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The BBQ fuel guide: picking the best fuel for you

BBQ fuel guide

In the world of BBQ there are different types of fuel or sources of energy to feed a grill. Hardwood logs, charcoal lumps, charcoal briquettes, gas (propane or natural gas), wood pellets, and electricity.

In the following BBQ fuel guide, we’ll take you through all the options to figure out which one is right for you.


BBQ fuel: Hardwood logs


For those who would like to venture into wood fire cooking, know that it is more difficult to cook with hardwood than with charcoal. That’s because wood is denser. If the oxygen supply gets reduced too much, the air has more difficulty kindling the fire.   


The main advantage is, of course, the incredible taste, but I suggest you try a charcoal BBQ before you get to wood fire cooking. 


We recommend that you start your wood fire outside of the BBQ. When you get burning embers, you can then transfer them to your grill, since they are much easier to control for cooking evenly. Another advantage of hardwood cooking is that it can reach VERY high temperatures. 


The main downside to this is the fact that it can create backfire. Hardwood is the ideal fuel for oven-style cooking on the barbecue, such as baking pies, pizzas and cakes. It is also excellent to cook all types of meat, but grilling on wood fire might be a bit difficult to master.


Finally, never use softwood like pine, because the natural resin present in coniferous wood gives food an unpleasant taste. Also, only use barbecues designed for wood burning, since some charcoal barbecues might not be as resistant for these temperatures.


BBQ fuel: Charcoal lumps and briquettes


If you know me, you know that my favourite BBQ fuel is coal, and any BBQer’s fuel guide certainly needs to include this classic grilling fuel. And if it’s not yours yet, read on to understand why. Yes, it is a little longer to cook with charcoal than propane; and yes, it requires more maintenance. But the end result is so worth it. 


Charcoal is the result of a simple process that we call carbonization. The main objective of charcoal cooking is to reduce the mass of coal by heating it with very little air, so that it doesn’t catch fire. This high level of control on charcoal allows you to adjust your cooking temperature quickly. 


Charcoal can be used in many types of barbecues, such as kettles and kamados. A kamado is a traditional Japanese wood or charcoal-fueled stove often with an egg-style exterior. A charcoal basket is even available to use in some gas grills. 


It’s so easy to cook with charcoal that you can actually cook on lit charcoal that are put directly on the ground, with or without a grill. You can also cook directly on hot coals if you want to! And you can cook anything on charcoal lumps: shepherd’s pie, cookies, burgers, chicken, pork, beef, corn on the cob, baked beans, bacon and more! 


You can grill, sear or slow cook any kind of meat. All things considered, charcoal is truly the most versatile type of fuel. And, if you have great control over your air intake, you should be able to avoid backfires! 


BBQ fuel: Gas (propane or natural gas)


The gas grill is almost as versatile as a charcoal BBQ. However, unlike charcoal and hardwood cooking, gas will not add any flavor to your food. 


It’s possible to put a container filled with liquid (like beer or juice) inside your gas grill to add some flavor, but this will mostly add moisture. It will still help to make your grilled meats tastier, since gas flames tend to dry the air and the food inside your BBQ. 


You can also use metal containers filled with wood chips (like the Smoker Box) to give a smoky flavor to your food.


The main advantages of gas grills is that they are very easy to light up and need little maintenance. They remain durable for a long time and, generally, they have good grilling power. The gas grill, given its speed, can also be used as an additional grill to cook a side of vegetables while you slow-cook meat on another grill. 


And finally, let’s not forget that in a cold, harsh winter, gas barbeques are quick and easy to start up. 


Wood pellets


Wood pellets area type of BBQ fuel composed of pressed sawdust without any additives. They can be used to power grills designed exclusively for this purpose. The main advantage of this fuel is the simplicity of its use. We only need to fill the pellet hopper of the smoker, plug it into an electrical outlet and select the cooking temperature. Then we let the grill/smoker work its magic. 


Many types of pellets in several different wood flavors are available. The only problem with this kind of smoker is it can only can rise to temperatures between 150°F and 400° F. Thus, we don’t recommended it for grilling. 


Despite this, you’ll have lots of fun with all kinds of flavourful slow cooking recipes on your pellet smoker! 




Electric grills are more suitable for people who have very little space or time for grilling. However, given the lack of interest from grilling enthusiasts, there are very few models available on the market. The obvious advantage of an electric BBQ, if we compare it to an electric oven, is the possibility of grilling. Almost all electric grills come with a cast iron grill and tub. This allows them to counterbalance their lack of power. They do this by accumulating a lot of heat to get a better caramelization. 


Electric grills can reach temperatures as high as 700°F!


To find out which type of fuel is best for you, evaluate how much you are barbecuing. And more importantly, think about what you enjoy to cook on your grill. Remember that your BBQ is your tool that you can use daily, if you know how to choose your machine! We hope our BBQer’s fuel guide has given you enough information to make the right choice. 


Want to check out a wide variety of premium BBQs, tools and accessories? Head over the the House of BBQ Experts for all your BBQing needs!

Prefer to shop in French? Rendez-vous sur notre site web BBQ Quebec pour magasiner tout ce dont vous avez besoin!


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