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What Is the Best Charcoal for Summer Cookouts?

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

The Goal: Find the best charcoal for your Fourth of July cookout. Grill masters from around the country turned us away from compressed briquettes (too many additives) and toward pure hardwood lump charcoal, which can burn hotter and produces more of a savory, smoky flavor.

The Verdict: The charred hickory, maple, walnut, and oak chunks in a bag of Royal Oak hardwood lump charcoal are all irregular in shape and size. That’s the point. The wood gets burned down to its natural charcoal state without any accelerants or fillers, so cooking with these is about the closest you’ll get to chopping down your own tree. That means the burn time can be irregular too, but these get hot enough to sear a steak in just about 15 minutes — no synthetic lighter fluid required.

In our pro guide to grilling, Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama recommended having the Weber Chimney Starter on hand to heat up your charcoal: “Using a charcoal chimney is the easiest way to light your barbecue grill. This large-capacity chimney made by Weber holds plenty of charcoal to get your grill hot, while protecting your hands from the extreme heat.”

*This article appears in the June 26, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

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What Is the Best Charcoal for Summer Cookouts?