Should I Grill with Charcoal or Hardwood?

Posted at 10.Apr, 01:04h In Cooking over fire Cooking using wood By - 0 Comments

abstract-219735_960_720If you plan on cooking food over fire, you’ll need some type of fuel. The most common fuel sources used for this purpose include hardwood and charcoal. While you can use both to cook everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to smores and vegetables we prefer real hardwood when it makes sense, but there are some stark differences between the two that you should be aware of. So, should you grill with charcoal or real hardwood?

Smoke

One of the biggest difference between charcoal and wood — when used for cooking — is the amount of smoke produced. Because wood contains more moisture than its charcoal counterpart, it naturally produces more smoke when burning. Some people actually prefer the rich smokey flavor of charcoal-grilled food, but others prefer the more traditional flavor of smoke-grilled food.

Heat

With an average energy value of 29 MJ/kg, charcoal tends to burn hotter than wood. So, if you want to cook food in the shortest amount of time possible, it’s best to stick with charcoal. With that said, insufficient airflow and/or the absence of flames may cause inefficient heat transfer; thus, making cooking difficult. You can overcome this problem by ensuring your coals are exposed to air (grills and fire pits often have vents that you can open and close).

Transport

While there are certain exceptions, charcoal is usually easier to transport than wood. If you’re going camping with some friends, you may want to carry charcoal for this reason. Of course, you can always scavenge native firewood at your campsite, but bringing charcoal ensures you have the necessary fuel supply for cooking, but once again we like the real wood when feasible.

Cost

There’s also the issue of cost. Natural, locally sourced firewood is typically free, whereas charcoal often costs up to $10 per bag.

The bottom line is that there’s no clear winner in the battle between wood and charcoal. Wood burns more slowly while releasing a distinct smokey flavor, but charcoal cooks food more quickly and easier to transport. Think about when and how you’ll be cooking and choose the fuel that’s best suited for the job.

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