Understanding Lump Charcoal
The guys that convinced me to buy the BGE sold me on the wonderful quality of their food cooked with Lump Charcoal. I had no idea it even existed...and I too am converted now so here is a primer that I found on the internet that told me just about anything you would want to know...
Natural "Lump" Charcoal is known to be more efficient, healthier and controllable than briquettes or any prefabricated charcoals.
The Process - Natural Lump Charcoal comes from partially burning wood. It is also created by heating wood without oxygen. In doing so, this charred wood becomes carbon. During the process of making charcoal, volatile compounds in the wood (water, hydrogen, methane and tars) pass off as vapors into the air, and the carbon is converted into charcoal.
The Properties - Since Charcoal is pure wood carbon, it weights much less than its original state. It is also free of tars (which can contain carcinogenic compounds, like benzo-a-pyrene). Perhaps only traces of volatile components can be found in charcoal. Definitely not enough to alarm neither nutritionist nor scientist. Unlike Charcoal Briquettes, which holds different chemicals, natural charcoal is merely 100% carbon.
How long can Lump Charcoal last (Shelf Life) - Lump Charcoal is perhaps good for life. Unless it has been exposed to moisture and variable temperature, natural lump charcoal will last.
Charcoal Silhouettes - For cooking purposes charcoal comes in two different shapes: lump charcoal and briquettes. Lump charcoal is charcoal which has not been formed into briquettes. Briquettes are the pillow shaped little pieces of compressed ground charcoal.
Should you use Lump Charcoal or Briquettes?
If you are going to use a Ceramic Grill or Cooker of ANY kind the answer is Lump Charcoal. The low ash production of lump charcoal is very important. Ceramic grills and Smokers have a fire bowl holding the charcoal. As the charcoal burns, the ash falls down into the bottom of the bowl. There isn't room for a whole lot of ash. Lump charcoal tends to burns hotter and faster than briquettes. Lump charcoal will also burn at whatever rate and temperature that you allow it to. Briquettes tend to burn slower as they were designed to be used in an uncontrolled environment.
Types of Lump Charcoal - There are 2 types of charcoals: the first type comes from natural wood which has been cut and made into charcoal. This is as natural as you can get. The wood comes from trees, branches and scrap pieces from saw mills. The second type comes from using processed scrap wood and tuning it into charcoal. Processed scrap wood tend to burn faster since its density is lesser than natural. This is mainly because there is less moisture into the wood at the time it is transformed into charcoals. This wood comes from wood flooring scraps, building material scrap and furniture scraps and others.
Quality Lump Charcoal usually comes in a multi layer paper bag to absorb moisture. Commonly, lump charcoal is sold in a 20 lbs bag.
Lighting Lump Charcoal - Never use any starter fluid. It will give a undesirable flavor to your food and impregnate into the ceramic of your Primo Grill and Smoker. There are many other ways to light up lump charcoal. You can use paraffin fireplace starter blocks (Primo recommended), electric starters, propane sticks, weed burners, propane torches, MAP gas torches and Chimney starters. The Chimney starter is the most economical since it uses paper (usually newspaper) to light the charcoal.
You should never use lighting fluid for your ceramic charcoal grill and smoker.