temperature control the egg is famous for.
Now, open the dome (the upper lid) and use a small tool or your hand to remove the cooking grid.
That way you will have unobstructed access to the firebox.
Fill your firebox with the 100% natural Oak and Hickory wood charcoal. You should fill enough to reach the top of the firebox but leave some space for the grid to be placed.
We recommend leaving a couple of inches between the top layer of the charcoal and the base of the grid. This will prevent the charcoal from being in direct contact with your food and prevent burning it.
We’ve mentioned that the Big Green Egg offers superior temperature insulation. This doesn’t mean that you should completely block away any escape route for the fumes.
To prevent that from happening, don’t forget to open the stainless steel draft door before you ignite your charcoal.
If you want to use other charcoal products or simply can’t get your hand on the Big Green Egg charcoal, there are many other replacements on the market. However, you should be careful while selecting those replacements to avoid low-quality products.
You should aim for lump charcoal. Lump charcoal is the product you get from burning wood in the absence of oxygen. It’s considered the purest form of charcoal that you should always grill with.
Pure or lump charcoal will ensure the best, odor-free, and chemical-free cooking.
We’ve done the homework for you and brought you five pure charcoal alternatives that you can use for your Big Green Egg.
The Jealous Devil natural charcoal comes straight from the South American hardwoods. The bag is waterproof and re-sealable so you won’t have to worry about your charcoal getting contaminated.
The lump charcoal is also cut in a suitable size for the Big Green Egg and it burns quickly, efficiently, and without harmful evaporations.
The bag comes in several sizes and is strong enough to resist tearing. All of these pros make the Jealous Devil charcoal a favorite among the fans.
Harder 100% charcoal is restaurant-grade natural charcoal that provides a superior cooking experience. Just like the Jealous Devil, it burns quickly without excessive smoking.
Harder charcoal is made from Quebracho Wood. This wood is so hard that it earned itself the nickname “ax breaker.” You expect wood that breaks axes to burn for extended periods without losing its cooking power. Harder Charcoal is exactly just that.
Additionally, the extra burning time doesn’t give you any unnecessary fumes that may alter the taste of your food.
Do you want a natural charcoal that you can re-use multiple times and can burn up to 27 hours? Kamado Joe’s Big Block Lump Charcoal is for you.
The premium charcoal is so good that it can be challenging to find in stock.
Big Block can be made from several types of wood including the Quebracho wood that we mentioned earlier. Additionally, it can also be made from Guayaibi, Guayacan, and Mistal.
The name Big Block isn’t just for show. This charcoal is cut into large chunks and that’s what allows them to burn for longer times.
However, sometimes you may find considerably smaller chunks in the mix.
Royal Oak charcoal is designed to be used with any type of grill. However, its natural, chemical-free structure makes it an excellent choice for ceramic or egg-shaped grills.
Unlike the previous three charcoal types, this one isn’t 100% pure wood but don’t let that turn you away from it. There’s a good catch.
In addition to oak, it also has maple and walnut in its composition. So, you’d get a nice blend of flavors in your meal. Despite not being 100% pure wood, there are still no harmful chemicals added.
Much like the Jealous Devil, Fogo charcoal is a premium product that’s made from pure oak wood.
It’s made from large, chemical-free chunks that burn faster, easier, and longer. So, it’s another good choice for kamado or egg-style grills like our Big Green Egg.
There’s not much more to say about Fogo charcoal. It’s about as good as it gets on charcoal.
We’ve been going over and over about natural lump charcoal and why they’re suitable for kamado-style or egg-shaped grills. But what’s all the hassle? Surely it’s not just for being chemical-free, right?
It’s true. There are a few extra reasons why natural lump charcoal is more suitable for your Big Green Egg:
Good temperature control is the main selling point of Kamado-style grills. The insulation allows you to keep the cooking temperature just as you like it.
This may not seem like an important thing at first, but when you’re cooking those juicy tomahawk steaks for long hours, you’ll need the temperature to be stable for as long as it needs.
Dome-shaped, ceramic grills like the Big Green Egg are designed mainly for that. However, when low-quality charcoal messes with that temperature stability, you lose the essence of the egg.
Natural lump charcoal, on the other hand, has a much better response to oxygen. You can use that to accurately control the temperature of the grill and keep it stable for as long as your cooking needs.
Less fumes and ash doesn’t only mean cleaner food, it also means a more consistent airflow. The ash clogs the pathways of air, making them narrower and reducing their ability to let air through with ease.
Steady airflow is one of the main keys to controlling the temperature and hence, better control over your cooking.
Charcoal should be easy to ignite. The purer it is, the easier it will ignite and the more heat it will emit.
If your charcoal is 100% pure without any fillers or chemicals, you should expect even faster ignition and better heat.
Most natural lump charcoal products average 15 minutes before it’s ready to cook.
The time may vary depending on the size of the chunks, the amount you use, and the target temperature that you need. It’s worth referring to the manufacturer’s instructions to know more.
You shouldn’t wet your charcoal intentionally. It may crumble and turn into powder, especially in low-quality charcoal.
However, charcoal is bound to get somewhat wet because of all the juices that may leak from foods like steak and ham. So, it’s best to use high-quality charcoal to reduce the effect of wetness as much as possible.
According to seasoned cooks, you can use most high-quality charcoal products for one more cook. This largely depends on how long you’ve burned it as well.
For example, if you had a simple barbeque party that took you one or two hours to cook the whole thing, you can use the charcoal up to two more times.
On the other hand, it’s better to refresh your charcoal after a cook that lasts more than eight hours. We’re looking at you, tomahawk steak!
Charcoal, although used for cooking, has more affinity to moisture than flames. Because of that, you need to store it in a cool, dry location where there’s no moisture. Moisturized charcoal will take longer to ignite and sometimes refuse to ignite, to begin with.
The short answer is yes. You can use leftover charcoal but you need to be selective. Aim for the larger chunks and do your best to remove as much ash as possible before reigniting it again.
It’s better to avoid relying completely on leftover charcoal. So, try to mix it with some fresh chunks.
So, what charcoal for Big Green Egg? Any lump charcoal that’s 100% pure without additives will yield great results.
Still, we recommend using the manufacturer’s Oak and Hickory for the best possible results. You can also use any replacement lump charcoal that is made from natural wood.
Make sure to use the right amount of charcoal for the right amount of time. Don’t overuse or underuse your charcoal to stay as efficient as possible. Most importantly, enjoy your meal.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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