charcoal or lumpwood for mini wsm??

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Original poster
Jan 15, 2014
Braintree, Essex
Hello everyone

While im gathering vital information for my mini build I was also wondering when its done whats best to use charcoal or lumpwood? As of now for my bbq I use I understand lumpwood burns hotter and cleaner but does it last as long??

I hav also noticed that some fill there mini with charcoal and just add a small amount of lit ones to maintain a longer cook...but does this taint the flavour of the food as I know it does if u do a normal bbq and cook befors the coals are ready!?

If anyone has any views on this that would be great
Hello.  I use lumpwood ALMOST exclusively.  I have used a few briquettes when I had my offset because they can use a lot of fuel.  Everyone here will tell you not to use starter fluid and I will agree because there are many new folks here and I will not take time to offer my opinions and start that debate.  The BEST advice, especially for new folks is don't use it.  Buy or make a charcoal chimney and then start more coals in that when your original fire needs topping up.  Depending on the temp you are using to cook and your smoker you add some lump to the smoker, start some lump in the chimney and when those coals are ready dump them on the unlit coals in your smoker.  The lit coals will then start to slowly ignite the unlit coals in your smoker.  Also don't use anything marked instant lighting, insta light or anything "instant.  And no fire starters.  The brand B&Q carry's, Bar-B-Quick I am not keen on, cheap but too much wastage.  A lot of dust and small chips.  They bulk out the bag with large pices of the strangest stuff I have seen; reminds me of burned petrified wood.  It is shiney, heavy and I don't think it will burn.  At least mine hasn't yet.  The local CO-OPS offer a brand made in Lincolnshire that is quite good but I don't know if they ship it down south.  There are a couple places on line that offer restaurant quality and they are pretty good if you order enough to make shipping worth the money.  BIG K does offer a lumpwood that isn't bad.

Sorry.  I guess my answer should have been yes or no.

Good luck.  Keep Smokin!

I base all of my cooks on kettle BBQ briquettes - my preferred brand is "Heat Beads". That provides me with 4-6 hours of consistent heat per chimney and on top of that I lay my blocks of wood - Oak, apple etc. With the air dampers almost closed the briquettes give a very constant temperature whilst the wood blocks give consistent smoke.

Cheap briquettes will almost always smell and taste bad so pay extra for good quality kettle BBQ briquettes. I buy mine from "Wow BBQ" (look up online) as they always seem to be the best value here in the UK.

If you are looking for a fairly hot roast (e.g. Beer Can Chicken) then light the whole chimney however if you are looking for a low controlled temperature (Brisket/Pork etc) then light a 1/4 chimney and place unlit briquettes or charcoal on top - just as Danny mentioned. You will need to control the air flow top and bottom though to stop the unlit coals from running away and causing the temperatures to soar. Different smokers will burn very differently so you will need to experiment in yours to get it just right.

That reminds me I need to order more Heat Beads...

Cheers Danny and Wade for your advice

Never heard of the heat beads before but just give that site a quick look, there is such a wide selection but I now know I can choose the right stuff .

So by having good quality fuel having unlit briquettes while doing a smoke won't put a funny taste in the food? I actually had a bbq tonight but if I put food on before coals are white the food would taste terrible but I gather the way I hear people doing their smokers this is not the case?

Cheers anyway prob gonna get some of the beads and some lumpwood and hav a bash with them once my build us complete

The secret is in the quality of the charcoal/briquettes. You get what you pay for. The mass produced garden centre or supermarket types often produce a lot of horrible smelling smoke when they start up and burn away within a few minutes. The good quality briquettes specially produced for use in  kettle BBQs are made from quality charcoal and are pressed much more densely during production. Open a bag of cheap briquettes and you will usually find that there is a lot of dust and many of them are already starting to crumble - drop one on the floor and it will usually smash. Good quality briquettes should have very little dust in the bags and if you drop one onto concrete and it will bounce. Smell them as they start to burn in the chimney - if they produce that tell-tale horrible sickly-sweet smell and black smoke then don't use them.
In my limited time smoking, I have used both lumpwood, which was sourced from a local charcoal producing company, and some briquettes made by a company called Supagrill.

Even with the bags of lumpwood from the local company, there was still a small percentage of slag which was unusable.

I read on the BBBQS forums that Supagrill and Big K are 2 more reputable companies to use for briquettes, although I haven't heard of the Hot Beads that Wade mentions, so I will keep an eye out for those.

I also understand that the lumpwood burns hotter than briquettes, so I would assume that this might be more applicable in certain circumstances. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.