How We Review Lump Charcoal

We go through a number of steps in each review of lump charcoal:

  1. We photograph all the printed material on the bag for further reporting in the review. We also take photographs of the bag for use on the review web page.
  2. We open each bag and carefully empty the contents onto a plastic sheet.
  3. We photograph the contents of the entire bag before picking through it.
  4. We take a closer photograph of a representative portion of the charcoal.
  5. We carefully pick through the entire contents of the bag, looking for funky pieces, scrap lumber, or anything unusual.
  6. We photograph the largest pieces and any strange pieces or items which don't belong in a bag of charcoal.
  7. We sort the lump into large, medium and small pieces, as well as chips and dust. We photograph the results and then weigh each pile.
  8. We take a small amount of the lump and light it in a charcoal chimney starter. We note the ease of lighting and the smell as the lump burns. We also note any sparking or popping.
  9. We burn a quantity of the charcoal in a ceramic cooker in order to determine the maximum burning temperature of the charcoal. We also note any sparking or popping issues while the charcoal is burning.
  10. When we have the opportunity, or when the lump is particularly interesting to us, we cook something on the lump.
  11. We also conduct a test burn of a specific amount of lump to determine how long it burns and how much ash it produces. We use a MAPP torch to start the burn in order to observe how the charcoal reacts to a torch. We then use the BBQ Guru to control a burn of a fixed amount of the charcoal. The ash production is measured as volume of ash produced per hour of burn time.
We endeavour to conduct these tests consistently from review to review. However, the bottom line is that we aren't professional lump evaluators. We don't claim to have any special abilities. Our reviews are obviously going to reflect our personal opinions about what makes good lump, but we hope that if nothing else, the photographs, descriptions and data will help you form your own opinions about each brand of lump. By trying to conduct the same test on each brand of lump, we may not be able to produce absolute results, but rather results you can use to compare brands against each other.

For an explanation of our rating system, please read How We Score Lump Charcoal.


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