Charcoal vs. firewood is the two main fuel sources for grilling steak on a BBQ. But given both, which one would you choose, especially if you’re looking to infuse a great flavor into the meat? We’ll cover it all below while also elaborating on the more cost-effective option in this charcoal vs. wood guideline.
A charcoal grill.
When speaking of charcoal, we’re alluding to wood burned in a limited oxygen supply to yield carbon. The end product burns slower and longer than the primary wood used to form the charcoal.
Forms of Charcoal
Grilling Meat in a Charcoal BBQ.
Below are the main kinds of charcoal.
Are you looking for the ideal fuel for quick grilling? Go for charcoal lumps. These large pieces of unburned wood burn at high temperatures initially when they catch fire. They are also a clean energy source that produces little ash.
Compared to briquettes, charcoal lumps’ temperatures don’t last long.
Briquettes are commercially manufactured charcoal with added cornstarch and other additives. They also have a more even shape than charcoal lumps. In addition, briquettes yield constant temperatures for an extensive period.
Charcoal Grilling Upsides
- First, charcoal grilling delivers excellently burned steak thanks to its slower yet hotter burning features compared to wood.
- Also, charcoal grilling is responsible for introducing aromatic flavors to the meat.
- Thirdly, it’s the cleaner grilling option primarily because it yields limited ash and smoke.
- Further, It’s easy to control its heat than while using firewood.
- Lastly, charcoal briquettes are relatively cheap.
Charcoal Grilling Downsides
- Charcoal yields substantive ash despite burning clean, which may prove arduous to remove.
- Moreover, while it’s the hotter option compared to wood, it will take longer to heat up.
A firewood BBQ.
The ideal firewood for grilling should be dry wood that has undergone seasoning for at least a year.
Forms of firewood
Firewood in a BBQ.
Here are the two main types of firewood you can use for grilling.
Wood Chunks and chips
They are small pieces of wood that you can use for BBQ in your homestead yard or anywhere you don’t require a large fire.
You can use these large pieces of wood for a pit BBQ or roasting meat on a campfire.
Wood Grilling Upsides
- The primary upside of grilling with firewood is introducing your favorite flavor to the steak. For instance, if you’re looking for a smoky flavor, you can use scented firewood such as Hickory. But if you want the sweet aromatic flavor when smoking pork, opt for Applewood.
- Again, wood is cleaner as it features no additives, unlike charcoal briquettes. Hence, it doesn’t pollute the food you’re grilling.
Wood Grilling Downsides
- Some wood will introduce an unpleasant/sooty scent to your meat. Hence, you must know the ideal grilling wood to ensure the steak is good.
- Also, wood grilling means you have limited control while using charcoal. Hence, you risk overcooking the meat, affecting the flavor.
- Lastly, wood may take longer to heat up and burns up faster than charcoal. Firewood is also the pricier option, especially if you cannot source it locally.
Why Firewood Grilling is better than Charcoal Grilling
Grilling with firewood allows you to introduce your favorite flavor into the meat. Nonetheless, you’re limited in this respect when using charcoal. Hence, if you want to smoke foods with unique flavors like bacon, you can opt for Hickory firewood.
However, oak firewood is ideal for the generic flavor synonymous with most meats.
It burns Longer
Charcoal briquettes will burn up within a short, while firewood (especially hardwood) burns longer. Hence, the ideal option for grilling fatty meat is firewood. In addition to infusing your favorite aroma into the steak, it also allows it to cook fully.
Cleaner to Handle
Cleaning a BBQ.
Charcoal is messy as it will likely stain your hands and clothes while grilling. Nonetheless, with firewood, you have a clean option that is also easy to handle.
A Natural Option
When dealing with food, you must use a clean fuel source with no additives, such as firewood. Most firewood is directly from the tree and undergoes no chemical processing. On the flip side, briquettes have fillers and additives which are unnatural.
Hence, if you’re looking for a natural cooking option, go for firewood.
Quick to Light
Lighting a fire.
Starting a firewood fire is straightforward; you only need to stack it well in the pit and light it up. But when dealing with charcoal, it gets a little more complicated. The only way to light up a charcoal fire quickly is by presoaking it in a quick-light fluid.
However, you shouldn’t choose this option, especially if you intend to use the fire for cooking. The alternative is lighting up a charcoal fire with kindling alone which may take quite a while.
High Heat Output
Earlier, we mentioned that charcoal burns hotter than wood. Nonetheless, this depends on the wood type, as some hardwood firewood, such as Osage-Orange, will burn hotter than charcoal.
You must, however, dry your wood well for high heat output.
Firewood is not just limited to grilling meat as charcoal. You can use firewood for cooking and simultaneously smoke your steak. Again, you can use firewood in several areas, such as an outdoor fire, chiminea, or even a fire pit.
But with charcoal, you’re just limited to using it for grilling meat in a BBQ.
Can I Grill Using Both Firewood and Charcoal?
For an optimal grilling experience, you can use firewood and charcoal on the same grill. It allows you to reap the benefits of using either option.
You can grill your meat with either firewood or charcoal, depending on what best suits your preferences. Above, we’ve elaborated on the upsides and downsides of each of the options to help you make a good choice.