What Type of Charcoal Should You Use in Pit Barrel Cooker?

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Wondering what type of charcoal to use in your Pit Barrel?

There are a few different types to choose from. Each with different qualities.

So let’s find out exactly which type you should be using!

The Different Types Of Charcoal For Your Pit Barrel Cooker

Our favorite type of charcoal to use in a Pit Barrel Cooker is lump charcoal.

Below are the main types of charcoal to use in your Pit Barrel Cooker. 

I have also highlighted the pros and cons. So you can be sure of which one to put in your barrel smoker next!

Charcoal Briquettes

Our first selection is briquettes.

These are inexpensive because they are made from wood off-cuts or sawdust. 

They also may contain some additives. These additives make the briquettes burn for longer at a higher heat.

So they are best for slow-cooking beef brisket or some pork butts!

Be sure to let your briquettes burn for at least 20 minutes. This will stop any of the additives from tainting your food.


– Cheap and available.

The best type of charcoal for slow cooking.

Burns hot and consistent.

– Easy to light.


– Produces lots of ash and residue. 

– Contains additives.

Lump Charcoal / Hardwood Charcoal 

This is the raw product explained above. The most commonly used in every aspect of BBQ.

It contains no additives and burns clean at a consistent temperature.

It also responds well to proper airflow to help get average temperature ranges.

Use for quick grilling of steak or chicken pieces. Or throw in some additional charcoal for meat with a longer cook time.

Like some racks of ribs hanging from PBC steel rods.


– No additives.

– Clean burn and smoke fog.

– Natural and traditional smoky flavor.

– Low ash residue. 


– Shorter burn time. (3 hours)

– Expensive.

– Not consistent in size.

Charcoal Made From Coconut Shells 

Charcoal can also be made by incinerating coconut shells at extreme heat. This is then pressed together forming charcoal.

It burns clean like lump charcoal but also long like the briquettes.

The best of both worlds!

The only issue is that they can be hard to find and are expensive.

Use it if you are slow cooking for 6-7 hours and want cleaner-tasting food. It is mostly used by professional pit masters in their competition circuit.


– Clean and slow burn.

– Minimal residue.

– Natural.


– Hard to find.

– Expensive.

How To Look For Good Quality Charcoal 

Good quality charcoal that is processed correctly will be dry and brittle.

There also will be a slight shine. They should be compact without much dust. 

Look for consumer reviews within the BBQ community.

What Is The Best Way To Ignite My Unlit Coals?

A chimney starter is always recommended for lighting charcoal.

Which you can then safely put into the coal basket.

You can also fill your basket with coals and a lighter square. Ignite the square and your cold coals will soon be burning!

So get that pork shoulder ready!

What Is Charcoal & How Is It Made?

Before stepping on the hot coals, let’s understand what charcoal is!

No summer is complete without a BBQ. And no BBQ is complete without charcoal!

Charcoal is a fuel type that comes from wood. 

Moisture is removed at a constant temperature. The dried wood is then heated in an environment without oxygen. 

The result is then carbonized wood or…

You guessed it. Charcoal!

Why Is Charcoal Great For Cooking?

Cooking is just heat and time!

Charcoal gives you both. It burns up to 500˚F for 3 hours in its raw form. 

This brings us to the main point!

There are different types of charcoal produced that enhance these qualities. Made specifically to use in your Pit Barrel Cooker.

How A Pit Barrel Cooker Disperses Heat From Charcoal 

So how does the PBC disperse heat using charcoal? 

A charcoal smoker does not come with a temperature gauge. These traditional charcoal grills use airflow and insulation to adjust or maintain heat.

A gallon drum sits level on a 3-point stand. With a removable charcoal basket at the bottom and a standard grill grate on top.

You can add moderations like a stainless steel hook or chimney inside the barrel.

There is an adjustable air vent on the lower side with a sealable lid for the top. Your load of charcoal is then lit in the coal basket.

The heat travels up to your delicious food. 

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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